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A novel approach to transmission range optimum for CDMA ad hoc networks in Rayleigh fading environments is proposed. Firstly, the concept of normalized area throughput is introduced. And then the optimal transmission range and probability of sending a packet are derived on the basis of the normalized area throughput. Compared with the metric of expected forward progress (EFP), the proposed approach focuses on maximizing the total network throughput rather than the throughput of each node. It is shown that by using the metric of normalized area throughput, we can get that the optimum probability of sending a packet is 0.555, which is bigger than the result of 0.271 based on EFP, and the optimum transmission range is shorter than the value based on EFP metric. The optimal throughput performance of the total network is improved by approximate 56.8%, through the result of each node is degraded by about 23.5%.