Wireless Innovation Forum Top Ten Most Wanted Innovations

Network Management of Mobile Ad-hoc Radios

2.1 Executive Summary

A MANET is a Mobile Ad-hoc Network which does not require network infrastructure or centralized administration. Mobile hosts in a given area dynamically connect to each other and form a network, transmitting and receiving data not only for their consumption but also acting as routers for others. By enabling wireless communications with no available infrastructure, MANET technology creates valuable new capabilities for many applications, but it also poses new challenges for network management.

Although network management is a challenge in any large and complex network, in the context of a MANET neither stable topology nor reliable high-bandwidth links can be assumed to exist. The ability to provide configuration and management of ad-hoc networks has only begun to be recognized as essential to progress of MANET technology and products in this domain. New techniques and thinking are required. This innovation topic seeks to focus interest in developing the essential technologies to provide for network management of ad-hoc networks for defense and commercial applications.

2.2 Application

The defense, first responder, and public safety communities recognize that in matters of emergencies and in national defense, existing infrastructure can be compromised. So it is essential to these communities that any radio be able to perform the same ad-hoc networking functions as any other radio. While the radios may consist of many different corporate products (heterogeneous hardware), nevertheless the network is able to operate homogeneously without infrastructure.

Recently, the commercial telecommunications sector has recognized that sufficient density of cellular infrastructure to enable adequate service is economically impractical in certain areas of the world. Rather, for those subscribers who are beyond the coverage range of a cell tower, the ability to have an ad-hoc network forward traffic toward nearby cellular infrastructure can be hugely valuable to both the subscriber and to make existing infrastructure more cost effective.

It is also anticipated that much of the “internet of things” (IoT) and “machine to machine” (M2M) technology now in development will make extensive use of ad-hoc network techniques to provide for connectivity.

2.3 Description

Designing MANETs which are highly mobile and rapidly deployable requires a means to perform distributed Network Management. Commonly network management can include adequate Management Information Base (MIB) elements that allow tracking of radios and gateways to wired infrastructure or to other networks, as well as means to provide real-time or non-real-time optimization. Network Management Systems allow limited exchanges to maintain bandwidth efficiency and support real time operations through service provisioning across the network. The challenge is to maintain the usage of bandwidth across the network while keeping networkoverhead as minimal as possible so that the applications can have maximum bandwidth utility of the network.

Management of a wireless ad-hoc network can be used in many ways. Network management can be used to enable real-time optimization of the allocation of network services, to manage network stability, priority, to cope with connectivity issues and to adjust various radio and network performance parameters as required by current users or applications. Network management can also be used in a non-real-time sense to enhance the radio network behavior, either in anticipation of expected traffic properties or based on experience of traffic and system behavior in a geographic region.  

Development of standardized Network Management techniques, MIBs, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) structures, signaling protocols, and knowledge representations that allow the network to locally self-optimize or to be remotely optimized via an operator are required to enable the industry to implement standardized tools, software, and information representations, and to update network behavior and performance. Such signaling exchanges represent overhead to the user network traffic, and as such it is important to minimize the total overhead introduced by Network Management Tools. Consequently, it is essential for wireless network management to include a great deal of attention to minimizing the corresponding overhead traffic demand. Given that the ability to manage the network often arises when the network is already under a heavy traffic burden, efficient techniques are particularly important.

Important domains for technical breakthroughs include the ability to show scalability to ad-hoc network sizes well beyond 1000 nodes, the ability to adapt regions of the network through adapting network behavior to cope with local traffic properties and Quality of Service (QoS) demands, and the ability to efficiently distribute traffic load so as to not overly tax individual nodes. The ability to understand and effectively utilize node resources such as available prime power or Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MIMO), and the ability to manage nodes that are advantaged (good links) or disadvantaged (poor links) are also important domains for network management methods and standards. The ability to adapt data rates, MAC protocols, and cyber protection mechanisms are also essential new domains to be addressed via wireless standards.