Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents

Network Interfaces


In INET simulations, network interface modules are the primary means of communication between network nodes. They represent the required combination of software and hardware elements from an operating system point-of-view.

Network interfaces are implemented with OMNeT++ compound modules that conform to the INetworkInterface module interface. Network interfaces can be further categorized as wired and wireless; they conform to the IWiredInterface and IWirelessInterface NED types, respectively, which are subtypes of INetworkInterface.

Built-in Network Interfaces

INET provides pre-assembled network interfaces for several standard protocols, protocol tunneling, hardware emulation, etc. The following list gives the most commonly used network interfaces.

Anatomy of Network Interfaces

Network interfaces in the INET Framework are OMNeT++ compound modules that contain many more components than just the corresponding layer 2 protocol implementation. Most of these components are optional, i.e. absent by default, and can be added via configuration.

Typical ingredients are:

  • Layer 2 protocol implementation. For some interfaces such as PppInterface this is a single module; for others like Ethernet and Wifi it consists of separate modules for MAC, LLC, and possibly other subcomponents.

  • PHY model. Some interfaces also contain separate module(s) that implement the physical layer. For example, Ieee80211Interface contains a radio module.

  • Output queue. This module allows one to experiment with different queueing policies and implement QoS, RED, etc.

  • Traffic conditioners allow traffic shaping and policing elements to be added to the interface, for example to implement a Diffserv router.

  • Hooks allow extra modules to be inserted in the incoming and outgoing paths of packets.

Internal vs External Output Queue

Network interfaces usually have a queue module defined with a parametric type like this:

queue: <default("DropTailQueue")> like IPacketQueue;

When the typename parameter of the queue submodule is unspecified (this is the default), the queue module is a DropTailQueue. Conceptually, the queue is of inifinite size, but for better diagnostics one can often specify a hard limit for the queue length in a module parameter – if this is exceeded, the simulation stops with an error.

When the typename parameter of the queue module is not empty, it must name a NED type that implements the IPacketQueue interface. The queue module model allows modeling a finite buffer, or implement various queueing policies for QoS and/or RED.

The most frequently used module type for the queue module is DropTailQueue, a finite-size FIFO that drops overflowing packets). Other queue types that implement queueing policies can be created by assembling compound modules from queueing model and DiffServ components (see chapter Differentiated Services). An example of such compound modules is DiffservQueue.

An example ini file fragment that installs a priority queue on PPP interfaces:

**.ppp[*].ppp.queue.typename = "PriorityQueue"
**.ppp[*].ppp.queue.packetCapacity = 10
**.ppp[*].ppp.queue.numQueues = 2
**.ppp[*].ppp.queue.classifier.typename = "WrrClassifier"
**.ppp[*].ppp.queue.classifier.weights = "1 1"

Traffic Conditioners

Many network interfaces contain optional traffic conditioner submodules defined with parametric types, like this:

ingressTC: <default("")> like ITrafficConditioner if typename != "";
egressTC: <default("")> like ITrafficConditioner if typename != "";

Traffic conditioners allow one to implement the policing and shaping actions of a Diffserv router. They are added to the input or output packets paths in the network interface. (On the output path they are added before the queue module.)

Traffic conditioners must implement the ITrafficConditioner module interface. Traffic conditioners can be assembled from DiffServ components (see chapter Differentiated Services). There is no preassembled traffic conditioner in INET, but you can find some in the example simulations.

An example configuration with fictituous types:

**.ppp[*].ingressTC.typename = "CustomIngressTC"
**.ppp[*].egressTC.typename = "CustomEgressTC"


Several network interfaces allow extra modules to be inserted in the incoming and outgoing paths of packets at the top of the netwok interface. Hooks are added as a submodule vector with parametric type, like this:

outputHook[numOutputHooks]: <default("Nop")> like IHook if numOutputHooks>0;
inputHook[numInputHooks]: <default("Nop")> like IHook if numInputHooks>0;

This allows any number of hook modules to be added. The hook modules are chained in their numeric order.

Modules inserted as hooks may act as probes (for measuring or recording traffic) or as means of modifying or perturbing the packet flow for experimentation. Module types implementing the IHook NED interface include ThruputMeter, Delayer, OrdinalBasedDropper, and OrdinalBasedDuplicator.

The following ini file fragment inserts two hook modules into the output paths of PPP interfaces, a delayer and a throughput meter:

**.ppp[*].numOutputHooks = 2
**.ppp[*].outputHook[0].typename = "Delayer"
**.ppp[*].outputHook[1].typename = "ThruputMeter"
**.ppp[*].outputHook[0].delay = 3ms

The Interface Table

Network nodes normally contain an InterfaceTable module. The interface table is a sort of registry of all the network interfaces in the host. It does not send or receive messages, other modules access it via C++ function calls. Contents of the interface table can also be inspected e.g. in Qtenv.

Network interfaces register themselves in the interface table at the beginning of the simulation. Registration is usually the task of the MAC (or equivalent) module.

Wired Network Interfaces

Wired interfaces have a pair of special purpose OMNeT++ gates which represent the capability of having an external physical connection to another network node (e.g. Ethernet port). In order to make wired communication work, these gates must be connected with special connections which represent the physical cable between the physical ports. The connections must use special OMNeT++ channels (e.g. DatarateChannel) which determine datarate and delay parameters.

Wired network interfaces are compound modules that implement the IWiredInterface interface. INET has the following wired network interfaces.


Network interfaces for point-to-point links (PppInterface) are described in chapter Point-to-Point Links. They are typically used in routers.


Ethernet interfaces (EthernetInterface), alongside with models of Ethernet devices such as switches and hubs, are described in chapter The Ethernet Model.

