Stands for "Mobile Ad-Hoc Network."

A MANET is an ad-hoc network that connects a group of mobile devices together into a decentralized wireless mesh network. A MANET can move around, add and remove mobile devices, and reconfigure itself on the fly. These networks often use standard wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth, although some specialized equipment uses UHF and VHF radio frequencies.

By using peer-to-peer networking instead of relying on a single master node, MANETs can distribute network traffic that might otherwise overload a centralized router. Every device is able to route traffic to its destination by sending it from one device to another. If any device in the mesh has an Internet connection, it can bridge traffic between the rest of the network and the Internet. This way, even if most devices are out of range of a cellular tower, they can still reach the Internet through the MANET.

However, distributed networks like MANETs have limitations. Data hopping between multiple nodes introduces a lot of latency and limits the speed data can travel. Constant network activity over a MANET also uses significant power, which can drain batteries on mobile devices faster than normal use. Even though MANETs have drawbacks, they are helpful in situations that benefit from their decentralized nature:

  • Vehicular ad-hoc networks (VANETs) allow certain vehicles to communicate wirelessly with each other and with roadside equipment.
  • Smartphone ad-hoc networks (SPANs) create a mesh between smartphones for communication when infrastructure (like existing Wi-Fi and cellular networks) is unavailable or overloaded. These networks are often used during large gatherings like conferences, music festivals, and even large-scale protests.
  • Rescue workers often use MANETs to coordinate activities during natural disasters when existing infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.
  • Military units can use MANETs for tactical wireless communication without relying on vulnerable infrastructure. Unmanned aerial vehicles can use MANETs to coordinate movements, and naval vessels can use ship-to-ship wireless networks that operate faster than satellite networks.
Updated January 30, 2023 by Brian P.

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