Stability of binary exponential backoff

Jonathan Goodman, Albert G. Greenberg, Neal Madras, Peter March

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Binary exponential backoff is a randomized protocol for regulating transmissions on a multiple-access broadcast channel. Ethernet, a local-area network, is built upon this protocol. The fundamental theoretical issue is stability: Does the backlog of packets awaiting transmission remain bounded in time, provided the rates of new packet arrivals are small enough? It is assumed n ≥ 2 stations share the channel, each having an infinite buffer where packets accumulate while the station attempts to transmit the first from the buffer. Here, it is established that binary exponential backoff is stable if the sum of the arrival rates is sufficiently small. Detailed results are obtained on which rates lead to stability when n = 2 stations share the channel. In passing, several other results are derived bearing on the efficiency of the conflict resolution process. Simulation results are reported that, in particular, indicate alternative retransmission protocols can significantly improve performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-602
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the ACM (JACM)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Artificial Intelligence


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