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  • A Practical Interference-Aware Power Management Protocol for Dense Wireless Networks

    Paper 21, 14 pages

    ABSTRACT The availability of spectrum resources has not kept pace with wireless network popularity. As a result, data transfer perfor- mance is often limited by the number of devices interfering on the same frequency channel within an area. In this pa- per, we introduce a protocol that manages the transmission power and CCA threshold of 802.11 devices to maximize network performance. The protocol is based on the obser- vation that for a pair of interfering wireless links, it is pos- sible to calculate the ratio of the transmit power of the two senders that maximizes overall network capacity. We first present an algorithm that extends this result for dense clus- ters of nodes and then describe a distributed protocol that im- plements the transmission power setting algorithm and CCA tuning mechanism. Finally, we describe an implementation of the project in Linux. It uses commercial 802.11 cards and addressed several practical challenges such as protocol sta- bility and calibration. Our experimental evaluation using an 8 node testbed shows that our protocol works well in prac- tice and can improve the performance over default configu- rations by more than 200%. We also use OPNET simulations to evaluate larger topologies with different node densities.

    1. INTRODUCTION The popularity of wireless is fueling a rapid growth

    in the number of devices using the unlicensed frequency bands. Resulting dense wireless deployments in hotspots, residential neighborhoods, and campuses increasingly suffer from poor performance due to interference be- tween the large number of devices sharing the same frequency band. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the default transmit power and carrier sense threshold (aka Clear Channel Assesment or CCA thresh- old) in 802.11 devices results in inefficient use of the spectrum. In this paper, we describe the design and implementation of a distributed protocol for selecting the transmit power and CCA threshold so as to reduce interference and increase network capacity, while main- taining fairness.

    Several projects [21][17][1][15][7] have explored ad- justing transmit power and/or the CCA treshold to im- prove performance. For example, [1] proposed to use

    the minimum power level necessary to reach a receiver. However, this approach can increase unfairness since nodes closer to their destination may experience higher interference. In fact, several authors [19][17][1] have pointed out that systems that do not tune the CCA threshold along with the transmit power often reduce fairness since low power stations are less likely to be heard. More recent work [17] performs joint transmis- sion power and CCA threshold tuning, but the proposed protocol uses the same transmit power level and CCA threshold for all nodes in a cell, thus limiting opportu- nities for spatial reuse. Also, practical challenges such as calibration are not addressed in earlier work.

    In this paper, we first present an iterative greedy al- gorithm that uses perfect knowledge about the RF envi- ronment to determine the transmit power for all trans- missions. The basic idea of the algorithm is to itera- tively adjust the transmit power of individual links so that the number of edges in the transmission conflict graph [18] is reduced. We then describe a practical, distributed version of the power control algorithm for 802.11 nodes. In the protocol, each node builds a local topology graph by overhearing packets from its neigh- bors. It uses the RSSI of the incoming packets and transmission information stored in the packets. Each node then uses its local topology graph to optimize both the transmit power to each neighbor and to ad- just its CCA threshold using an altruistic version of the Echos [21] algorithm.

    Next, we describe an implementation of the proto- col that addresses several practical challenges, including how to stablize the protocol, how to calibrate both the transmit power and RSSI readings of the cards, etc. We present an evaluation of the protocol using both testbed measurements and simulation, focusing on infrastruc- ture 802.11 networks. Measurements in an eight node testbed show throughput gains of more than 200%. Us- ing OPNET simulation, we study larger topologies and the impact of node density on performance. While the algorithm optimizes capacity for any type of wireless link and the implementation address many practical is- sues, we should note that we do not consider possible


  • interactions with transmit rate selection, AP selection in infrastructure networks, or multi-hop routing and op- portunistic relaying in mesh networks in this paper.

