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Recent technological advances in wireless communications offer new opportunities and challenges for wireless ad hoc networking. In the absence of the fixed infrastructure that characterizes traditional wireless networks, control and management of wireless ad hoc networks must be distributed across the nodes, thus requiring carefully designed medium access control (MAC) layer protocols. In this article we survey, classify, and analyze 34 MAC layer protocols for wireless ad hoc networks, ranging from industry standards to research proposals. Through this analysis, six key features emerge: (1) channel separation and access; (2) topology; (3) power; (4) transmission initiation; (5) traffic load and scalability; and (6) range. These features allow us to characterize and classify the protocols, to analyze the tradeoffs produced by different design decisions, and to assess the suitability of various design combinations for ad hoc network applications. The classification and the tradeoff analysis yield design guidelines for future wireless ad hoc network MAC layer protocols.
Date of Publication: First Quarter 2004