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Cooperative communications fundamentally changes the abstraction of a wireless link and offers significant potential advantages for wireless networks. However, much of the existing work on cooperative systems focuses on their physical layer capabilities. Such systems are evaluated with idealized scenarios where coordination, control signaling, and other costs are assumed to be negligible or even free. These costs are actually significant enough that the net gain of using cooperative communications in a networking context remains uncertain. Moreover, even if these costs appear small in simple network scenarios, they will increase significantly with the size and traffic level of the network, requiring careful evaluation, or even innovative design, of cooperative protocols to ensure their usefulness in realistic networks.
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