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Conference Paper


How Effective is the IEEE 802.11 RTS/CTS Handshake in Ad Hoc Networks


IEEE 802.11 MAC mainly relies on two techniques to combat interference: physical carrier sensing and RTS/CTS handshake (also known as “virtual carrier sensing”). Ideally, the RTS/CTS handshake can eliminate most interference. However, the effectiveness of RTS/CTS handshake is based on the assumption that hidden nodes are within transmission range of receivers. In this paper, we prove using analytic models that in ad hoc networks, such an assumption cannot hold due to the fact that power needed for interrupting a packet reception is much lower than that of delivering a packet successfully. Thus, the “virtual carrier sensing” implemented by RTS/CTS handshake cannot prevent all interference as we expect in theory. Physical carrier sensing can complement this in some degree. However, since interference happens at receivers, while physical carrier sensing is detecting transmitters (the same problem causing the hidden terminal situation), physical carrier sensing cannot help much, unless a very large carrier sensing range is adopted, which is limited by the antenna sensitivity. In this paper, we investigate how effective is the RTS/CTS handshake in terms of reducing interference. We show that in some situations, the interference range is much larger than transmission range, where RTS/CTS cannot function well. Then, a simple MAC layer scheme is proposed to solve this problem. Simulation results verify that our scheme can help IEEE 802.11 resolve most interference caused by large interference range.

Paper: PDF file of paper

Information & Date

Globecom 2002, Taipei, November. 2002


Kaixin Xu
Mario Gerla
Sang Bee