The occurrence of unidirectional links in wireless sensor networks (WSNs) is an inherent feature of wireless communication. Transceiver characteristics, asymmetric interference, and many other properties of the electromagnetic propagation environment result in link unidirectionality, however, transmission power heterogeneity is the dominant factor that creates unidirectional links. Most of the data transfer mechanisms designed for wireless networks work only on bidirectional links, yet, there are some mechanisms capable of utilizing unidirectional links. Employment of a multi-hop reverse path for acknowledgement delivery is the key concept and hop length of the reverse path is an important design criterion in such mechanisms. If the maximum reverse path length is allowed to take large values then the number of usable unidirectional links increases. Increasing the number of available links leads to better energy balancing and longer network lifetime. But is it necessary to keep the reverse path length large to achieve the maximum network lifetime possible? In this study, we investigate the effects of reverse path length in WSNs with unidirectional links induced by transmission power heterogeneity on network lifetime through a novel mixed integer programming framework. Our results show that reverse path length has significant impact on WSN lifetime.
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