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A Survey of Handoff Schemes for Vehicular Ad-Hoc Networks

Yao-Tung Chang and Jen-Wen Ding,

Dept. of Information Management National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Chih-Heng Ke
Dept. of Computer Science and Information Engineering National Kinmen Institute of Technology Kinmen, Taiwan

Ing-Yi Chen Dept. of Computer Science and Information Engineering National Taipei University of Technology

Vehicular ad-hoc network (VANET) is a rapidly developing technology which supports vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. With the two types of communication modes, users can access the Internet via some devices such as CAR PCs and PDAs. With the Internet connection, many value-added applications can be developed. However, Internet connection for VANETs faces a great challenge: the high mobility of vehicles results in frequent handoffs, which may cause significant packet delay and packet losses. This paper examines the necessary steps involved in a VANET handoff process and reviews some related studies in the literature that reduces the handoff time for VANETs.

Categories and Subject Descriptors


The communication protocols for MANET are more complicated than that for traditional networks due to the dynamically changing network topology of MANET. Vehicular ad-hoc network (VANET) is a new merging network technology, which is a special type of MANET networks. VANET has the following special features: (1) the mobility of vehicles is highly predictable because there are only two moving directions for the vehicles on the same road; (2) all communication devices have plenty of electric power provided by vehicles; (3) broadcast are often used to deliver messages instead of unicast [3]. VANET supports two types of communication modes: (1) vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and (2) vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication (see Fig. 1). The main design purpose of VANET is to deploy a low-cost communication network for vehicles. There are two types of applications for VANET: (1) safety-oriented applications (such as emergency warning, stopped vehicle warning, cooperative forward collision warning, etc.) [2] and (2) value-added applications (such as entertainment and mobile commerce).

General Terms
Design, Performance, Standardization

VANET; mobile p2p; handoff; internet connection; IEEE 802.11p

Over the past decade, much research has been devoted to mobile ad-hoc networks (MANETs). In mobile ad-hoc networks, mobile nodes can communicate with each other via one-hop communication or multi-hop communication without the need for an infrastructure [1].
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Figure 1. Two types of communication modes of VANET


Many value-added applications require continuous Internet connection. To support continuous connection without changing IP addresses, mobile IPv4 (MIPv4) was proposed in 2002 [4]. However, because of the deficiencies of IPv4, such as the shortage of IP addresses, triangular routing, and some security problems, mobile IPv6 (MIPv6) was proposed in 2004 [5]. However, MIPv6 is efficient for only micro-mobility and inefficient for macro-mobility. To solve this problem, hierarchical mobile IPv6 (HMIPv6) was proposed in 2005 [6]. HMIPv6 uses a new component, Mobility Anchor Point (MAP). A mobile host (MH) with micro-mobility creates an on-link care-of-address (LCoA), and sends a binding update message to its MAP. A MH with macro-mobility creates a regional care-of-address (RCoA), and sends a binding update message to its home agent. LCoA is formed by the prefix of the access router (AR) in contact and the MAC address of the MH. RCoA is formed by the prefix of the MAP and the MAC address of the MH. Because MIPv4, MIPv6, HMIPv6 are mainly designed for terminal mobility, not for network mobility, NEMO (network mobility) protocol was proposed to address the network mobility issues in 2005 [7]. With NEMO, a group of MHs that moves together (e.g., in a vehicle) will access the network via a special host called mobile router (MR). All hosts of the group can obtain their care-ofaddress (CoA) by sending DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) request messages to the MR [8]. Each MR has its own home address. Whenever the MR moves to a new AR, it will acquire a new CoA. After acquiring the new CoA, it sends a binding update message to its HA. The HA of the MR will forward all data packets destined for the group of hosts to the MR. As discussed above, although many mobility management protocols have been proposed to provide continuous Internet connection without changing IP addresses, VANET handoff still faces a challenging difficulty: the high mobility of vehicles creates frequent handoffs, which may result in significant packet delay and packet losses. In what follows, we examine the necessary steps involved in a VANET handoff process and review the related studies in the literature. The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Section II describes the necessary procedures involved in a VANET handoff process. Section III surveys the related studies in the literature, and Section IV concludes this paper.

