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A mobile ad hoc network (MANET) is generally defined as a network that has many free or autonomous nodes, often composed of mobile devices or other mobile pieces, that can arrange themselves in various ways and operate without strict top-down network administration. There are many different types of setups that could be called MANETs and the potential for this sort of network is still being studied.
Experts point out that the MANET, now a topic of commercial research, was originally used in military projects, including in tactical networks and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) projects. Some use 4G networks and other wireless systems as examples of a potential topology for a MANET, while others refer to a vehicular ad-hoc network (VANET), where the free network nodes are installed in cars and other vehicles.
Those assessing the potential for MANET face various challenges, including signal protection and the reliability of mobile or otherwise dynamic nodes. There’s also the issue of limited processing power, and even of providing an adequate power supply for the large number of devices typically included within a MANET. Still, the flexibility of a MANET makes this an interesting alternative to traditional networks structures.