The hardness of approximating spanner problems

Michael Elkin, David Peleg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


This paper examines a number of variants of the sparse k-spanner problem and presents hardness results concerning their approximability. Previously, it was known that most k-spanner problems are weakly inapproximable (namely, they are NP-hard to approximate with ratio O(log n), for every k ≥ 2) and that the unit-length k-spanner problem for constant stretch requirement k ≥ 5 is strongly inapproximable (namely, it is NP-hard to approximate with ratio O(2log1-εn))[27]. The results of this paper significantly expand the ranges of hardness for k-spanner problems. In general, strong hardness is shown for a number of k-spanner problems, for certain ranges of the stretch requirement k depending on the particular variant at hand. The problems studied differ by the types of edge weights and lengths used, and they include directed, augmentation and client-server variants. The paper also considers k-spanner problems in which the stretch requirement k is relaxed (e.g., k = Ω(log n). For these cases, no inapproximability results were known (even for a constant approximation ratio) for any spanner problem. Moreover, some versions of the k-spanner problem are known to enjoy the ratio-degradation property; namely, their complexity decreases exponentially with the inverse of the stretch requirement. So far, no hardness result existed precluding any k-spanner problem from enjoying this property. This paper establishes strong inapproximability results for the case of relaxed stretch requirement (up to k = O(n1-σ), for any 0 < σ < 1), for a large variety of k-spanner problems. It is also shown that these problems do not enjoy the ratio-degradation property.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-729
Number of pages39
JournalTheory of Computing Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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