Mean-field limits for large-scale random-access networks

F. Cecchi, S.C. Borst, J.S.H. van Leeuwaarden, P.A. Whiting

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We establish mean-field limits for large-scale random-access networks with buffer dynamics and arbitrary interference graphs. While saturated-buffer scenarios have been widely investigated and yield useful throughput estimates for persistent sessions, they fail to capture the fluctuations in buffer contents over time, and provide no insight in the delay performance of flows with intermittent packet arrivals. Motivated by that issue, we explore in the present paper random-access networks with buffer dynamics, where flows with empty buffers refrain from competition for the medium. The occurrence of empty buffers thus results in a complex dynamic interaction between activity states and buffer contents, which severely complicates the performance analysis. Hence we focus on a many-sources regime where the total number of nodes grows large, which not only offers mathematical tractability but is also highly relevant with the densification of wireless networks as the Internet of Things emerges. We exploit time scale separation properties to prove that the properly scaled buffer occupancy process converges to the solution of a deterministic initial-value problem, and establish the existence and uniqueness of the associated fixed point. This approach simplifies the performance analysis of networks with huge numbers of nodes to a low-dimensional fixed-point calculation. For the case of a complete interference graph, we demonstrate asymptotic stability, provide a simple closed-form expression for the fixed point, and prove interchange of the mean-field and steady-state limits. This yields asymptotically exact approximations for key performance metrics, in particular the stationary buffer content and packet delay distributions. The methodological framework that we develop easily extends to various model refinements as will be illustrated by several examples.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberarXiv:1611.09723
Number of pages49
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2016


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