New wireless network paradigms will demand higher spectrum use and availability to cope with emerging data-hungry devices. Traditional static spectrum allocation policies cause spectrum scarcity, and new paradigms such as Cognitive Radio (CR) and new protocols and techniques need to be developed in order to have efficient spectrum usage. Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols are accountable for recognizing free spectrum, scheduling available resources and coordinating the coexistence of heterogeneous systems and users. This paper provides an ample review of the state-of-the-art MAC protocols, which mainly focuses on Cognitive Radio Ad Hoc Networks (CRAHN). First, a description of the cognitive radio fundamental functions is presented. Next, MAC protocols are divided into three groups, which are based on their channel access mechanism, namely time-slotted protocol, random access protocol and hybrid protocol. In each group, a detailed and comprehensive explanation of the latest MAC protocols is presented, as well as the pros and cons of each protocol. A discussion on future challenges for CRAHN MAC protocols is included with a comparison of the protocols from a functional perspective.
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