The focus of this thesis is on the study of decentralized wireless multi-hop networks. We are particularly interested in establishing bounds on the traffic-carrying capabilities of wireless ad hoc networks and conditions on the scalability of such networks with node mobility. This theoretical investigation brings forward challenges on the design of such networks. This leads to a second part of this thesis that considers the feasibility and the design of physical layer architectures and schemes for decentralized wireless multi-hop networks. In the first part of this thesis, bounds on the capacity of wireless ad hoc networks with two types of non-uniform traffic patterns are established. We focus on the impact of traffic patterns where local communications predominate and show the improvement in terms of per user-capacity over ad hoc networks with unbounded average communication distances. We then study the capacity of hybrid wireless networks, where long-distance relaying is performed by a fixed overlay network of base-stations. We investigate the scaling of capacity versus the number of nodes and the density of base-stations in the area of the network. It is shown that the gain in performance is mainly due to the reduction in the mean number of hops from source to destination. Then, we investigate the impact of mobility on the ad hoc network capacity. We propose a set of necessary and sufficient conditions under which the long-term averaged throughput in an ad hoc network can remain constant as the number of nodes increases. The main idea is to use a connectivity graph that does not represent the actual physical network, but rather the available communication resources. This graph also allows to translate the problem of maximizing the throughput in ad hoc networks to the multi-commodity flow problem and directly apply related results. In contrast to these macroscopic studies, in the second part we focus on a microscopic analysis of ad hoc wireless networks. We are interested in characterizing the performance of decentralized multiple-access and retransmission schemes for multi-hop wireless networks with the goal of drawing conclusions on cross-layer design. We investigate different transmission strategies in order to assess the tradeoff between spatial density of communications and the range of each transmission. We present tools for characterizing the spatial throughput as a function of topological parameters (e.g node population density) and system parameters (propagation, bandwith etc). The results of this work also show that coding and retransmissions provide means of reliable communication coupled with a completely decentralized multiple-access strategy. Finally, an efficient protocol for the delay-limited fading Automatic Retransmission reQuest (ARQ) single relay channel is considered for cooperative communications. The proposed protocol exploits two kinds of diversity: (i) space diversity available through the cooperative (relay) terminal, which retransmits the source's signals, (ii) ARQ diversity obtained by leveraging the retransmission delay to enhance the reliability. The performance characterization is in terms of the achievable diversity, multiplexing gain and delay tradeoff for a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) regime. Then, by letting the source's power level vary over the retransmission rounds, we show the benefits of power control on the diversity.