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In this paper, we present a novel scheme for power control in mobile ad hoc networks called the CONSET (connectivity set) protocol. CONSET is a cross-layer solution in which the MAC layer indirectly influences the selection of the next hop along the end-to-end path by manipulating the transmission power of the route request (RREQ) messages. These messages are commonly used in on-demand (reactive) routing protocols, such as DSR and AODV. In CONSET, network topology is dynamically constructed from channel-gain and directional information obtained from overheard RTS and CTS packets. RREQ messages are broadcast at the minimum power required to maintain network connectivity, leading to longer end-to-end paths at the network layer but with less distance per hop. This results in a significant reduction in the overall end-to-end energy consumption per delivered packet. Extensive simulations are used to compare the CONSET protocol with a DSR-based power-aware routing protocol that uses the transmission energy as its routing metric. The results indicate that CONSET achieves significant improvements in network throughput, energy consumption, and packet delay.