Protocols for Routing Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks: Proactive, Reactive, Hybrid

Instructor: Vignesh Sivabalan
Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks (MANETs) are infrastructure-less and wireless. They are composed of mobile nodes which change on the go which traditional routing protocols are not equipped to handle sufficiently. This lesson gives an insight into the basics of MANET routing protocols.

What is a Wireless Ad Hoc Network?

Wireless networks allow users to access services and information electronically and they are of two types: ad hoc (infrastructure less network) and infrastructure network. The infrastructure networks contain wired and fixed gateways whereas the ad hoc networks are dynamic and mobile that are connected in arbitrary manner. These wireless ad hoc networks are temporary networks without the need for any centralized administration or infrastructure. This makes all ad hoc networks unsafe relative to infrastructure networks which have specialized infrastructure and administration.

Let us consider this analogy to understand Ad Hoc Networks better. Imagine that you are connecting three of your friends mobile devices to your mobile device using Bluetooth technology. Your friends need not be in a fixed topology but can move about within the area of Bluetooth coverage. Thus, all these four mobile devices form an ad hoc network without any fixed infrastructure.

Applications of Wireless Ad Hoc Networks

  • Tactical Networks - Military operations
  • Emergency Services - Disaster recovery, Patient records retrieval
  • Sensor Networks - Weather forecast and monitoring, Earth movement capturing, Ocean engineering, Collection of real time data
  • Cellular Networks and Bluetooth
  • Educational applications - Video conferencing, Virtual classrooms
  • Entertainment - Video and music on demand

What is a MANET (Mobile Ad Hoc Network)?

Wireless ad hoc networks are mainly used for mobile nodes and this type of network is named as Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET). MANET is a kind of wireless ad hoc network which changes locations and performs self-configurations dynamically (on the fly). MANET can be as small as a local area network to a bigger network like the internet.

Need for Customized Routing Protocols for Wireless Mobile Ad Hoc Networks

Almost all nodes of an ad hoc network take part in maintenance and discovery of routes in the network. The routing protocols proposed for wired networks cannot be used for ad hoc or mobile network networks due to network mobility. There are three broad categories of mobile ad hoc network routing protocols namely: proactive, reactive and hybrid protocols.

Proactive protocols

In proactive routing protocol, each node of the network maintains a single or multiple routing tables that are regularly updated. Each node will send a broadcasting message to all the other nodes in the network in order to detect the changes in their network topology.

Example: Destination Sequenced Distance Vector (DSDV) protocol, Distance vector (DV) protocol and Fisheye State Routing (FSR) protocol


  • Increases network availability highly as this protocol provides the actual information.


  • Additional maintenance cost overhead for storing up-to-date information.
  • Throughput is less compared to other ad hoc routing protocols.

Reactive Protocols:

In reactive protocol, each network node discovers its route to destination, on-demand. This on-demand route discovery is done by flooding control messages through global broadcast and once the route is discovered, bandwidth gets used for information exchange.

Examples: Ad-hoc On Demand Routing (AODV) protocol, Associativity Based Routing (ABR) protocol and Dynamic Source Routing (DSR) protocol.

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