A mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) is a self-configuring network of mobile routers (and associated hosts) connected by wireless linksâ€”the union of which form an arbitrary topology. The routers are free to move randomly and organize themselves arbitrarily; thus, the network’s wireless topology may change rapidly and unpredictably.
Such a network may operate in a standalone fashion, or may be connected to the larger Internet.
The popular 802.11 (“Wi-Fi”) wireless protocol incorporates an ad-hoc networking system when no wireless access points are present, although it would be considered a very low-grade ad-hoc protocol by specialists in the field. The 802.11 system only handles traffic within a local “cloud” of wireless devices. Each node transmits and receives data, but does not route anything between the network’s systems. However, higher-level protocols can be used to aggregate various 802.11 ad-hoc networks into MANETs.