In active scan mode, a mobile host sends a probe request on a channel, and then waits a period of time, MinChannelTime. If there is no any response within MinChannelTime, the MH will continue to sends a probe request on the next channel and wait to the response from potential APs. In passive scan, a MH will not send any probe packets; instead, it sequentially listens to beacons on different channels. After listening to all channels, the MH will try to associate the AP with the best signal strength.

2.3 Authentication
The goal of authentication is to ensure the security of networks and to identify legal users. IEEE 802.11 defines two types of authentication: open system authentication and share key authentication. The default mode is open system authentication. The share key authentication is performed based on Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) algorithms.

2.4 Association
After completing the authentication procedure, a MH will send an association request to the new AP to associate with the new AP. After completing the association, the AP will send an association response to the MH. If the MH switches from an AP to another, the association request will contains the information of the old AP.

2.5 IP Address Acquistion

When a MH moves to the coverage area of a new AR, it will receive Router Advertisement (RA) messages from the new AR. Router Advertisement messages are periodically broadcasted by AR. Alternatively, the MH may proactively send Router Solicitation (RS) messages to the new AR to obtain the RA message. The RA message contain the prefix(FE80) and the interface identifier so that MHs can generate their CoAs. According to MIPv6, a DAD (duplicate address detection) procedure must be performed to ensure that the generated CoA is not in use. However, the DAD procedure takes a long time, around 1000ms, and incurs some extra overhead [11]. In view of this, the DAD procedure is a performance bottleneck for VANET handoff process [21].

2.6 Home Agent (HA) Registration

After obtaining the CoA, a MH needs to inform its HA of its new CoA by sending a binding update message. After completing the binding update, the HA will send a binding acknowledgement to the MH.


When a MH performs handoff, it may involve the following six procedures: trigger, discovery, authentication, association, IP address acquisition, and home agent (HA) registration [9]. The first four procedures belong to the data link layer, so they are also called layertwo (L2) handoff. The last two procedures belong to the network layer, so they are also called layer-three (L3) handoff.



This section reviews some related studies in the literature. These studies improve the main procedures discussed in the previous section.

2.1 Trigger
When a MH moves far away from an access point (AP), it can detect that the received signal strength indication (RSSI) has dropped below a predefined threshold. When this trigger event occurs, a MH will try to discover other APs with better RSSI and then try to associate with the new AP with the best RSSI.

3.1 Fast Trigger, Discovery, and Association

In [12], Shimizu et al. indicated that the commonly used IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g protocols are unable to support seamless handoff for high-speed vehicles. They found two main problems: (1) long delay caused by the channel scanning and (2) slow association with a new AP. They proposed the two methods to solve the two problems. First, they limit the number of scanned channels to decrease the latency caused by channel scanning. Second, they develop three functions on the MH side: (1) monitoring of RSSIs of beacons from multiple APs in short period (2 Hz); (2) selecting an AP with high RSSI according to the monitored RSSIs and associating with

2.2 Discovery
In the phase of discovery, a MH tries to search a new AP by proactively sending a probe packet to search the new APs or by passively listening to the beacons periodically broadcast by nearby APs. IEEE 802.11 defines two types of scan modes: active scan and passive scan [10].


the new AP; (3) changing wireless transfer rate in short period to adapt the rapid change of the RSSI. In [13], Chiu et al., suggested that VANET communication can be achieved by IEEE 802.16j Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access Mobile Multi-hop Relay (WiMAX MMR). They proposed a vehicular fast handoff scheme (VFHS). According to the study of [14], public transportation buses are good candidates to serve as relay nodes, called relay vehicles (RV). An RV provides communication and mobility management services to its neighboring vehicles. The neighboring vehicles first transmit its data packets to an RV, and the RV forwards these packets to the Internet. The multihoprelay is suitable for vehicles in freeways because vehicles driving in the same direction are moving with similar speeds. Fig. 2 shows the architecture of VFHS. As shown in Fig. 2, a broken vehicle (BV) can utilize the information broadcasted by oncoming small size vehicles (OSV). An OSV is designed to collect the physical information of an RV by receiving the RVs network advertisement message. The main idea behind VFHS is as follows. The OSV uses a predened set of channel frequencies to broadcast network topology message (NTM) to BVs. With NTM, when the unconnected vehicle enters the transmission range of the RV in front, it can learn which channel to listen to. Consequently, the handover latency could be reduced.

authentication data of the neighboring APs from the AAA server before performing the handoff process.

