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A novel methodology is presented for the investigation of performance and optimization strategies for multi-hop wireless ad hoc networks. The powerful analytical approach is based on two newly defined abstractions: the "deferral set" and the "equivalent competitor" which provide the basis for efficient and elegant models for competitive access and routing in ad hoc networks. Fundamental capacity analysis is facilitated by applying these concepts to detailed models of node behavior. This paper presents theoretical analysis of mean channel throughput and service times during back-logged periods. The results are validated via discrete event simulation (DES).