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An ad hoc network is a network that is composed of individual devices communicating with each other directly. The term implies spontaneous or impromptu construction because these networks often bypass the gatekeeping hardware or central access point such as a router. Many ad hoc networks are local area networks where computers or other devices are enabled to send data directly to one another rather than going through a centralized access point.
The idea of an ad hoc network is often unfamiliar to end users who have only seen small residential or business networks that use a typical router to send wireless signals to individual computers. However, the ad hoc network is being used quite a bit in new types of wireless engineering, although until recently it was a rather esoteric idea. For example, a mobile ad hoc network involves mobile devices communicating directly with one another. Another type of ad hoc network, the vehicular ad hoc network, involves placing communication devices in cars. Both of these are examples of ad hoc networks that use a large collection of individual devices to freely communicate without a kind of top-down or hierarchical communication structure.
Experts point out that for small local area networks, ad hoc networks can be cheaper to build because they don’t require as much hardware. However, others make the point that a large number of devices can be difficult to manage without a larger and more concrete infrastructure. Tech leaders are looking at ways to enable more vibrant network functionality with these peer-to-peer networks.