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Multihop cellular networks (MCNs) combine traditional single-hop cellular networks with ad hoc networks. They have emerged recently as an active research topic due to their throughput advantages and low cost. Most of the research on MCNs has been focused on lower-layer issues such as routing. Application layer issues in MCNs are seldom addressed. In this article we tackle one of these issues: signaling for conferencing. Conferencing enables a range of "killer" applications such as videoconferencing, gaming, and distance learning. Signaling is a critical component that handles session initiation, modification, and termination. We have proposed a general signaling architecture for integrated 3G/ MANETs that is applicable to the specific case of MCNs. This architecture is based on application- layer clusters and faces several performance drawbacks. This article focuses on optimizing the architecture performance for the specific environment of an MCN. We first present this MCN environment and discuss conferencing scenarios. We propose an optimization architecture based on cross-layer design, which is then compared to the existing proposals, followed by a set of optimization schemes. The article also discusses initial evaluation results.