We consider networks of impulse-radio ultra-wide band (IR-UWB) devices. We are interested in the architecture, design, and performance evaluation of these networks in a low data-rate, self-organized, and multi-hop setting. IR-UWB is a potential physical layer for sensor networks and emerging pervasive wireless networks. These networks are likely to have no particular infrastructure, might have nodes embedded in everyday life objects and have a size ranging from a few dozen nodes to large-scale networks composed of hundreds of nodes. Their average data-rate is low, on the order of a few megabits per second. IR-UWB physical layers are attractive for these networks because they potentially combine low-power consumption, robustness to multipath fading and to interference, and location/ranging capability. The features of an IR-UWB physical layer greatly differ from the features of the narrow-band physical layers used in existing wireless networks. First, the bandwidth of an IR-UWB physical layer is at least 500 MHz, which is easily two orders of magnitude larger than the bandwidth used by a typical narrow-band physical layer. Second, this large bandwidth implies stringent radio spectrum regulations because UWB systems might occupy a portion of the spectrum that is already in use. Consequently, UWB systems exhibit extremely low power spectral densities. Finally IR-UWB physical layers offer multi-channel capabilities for multiple and concurrent access to the physical layer. Hence, the architecture and design of IR-UWB networks are likely to differ significantly from narrow-band wireless networks. For the network to operate efficiently, it must be designed and implemented to take into account the features of IR-UWB and to take advantage of them. In this thesis, we focus on both the medium access control (MAC) layer and the physical layer. Our main objectives are to understand and determine (1) the architecture and design principles of IR-UWB networks, and (2) how to implement them in practical schemes. In the first part of this thesis, we explore the design space of IR-UWB networks and analyze the fundamental design choices. We show that interference from concurrent transmissions should not be prevented as in protocols that use mutual exclusion (for instance, IEEE 802.11). Instead, interference must be managed with rate adaptation, and an interference mitigation scheme should be used at the physical layer. Power control is useless. Based on these findings, we develop a practical PHY-aware MAC protocol that takes into account the specific nature of IR-UWB and that is able to adapt its rate to interference. We evaluate the performance obtained with this design: It clearly outperforms traditional designs that, instead, use mutual exclusion or power control. One crucial aspect of IR-UWB networks is packet detection and timing acquisition. In this context, a network design choice is whether to use a common or private acquisition preamble for timing acquisition. Therefore, we evaluate how this network design issue affects the network throughput. Our analysis shows that a private acquisition preamble yields a tremendous increase in throughput, compared with a common acquisition preamble. In addition, simulations on multi-hop topologies with TCP flows demonstrate that a network using private acquisition preambles has a stable throughput. On the contrary, using a common acquisition preamble exhibits an effect similar to exposed terminal issues in 802.11 networks: the throughput is severely degraded and flow starvation might occur. In the second part of this thesis, we are interested in IEEE 802.15.4a, a standard for low data-rate, low complexity networks that employs an IR-UWB physical layer. Due to its low complexity, energy detection is appealing for the implementation of practical receivers. But it is less robust to multi-user interference (MUI) than a coherent receiver. Hence, we evaluate the performance of an IEEE 802.15.4a physical layer with an energy detection receiver to find out whether a satisfactory performance is still obtained. Our results show that MUI severely degrades the performance in this case. The energy detection receiver significantly diminishes one of the most appealing benefits of UWB, specifically its robustness to MUI and thus the possibility of allowing for parallel transmissions. This performance analysis leads to the development of an IR-UWB receiver architecture, based on energy detection, that is robust to MUI and adapted to the peculiarities of IEEE 802.15.4a. This architecture greatly improves the performance and entails only a moderate increase in complexity. Finally, we present the architecture of an IR-UWB physical layer implementation in ns-2, a well-known network simulator. This architecture is generic and allows for the simulation of several multiple-access physical layers. In addition, it comprises a model of packet detection and timing acquisition. Network simulators also need to have efficient algorithms to accurately compute bit or packet error rates. Hence, we present a fast algorithm to compute the bit error rate of an IR-UWB physical layer in a network setting with MUI. It is based on a novel combination of large deviation theory and importance sampling.