One of the most important and long-standing open problems in the broad field of communications and networking is the lack of a general capacity theory for mobile ad hoc wireless networks (MANETs). In addition to being a problem of great theoretical and scientific interest, a wireless network information theory would allow a quantum leap in the development and commercialization of many types of wireless networks, including sensor, military, emergency, and community mesh networks. The ambitious goal of DARPA’s IT-MANET program is to make this quantum leap.
Our team believes that the key roadblocks to developing a useful MANET capacity theory are threefold, and all relate to the fact that MANETs are fundamentally dynamic systems that defy equilibrium behavior and analysis techniques.
First, the right fundamental abstractions have not been well-understood for wireless networks, and due to the dynamics, they will not be the same abstractions as in the Shannon framework.
Second, the right spatial and network decompositions have not yet been developed for modeling the spatial and temporal dynamics of wireless networks.
Third, a useful network capacity theory must integrate rather than ignore the important role of overhead messaging. Our goal is to spur the development of a non-equilibrium information theory that overcomes these challenging roadblocks. To meet this vision, the help and efforts of the broader research community will be essential.