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The key role played by the medium access control layer toward the performance of wireless communication networks justifies the vast amount of MAC protocols that can be found in the literature. Indeed, most of these works evaluate the performance of the proposals by means of either theoretical analysis or computer-based simulation. Unfortunately, theoretical models typically adopt some idealistic assumptions for the sake of mathematical tractability, and simulation- based studies usually lack physical layer modeling accuracy, thus leading to inaccurate results and misleading conclusions regarding the actual performance of communication protocols. These limitations can be overcome through experimental prototyping and testing, which enable the actual assessment of the protocols under realistic PHY layer conditions. This article identifies the key functions to be supported by a MAC prototyping platform, and presents both a qualitative description and a comprehensive comparative study of existing experimental platforms for the development and assessment of MAC protocols for wireless communication networks.