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OFF-THE-SHELF ENABLERS OF
AD HOC NETWORKS
GERGELY V. Z√ĀRUBA and SAJAL K. DAS
Today, when ad hoc networking professionals or would-be professional talk about ad hoc
networks, they almost always implicitly assume that these networks are based on one of
the wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies. The majority of research papers
published on simulation-based performance evaluation of proposed ad hoc routing proto-
cols assume underlying WLAN medium access control (MAC) and physical (PHY) lay-
ers. Most recently, with the appearance of short-range wireless personal area networking
(WPAN) technologies, researchers also started to use the characteristics of these technolo-
gies as a basis for underlying transport assumptions to evaluate their novel network (or
higher-) layer protocols.
It is extremely important to point out, that WLANs and WPANs are significantly differ-
ent from ad hoc networks. Ad hoc networks have received their name due to the fact that
there is no predefined structure or infrastructure of communication over which they should
be established, but they consist of nodes that relay information to their neighbors possibly
on behalf of other neighbors. Ad hoc networks are often called wireless multihop networks
due to the fact that most packets will have to be relayed by several nodes before they reach
their destinations. WLANs, on the other hand, are based on infrastructure‚Ä”just like cellu-
lar networks‚Ä”where there are dedicated access points (likely connected to the wired infra-
structure) controlling their entire transmission range, namely their wireless domain.
WLANs are considered single-hop networks, since all nodes attached to the access point
talk to only the access point, which is the only entity equipped with a routing function.
Fortunately, as outlined in the next subsection, the histories and requirements for ad hoc and
Mobile Ad Hoc Networking. Edited by Basagni, Conti, Giordano, and Stojmenovic.
ISBN 0-471-37313-3 ¬© 2004 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
48 OFF-THE-SHELF ENABLERS OF AD HOC NETWORKS
WLAN/WPAN technologies are converging, and most (if not all) technologies defined for
WLANs/WPANs are extended to be employable as the basis for ad hoc networking.
2.1.1 The Converging History of Ad Hoc Networks and WLANs
The idea of both WLANs and ad hoc networks date back to approximately the same time,
the early 1970s. Although the main driving force behind ad hoc networks was the need for
survivable, infrastructureless and hard-to-detect military applications, WLANs received a
lot of attention from academia and companies interested in commercial deployment.
In 1972, the Department of Defense (DoD) initiated a new program on Packet Radio
Networks (PRNET) with the intention to create technologies for the battlefield that do not
need a previously deployed infrastructure but are highly survivable even when some of the
radios fail or are destroyed. The medium-access technology employed was a slightly mod-
ified version of the ALOHA protocol developed two years earlier in academia to intercon-
nect the computing infrastructure over four Hawaiian islands with eight transceivers.
Thus, the first ad hoc network was already using wireless LAN technology as the underly-
ing MAC and PHY layers. Later on, in the early 1980s, the PRNET program was replaced
by the Survivable Adaptive Radio Networks (SURAN) program, improving upon the
physical properties and routing of PRNET. Technologies to create moderate-cost ad hoc
networks outside of the DoD were not present, and since there were very few mobile de-
vices with any computing power, there was no need for commercial deployment either.
In the early 1990s, mobile computing power became affordable for the masses in the
forms of laptops, notebooks, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). At the same time,
hardware and software, especially open-source software, became widely available for triv-
ial interconnection of computers and maybe connection to the emerging global network,
the Internet. It was just a question of time of when the need for mobile connectivity would
reach a critical mass to be worthy for commercial companies to look into developing stan-
dards, technologies, and products to enable mobile, i.e., wireless interconnection of de-
vices. The early 1990s was also the time of the renaissance of ad hoc networking research,
wherein packet radio networks were renamed ad hoc networks [23, 36], and old ad hoc
networking problems became important research topics again. There was a commercial
need for mobile interconnection, leading toward a push for wireless infrastructure based
standards as well as a strong lobbying from research organizations to develop technolo-
gies that could be used as the basis of ad hoc networking (with more stress on the former).
Due to the major interest from several companies, the Institute of Electrical and Electron-
ics Engineers (IEEE) 802 Group in charge of computer communication networks estab-