Performance Limits of Neighbor Discovery in Wireless Networks

Philipp H. Kindt, Samarjit Chakraborty

Neighbor Discovery (ND) is the process employed by two wireless devices to discover each other. There are many different ND protocols, both in the scientific literature and also those employed in practice. All ND protocols involve devices sending beacons, and also listening for them. Protocols differ in terms of how the beacon transmissions and reception windows are scheduled, and the device sleeps in between consecutive transmissions and reception windows in order to save energy. A successful discovery constitutes a sending device's beacon overlapping with a receiving device's reception window. The goal of all ND protocols is to minimize the discovery latency. In spite of the ubiquity of ND protocols and active research on this topic for over two decades, the basic question "Given an energy budget, what is the minimum guaranteed ND latency?", however, still remains unanswered. Given the different kinds of protocols that exist, there has also been no standard way of comparing them and their performance. This paper, for the first time, answers the question on the best-achievable ND latency for a given energy budget. We derive discovery latencies for different scenarios, e.g., when both devices have the same energy budgets, and both devices have different energy budgets. We also show that some existing protocols can be parametrized such that they perform optimally. The fact that the parametrizations of some other protocols were optimal was not known before, and can now be established using our technique. Our results are restricted to the case when a few devices discover each other at a time, as is the case in most real-life scenarios. When many devices need to discover each other simultaneously, packet collisions play a dominant role in the discovery latency and how to analyze such scenarios need further study.

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