Capacity of ad hoc wireless networks

J. Li, C. Blake, D. S.J. De Couto, H. I. Lee, R. Morris

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Early simulation experience with wireless ad hoc networks suggests that their capacity can be surprisingly low, due to the requirement that nodes forward each others' packets. The achievable capacity depends on network size, traffic patterns, and detailed local radio interactions. This paper examines these factors alone and in combination, using simulation and analysis from first principles. Our results include both specific constants and general scaling relationships helpful in understanding the limitations of wireless ad hoc networks. We examine interactions of the 802.11 MAC and ad hoc forwarding and the effect on capacity for several simple configurations and traffic patterns. While 802.11 discovers reasonably good schedules, we nonetheless observe capacities markedly less than optimal for very simple chain and lattice networks with very regular traffic patterns. We validate some simulation results with experiments. We also show that the traffic pattern determines whether an ad hoc network's per node capacity will scale to large networks. In particular, we show that for total capacity to scale up with network size the average distance between source and destination nodes must remain small as the network grows. Non-local traffic patterns in which this average distance grows with the network size result in a rapid decrease of per node capacity. Thus the question "Are large ad hoc networks feasible?" reduces to a question about the likely locality of communication in such networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2001
Event7th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking - Rome, Italy
Duration: Jul 16 2001Jul 21 2001


Other7th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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