A mobile ad hoc network (MANET) is a type of wireless ad hoc network, and is a self-configuring network of mobile devices connected by any number of wireless links. Every device in a MANET is also a router because it is required to forward traffic unrelated to its own use. Each MANET device is free to move independently, in any arbitrary direction, and thus each device will potentially change its links to other devices on a regular basis. The primary challenge for building a MANET is for each device to continuously maintain the information required to properly route traffic.
Such networks may operate in a standalone fashion, or may be connected to the larger Internet.
MANET are special cases of several other types of wireless and mesh networks, but have some key differences, at least in common usage, as listed below:
Wireless ad hoc networks - MANET are a type and subset of ad hoc networks, but MANET usually implies the creation of a routeable networking environment on top of a Link Layer ad hoc network.
Mesh networks - MANET are a subset of mesh networks, but many mesh networks are not mobile or are not even wireless (e.g. BGP).
Wireless mesh networks - As above, MANET are a subset of wireless mesh networks, but many mesh networks are not mobile and are not designed to support mobility.
MANET are sometimes referred to as mobile mesh networks
MANETs have become a very popular research topic since the mid- to late 1990s due to the increasing availability of laptops and 802.11/Wi-Fi wireless networking. Many of the academic papers evaluate protocols and abilities assuming varying degrees of mobility within a bounded space, usually with all nodes within a few hops of each other, and usually with nodes sending data at a constant rate. Different protocols are then evaluated based on the packet drop rate, the overhead introduced by the routing protocol, and other measures.
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