Wireless Network Interfaces

Wireless interfaces use direct sending 1 for communication instead of links, so their compound modules do not have output gates at the physical layer, only an input gate dedicated to receiving. Another difference from the wired case is that wireless interfaces require (and collaborate with) a transmission medium module at the network level. The medium module represents the shared transmission medium (electromagnetic field or acoustic medium), is responsible for modeling physical effects like signal attenuation, and maintains connectivity information. Also, while wired interfaces can do without explicit modeling of the physical layer, a PHY module is an indispensable part of a wireless interface.

Wireless network interfaces are compound modules that implement the IWirelessInterface interface. In the following sections we give an overview of the wireless interfaces available in INET.

Generic Wireless Interface

The WirelessInterface compound module is a generic implementation of IWirelessInterface. In this network interface, the types of the MAC protocol and the PHY layer (the radio) are parameters:

mac: <> like IMacProtocol;
radio: <> like IRadio if typename != "";

There are specialized versions of WirelessInterface where the MAC and the radio modules are fixed to a particular value. One example is BMacInterface, which contains a BMac and an ApskRadio.

IEEE 802.11

IEEE 802.11 or Wifi network interfaces (Ieee80211Interface), alongside with models of devices acting as access points (AP), are covered in chapter The 802.11 Model.

IEEE 802.15.4

Ieee802154NarrowbandInterface is covered in a separate chapter, see The 802.15.4 Model.

Wireless Sensor Networks

MAC protocols for wireless sensor networks (WSNs) and the corresponding network interfaces are covered in chapter MAC Protocols for Wireless Sensor Networks.


CsmaCaMac implements an imaginary CSMA/CA-based MAC protocol with optional acknowledgements and a retry mechanism. With the appropriate settings, it can approximate basic 802.11b ad-hoc mode operation.

CsmaCaMac provides a lot of room for experimentation: acknowledgements can be turned on/off, and operation parameters like inter-frame gap sizes, backoff behaviour (slot time, minimum and maximum number of slots), maximum retry count, header and ACK frame sizes, bit rate, etc. can be configured via NED parameters.

CsmaCaInterface interface is a WirelessInterface with the MAC type set to CsmaCaMac.

Acking MAC

Not every simulation requires a detailed simulation of the lower layers. AckingWirelessInterface is a highly abstracted wireless interface that offers simplicity for scenarios where Layer 1 and 2 effects can be completely ignored, for example testing the basic functionality of a wireless ad-hoc routing protocol.

AckingWirelessInterface is a WirelessInterface parameterized to contain a unit disk radio (UnitDiskRadio) and a trivial MAC protocol (AckingMac).

The most important parameter UnitDiskRadio accepts is the transmission range. When a radio transmits a frame, all other radios within transmission range are able to receive the frame correctly, and radios that are out of range will not be affected at all. Interference modeling (collisions) is optional, and it is recommended to turn it off with AckingMac.

AckingMac implements a trivial MAC protocol that has packet encapsulation and decapsulation, but no real medium access procedure. Frames are simply transmitted on the wireless channel as soon as the transmitter becomes idle. There is no carrier sense, collision avoidance, or collison detection. AckingMac also provides an optional out-of-band acknowledgement mechanism (using C++ function calls, not actual wirelessly sent frames), which is turned on by default. There is no retransmission: if the acknowledgement does not arrive after the first transmission, the MAC gives up and counts the packet as failed transmission.


ShortcutMac implements error-free “teleportation” of packets to the peer MAC entity, with some delay computed from a transmission duration and a propagation delay. The physical layer is completely bypassed. The corresponding network interface type, ShortcutInterface, does not even have a radio model.

ShortcutInterface is useful for modeling wireless networks where full connectivity is assumed, and Layer 1 and Layer 2 effects can be completely ignored.

Special-Purpose Network Interfaces


TunInterface is a virtual network interface that can be used for creating tunnels, but it is more powerful than that. It lets an application-layer module capture packets sent to the TUN interface and do whatever it pleases with it (including sending it to a peer entity in an UDP or plain IPv4 packet.)

To set up a tunnel, add an instance of TunnelApp to the node, and specify the protocol (IPv4 or UDP) and the remote endpoint of the tunnel (address and port) in parameters.

Local Loopback

LoopbackInterface provides local loopback within the network node.

External Interfaces

ExtLowerEthernetInterface represents a real-world interface, suitable for hardware-in-the-loop simulations. External interfaces are explained in chapter Network Emulation.

Custom Network Interfaces

It’s also possible to build custom network interfaces, the following example shows how to build a custom wireless interface.

module WirelessInterfaceExample
        input upperLayerIn; // packets from network layer in the same host
        output upperLayerOut; // packets to network layer in the same host
        input radioIn; // incoming packets from other hosts in the network
        mac: AckingMac; // simple MAC supporting ACKs
        radio: ApskScalarRadio; // simple radio supporting many modulations
    connections: // network interface internal connections
        mac.upperLayerOut --> upperLayerOut;
        mac.upperLayerIn <-- upperLayerIn;
        radio.upperLayerOut --> mac.lowerLayerIn;
        radio.upperLayerIn <-- mac.lowerLayerOut;
        radioIn --> radio.radioIn;

The above network interface contains very simple hypothetical MAC and PHY protocols. The MAC protocol only provides acknowledgment without other services (e.g., carrier sense, collision avoidance, collision detection), the PHY protocol uses one of the predefined APSK modulations for the whole signal (preamble, header, and data) without other services (e.g., scrambling, interleaving, forward error correction).


OMNeT++ sendDirect() calls