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Beamforming antennas promise a significant increase in the spatial reuse of the wireless medium when deployed in multihop wireless networks. However, existing directional Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols with the default binary exponential backoff mechanism are not capable of fully exploiting the offered potential. In this paper, we discuss various issues involved in the design of MAC protocols specific for beamforming antennas. Based on our discussion, we argue that the traditional binary exponential backoff mechanism limits the possible spatial reuse and aggravates some beamforming-related problems such as deafness and head-of-line blocking. To grasp the transmission opportunities offered by beamforming antennas, we design an Opportunistic Directional MAC (OPDMAC) protocol for multihop wireless networks. The OPDMAC protocol employs a novel backoff mechanism in which the node is not forced to undergo idle backoff after a transmission failure but can rather take the opportunity of transmitting other outstanding packets in other directions. This mechanism minimizes the idle waiting time and increases the channel utilization significantly and thereby enables OPDMAC to enhance the spatial reusability of the wireless medium and reduce the impact of the deafness problem without additional overhead. Through extensive simulations, we demonstrate that OPDMAC enhances the performance in terms of throughput, delay, packet delivery ratio, and fairness. To further improve its performance, we discuss and evaluate the benefits of carefully choosing some protocol parameters instead of using the default values commonly used by other directional MAC protocols.
Date of Publication: March 2011