Combinatorial algorithms for the unsplittable flow problem

Yossi Azar, Oded Regev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We provide combinatorial algorithms for the unsplittable flow problem (UFP) that either match or improve the previously best results. In the UFP we are given a (possibly directed) capacitated graph with n vertices and m edges, and a set of terminal pairs each with its own demand and profit. The objective is to connect a subset of the terminal pairs each by a single flow path subject to the capacity constraints such that the total profit of the connected pairs is maximized.We consider three variants of the problem. First is the classical UFP in which the maximum demand is at most the minimum edge capacity. It was previously known to have an O(√m) approximation algorithm; the algorithm is based on the randomized rounding technique and its analysis makes use of the Chernoff bound and the FKG inequality.We provide a combinatorial algorithm that achieves the same approximation ratio and whose analysis is considerably simpler. Second is the extended UFP in which some demands might be higher than edge capacities. Our algorithm for this case improves the best known approximation ratio. We also give a lower bound that shows that the extended UFP is provably harder than the classical UFP. Finally, we consider the bounded UFP in which the maximum demand is at most 1/K times the minimum edge capacity for some K > 1. Here we provide combinatorial algorithms that match the currently best known algorithms. All of our algorithms are strongly polynomial and some can even be used in the online setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalAlgorithmica (New York)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Combinatorial algorithms
  • Unsplittable flow problem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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