    The rest of the paper is organized as follows. We de- scribe our interference model in Section 2. Section 3 discusses our greedy centralized algorithm for power control, extensions for CCA tuning, and power reallo- cation for further increasing spatial reuse. In Section 4, we present the distributed power management proto- col. We discuss our implementation and an evaluation using a testbed and OPNET in Sections 5 through 7. We review related work in Section 8 and summarize our conclusions in Section 9.

    2. MODELING INTERFERENCE In this section, we first review two models that are

    widely used in the wireless community to identify when concurrent transmissions can occur. We then introduce our interference model and the conflict graph.

    2.1 Concurrent Transmission Model The physical SINR model [9][18] predicts that a

    packet can be successfully decoded if the signal to in- terference plus noise ratio exceeds some threshold. It takes into account received signal strength from the source and all sources of interference and noise. The SINR model predicts that uniformly increasing power levels increases system throughput by reducing the ef- fects of thermal noise, though such gains are marginal in interference-dominated networks, e.g. dense 802.11 networks.

    The circle model is a much simpler model that is used implicitly in many papers [14][1]. In this model, every source is associated with a transmission and an interference range. Nodes within the transmission range of a source can decode frames from the source, and nodes within interference range will be prevented from transmitting due to carrier sense [3]. The ranges de- pend on the power level each source uses. The circle model predicts that using the minimum possible power level minimizes interference – exactly the opposite con- clusion of the SINR model!

    The right choice of model depends on whether the interface hardware exhibits the capture effect [22], i.e. the ability to decode one transmission when multiple transmissions collide. In particular, it depends on how an incoming transmission is affected by a later frame with a higher signal strength. If the interface captures the stronger signal, then the SINR model is more ac- curate – otherwise the circle model is a better predic- tor. To determine the behavior of modern 802.11 hard- ware, we performed an experiment in a wireless emu- lator [12]. The experiment uses four laptops equipped with Atheros 5212 cards. We use netperf [11] to cre- ate two interfering non-rate controlled UDP flows, a

    0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0

    Received Signal Strength for Ft (dBm)

    U D

    P th

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    −80 −70 −60 −50

    Figure 1: Packet Capture With Interfering Sig- nals for Atheros 5212 cards

    targer flow Ft and an interfering flow Fi, with transmit power levels Pt and Pi at the target receiver, respec- tively. Also, we use the emulator to prevent any inter- ference at both sources, thus eliminating the effects of carrier sense and collisions with link-layer ACKs.

    Figure 1 shows the throughput achieved by Ft as a function of Pt. Each curve is for a constant interfer- ence level Pi and we changed Pi from -100dBm (lower than the noise level) to -60dBm (high enough to be decoded) in increments of 4dB. If the hardware does not exhibit the capture effect, the throughput of Ft for high values of Pi should be half of maximum through- put. However, Figure 1 shows that except for signal strengths close to the noise floor, all curves have the same shape and are equally spaced. Also, the interfer- ing signal (equally spaced curves) has a similar effect as noise (leftmost curve). These features are consistent with a strong capture effect, showing that the circle model is not representative for this hardware. Similar observations were made in [16], which presents a timing analysis of the capture effects. For Intel cards, capture effect is supported by setting the CCA threshold to a relatively high value [23], i.e. ignore the inteference sig- nal that is below the CCA threshold.

    Unfortunately, the SINR model is challenging to work with because each transmission interacts with all other transmissions. Thus, for deriving our protocol, we sim- plify the SINR model by making two assumptions: 1) interference is dominated by the strongest source (pair- wise interference assumption), and 2) we can ignore thermal noise. Recent work [6] has shown that the pair-wise assumption usually holds and we can ensure the second assumption by keeping power levels high enough. Note that this model is similar to the pro- tocol model [18][9], except that we do not assume that all nodes use the same power level.

    2.2 Conflict Graph To concisely represent the interference that is present

    in a network, researchers have used a conflict graph [18]. Each vertex in the conflict graph represents a link in the wireless network and there is an undirected edge


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