On Selfish Behavior in CSMA/CA Networks
CSMA/CA protocols rely on the random deferment of packet transmissions. Like most other protocols, CSMA/CA was designed with the assumption that the nodes would play by the rules. This can be dangerous, since the nodes themselves control their random deferment. Indeed, with the higher programmability of the network adapters, the temptation to tamper with the software or firmware is likely to grow; by doing so, a user could obtain a much larger share of the available bandwidth at the expense of other users. We use a game-theoretic approach to investigate the problem of the selfish behavior of nodes in CSMA/CA networks, specifically geared towards the most widely accepted protocol in this class of protocols, IEEE 802.11. We characterize two families of Nash equilibria in a single stage game, one of which always results in a network collapse. We argue that this result provides an incentive for cheaters to cooperate with each other. Explicit cooperation among nodes is clearly impractical. By applying the model of dynamic games borrowed from game theory, we derive the conditions for the stable and optimal functioning of a population of cheaters. We use this insight to develop a simple, localized and distributed protocol that successfully guides multiple selfish nodes to a Pareto-optimal Nash equilibrium.