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Impulse-based ultra wideband (I-UWB) is an attractive radio technology for large ad hoc and sensor networks due to its robustness to harmful multipath effects, sub-centimeter ranging ability, simple hardware, and low radiated power. To scale to large sizes, networks often implement distributed medium access control (MAC) protocols. However, most MAC protocols for I-UWB are centralized, and they target small wireless personal area networks and cellular networks. We propose three distributed MAC protocols suitable for I-UWB. Two multichannel protocols, called multichannel pulse sense multiple access (M-PSMA) and multichannel ALOHA achieve high aggregate throughput. A busy-signal protocol, called busy-signal multiple access (BSMA), reduces the energy wasted from re-transmitted packets. This paper describes the three protocols in terms of the protocol's operation, the supporting system architecture, and the I-UWB physical layer. Physical layer simulations confirm the feasibility of implementing the proposed systems and also provide parameters for network simulations. Network simulations show that the throughput of M-PSMA exceeds that of a centralized time-division multiple-access protocol and that the energy efficiency of BSMA far surpasses that of other distributed protocols.