An ad hoc network is a type of wireless local area network (WLAN) that enables devices to connect with others without the need for access points (APs), such as built-in or external routers. Through such a network, computers can talk to each other and exchange files. One device can also share its Internet connection with other devices. Because of this feature, ad hoc networks are also called “peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.”

An ad hoc network setup differs from an infrastructure one in that it is decentralized. That means it eliminates the need for devices to connect to a “mother” to communicate.

An ad hoc network works similarly as a Bluetooth connection (bear in mind though that Bluetooth is a different type of technology). Paired devices can share an Internet connection and transmit files.


Read More about an “Ad Hoc Network”

Typically, all of the devices in a corporate network establish connections via a primary AP. This setup is also known as an “infrastructure mode” or the “hub-and-spoke model.” Here, all network traffic passes through a router, which manages the flow of data between devices. The router ensures that packet data, such as a requested page, reaches the end-user. An ad hoc network bypasses this process.

Types of Ad Hoc Networks

1. Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET)

A MANET transforms mobile devices into distinct components of a network, removing the need for a centralized AP. It means that some of the devices are turned into routers as needed to facilitate continuous communication. Military personnel and emergency responders commonly use a MANET.

2. Vehicular Ad Hoc Network (VANET)

A VANET uses MANET nodes to enable communication between intelligent transport systems (ITSs), such as smart city buses and autonomous vehicles and industrial fleets. The implementation of VANET systems allows fleet managers and transport authorities to improve driver and pedestrian safety as well as regulate traffic flow and congestion.

3. Smartphone Ad Hoc Network (SPAN)

A SPAN is a project and proof of concept (PoC) that some security companies are currently testing. These companies see SPAN as an answer to cellular network latency and downtime due to calamities. A SPAN leverages the Wi-Fi chip in a mobile device by switching it to ad hoc mode, allowing devices to act as bridges to others. A SPAN only works with Android phones, but developments may be underway to include other mobile operating systems (OSs).

4. Wireless Mesh Network (WMN)

A WMN is a class of ad hoc networks based on a mesh topology (i.e., layout). In this type of network, all nodes can communicate directly with each other without following a given order or hierarchy. Data moves through various nodes or devices. There is also no single access point in a WMN. Cellphones, computers, hubs, and radios can serve as WMN nodes.

Applications of Ad Hoc Networks

Ad hoc networks serve various purposes, including:

  • Gives military units access to all soldiers, vehicles, and headquarters
  • Allows users to create personal area networks (PANs) or short-range local networks that connects several nodes
  • Provides emergency responders to send signals during crises
  • Useful in monitoring patients
  • Helps check for weather conditions, forest fires, tsunamis, and other natural or man-made disasters

Ad hoc networks may be convenient for impromptu connections where a WLAN is unavailable, but they come with a few disadvantages. Bandwidth limitation, for instance, is a top issue for ad hoc network users. Connections on ad hoc mode can only reach a speed of 11 Mbps. However, Wi-Fi connections can reach 54 Mbps in infrastructure mode.

Do Ad Hoc Networks Present Security Risks?

Because ad hoc networks are typically set up for short-term use particularly during emergencies, they can pose security risks. They are specifically prone to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks since they’re designed to be accessible to anyone. People with malicious intentions can thus overwhelm them to render them useless.

Given their short-range nature, ad hoc networks are also prone to routing information corruption. Anyone who wishes to spy on communications coursed through them can easily sniff data.

How Do You Detect an Ad Hoc Network?

It’s easy to detect and connect to an ad hoc network. It only takes three steps.

How Do You Detect an Ad Hoc Network?

How Do I Know If an Ad Hoc Network Is Malicious?

The same signs of malicious activity in a typical network apply to ad hoc networks. Redirection to unknown pages, asking for login credentials when they’re not necessary, and others.

Key Takeaways

  • An ad hoc network is a WLAN that lets devices connect with others without an access point like a router.
  • Four common types of ad hoc networks exist—a MANET, a VANET, a SPAN, and a WMN.
  • Ad hoc networks are useful for military units, emergency responders, healthcare workers, and many other professionals that require instant network access.

Other interesting terms…