Described here is an adaptive MAC-layer protocol that supports multiservice (STM and ATM) applications in the context of subscriber access to tree and branch (e.g., fiber-coaxial cable) networks. The protocol adapts to changing demands for a mix of circuit and cell mode applications, and efficiently allocates upstream and downstream bandwidth to a variety of bursty and isochronous traffic sources. In the case of a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network the protocol resides in customer premises equipment and a common head-end controller. A medium-access control (MAC) processor provides for dividing the time domain for a given digital bitstream into successive frames, each with multiple STM and ATM time slots. Within the STM region of a frame, variable length time slots are allocated to calls (e.g., telephony, video telephony) requiring different amounts of bandwidth. A contention access signaling channel is also provided in this region for call control and set-up requests. Within the ATM region fixed-length time slots accommodate one individual ATM cell. These ATM time slots may be reserved for a user for the duration of a call or burst of successive ATM cells, or shared via a contention process. At least one contention time slot is available for signaling messages related to ATM call control and set-up requests. Further, the fixed-length ATM time slots may be reserved by a user for the duration of a call, or shared through a contention process. This paper describes the MAC-layer protocol, its relation to circuit- and ATM- amenable applications, and its performance with respect to signaling throughput and latency, and bandwidth efficiency for several service scenarios.