Figure 3. Two-antenna approach (adapted from [18])

3.3 Fast IP Address Acquistion

In [19], Bychkovsky et al. found that when vehicles move rapidly in cities, a lifetime of a connection is about 5-24 seconds; however, it takes about 2-3 seconds to acquire an IP address by DHCP. In view of this, in [20], Arnold et al. proposed a scheme called IP passing (see Fig. 4). When a vehicle enters the transmission range of a new AP, it first listens to the IP passing packets passed by it proceeding vehicles that is about to leave the coverage area of the same AP. If the entering vehicle hears a IP passing packet, it can directly obtain the IP address from leaving vehicle. However, if the entering vehicle does not, it acquires its IP address using the normal DHCP procedures. Consider the example shown in Fig. 4, vehicle A will pass its IP address to its following vehicle, say B, which is going to enter the coverage area of the same AP. If vehicle B receives the IP passing packet, it can use the received IP address to configures its wireless network interface card. After completing the configuration, vehicle B will associate with the AP. After that, vehicle B will broadcast a Gratuitous ARP (GARP) packet to update the IP address and MAC address in the ARP cache of the associated AP. By doing so, other vehicles can also learn that the passed IP is already in use. If no (GARP) packet is received, vehicle A will return its IP address to the DHCP server. Their reports indicated that IP passing can largely reduced required overhead and handoff time.

Figure 2. Architecture of VFHS (adapted from [13])

In [18], Okabe et al., assumed that each vehicle is equipped with two wireless LAN interface cards. Each interface card is equipped with one antenna (see Fig. 3). Then, the two antennas can cooperate with each other: one is used to transmit and receive data and the other is used to scan channels to search the new AP. If a vehicle measures the signal strength and determines to switch to a new AP, it will perform registration and authentication with the mobile switch located in the upper layer. After completing the registration, it will use the other antenna to transmit and receive data packets. On the other hand, the original antenna is not stopped immediately; instead, it only receives data. After a predefined time period, the connection of the original antenna is completely replaced by the new antenna. The two antennas continue to cooperate in this way. By switching between the two antennas, a smoother handoff can be achieved with less packet losses. The handoff time can be reduced by about 60ms.

3.2 Fast Authentication

In [17], Pack et al., proposed a method to reduce the handoff latency incurred by authentication. Their method is to request the Figure 4. IP Passing (adapted from [20])


3.4 Fast HA Registration

In [8], Chen et al. combined the concepts of NEMO and multihop relay to propose a virtual-bus scheme. In their architecture (see Fig.5), all communication devices in a bus connects the Internet via a MR, which can be tracked and managed by a HA. The special feature of their method is that two MRs is equipped with a bus, called rear MR and front MR. MRs connects the Internet using WiMax and all communication devices in a bus connects MRs using WiFi. All devices within a bus can connect the MRs using one-hop connection or multi-hop connection. The front MR is responsible for performing pre-handoff for the rear MR, which provides real connection for all devices in a bus. Instead of considering a real-bus, they extend their idea to a group of vehicles, which form a virtual-bus. The first vehicle in the group acts as the front MR, and the last vehicle of the group acts as the rear MR. They studied the performance of the virtual-bus scheme using different length of virtual-bus.

[2] [3]

[4] [5] [6]




[10] [11]



[14] [15]


Figure 5. Bus-Based Architecture: (a) real-bus (b) virtual-bus (adapted from [8])




[1] S. Corson and J. Macker, Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET): Routing Protocol Performance Issues and Evaluation Considerations, RFC editor, 1999. [21]


In this paper, we survey the necessary procedures involved in a VANET handoff process. We also review the fast handoff schemes proposed in the literature to improve the different procedures involved in the handoff process. To date, not much work has been done on the fast handoff for VANET. How to combine the different fast handoff approaches remains an open research issue and needs more investigation.




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