Game Theoretic Modeling of the Exchange between Wireless Access Provider and Paying User

John Musacchio
(Professor Jean Walrand)

The number of deployed 802.11 wireless access point devices has grown dramatically in recent years. In many cases these devices are deployed by individuals or institutions for their own private use, rather than providing wireless access service to other parties. Often these private access points are underutilized, and thus could potentially be used to provide service to users foreign to the owner of the access point, but that lie within the communications radius of the access point. Such a service would be especially valuable for mobile users that are traveling through an area where they cannot establish Internet connectivity in any other way. However, access point owners would incur costs in offering this service. These costs include any performance degradation due to the additional traffic from foreign users, and the possible security risk in allowing foreign users access to their access point and potentially the other hosts connected to that access point. Because of this, access point owners would need incentives to voluntarily offer service to foreign users. One possible incentive would be in the form of payments from the foreign user to the owner of the access point. A problem with this model is that the foreign user and the access point owner cannot trust each other. For example, if the foreign user were to pay in advance for a service, she cannot be certain that the access point owner would actually provide the service after receiving payment. Likewise, if the foreign user agreed to pay after receiving service for some time, the access point owner cannot be certain that the foreign user would actually deliver on the payment promise. Our work focuses on formulating this situation in a game theoretic model, and using this model to find payment schemes that incentize access point owners to allow foreign users to use the access point, that incentivize both parties to carry out any agreed exchange of payment for service, and that require as little communication between the two parties as possible.

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