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Although there are a plethora of mobility management solutions proposed in the literature, there is no method for analytical comparison that helps identify optimal solutions in a specific scenario. Since simulations and implementations can provide only limited information, we propose an analytical approach for the comparative analysis of mobility protocols. By decomposing existing protocols into their building blocks, we obtain general cost functions for different mobility mechanisms. Our analysis allows us to identify network and topology conditions under which a certain protocol performs better than another, according to specific criteria. We present results for the signaling and overhead case, whereas the handoff delay case is addressed in S. Galli et al. (2004).