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 an such a network, computers can talk to each other and exchange files; one device can also share its Internet connection to 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.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about “Ad Hoc Network”

Typically, all of the devices in a corporate network establish connections via a primary access point. This setup is also known as 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 access point. 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.

Challenges 

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.