A busy period approach to some queueing games


The traditional approach when looking for a symmetric equilibrium behavior in queueing models with strategic customers who arrive according to some stationary arrival process is to look for a strategy which, if used by all, is also a best response of an individual customer under the resulting stochastic steady-state conditions. This description lacks a key component: a proper definition of the set of players. Hence, many of these models cannot be defined as proper noncooperative games. This limitation raises two main concerns. First, it is hard to formulate these models in a canonical way, and hence, results are typically limited to a specific model or to a narrow class of models. Second, game theoretic results cannot be applied directly in the analysis of such models and call for ad hoc adaptations. We suggest a different approach, one that is based on the stationarity of the underlying stochastic processes. In particular, instead of considering a system that is functioning from time immemorial and has already reached stochastic steady-state conditions, we look at the process as a series of isolated, a priori identical, and independent strategic situations with a random, yet finite, set of players. Each of the isolated games can be analyzed using existing tools from the classical game theoretic literature. Moreover, this approach suggests a canonic definition of strategic queueing models as properly defined mathematical objects. A significant advantage of our approach is its compatibility with models in the existing literature. This is exemplified in detail for the famous model of the unobservable “to queue or not to queue” problem and other related models.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    This assumption has no impact on the performance of the queue due to the memoryless property of the exponential distribution.

  2. 2.

    Assume that the distribution of N permits this interchangeability of differentiation and expectation.

  3. 3.

    Interestingly, nothing will be changed had he been informed.


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Correspondence to Binyamin Oz.

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This research was partly supported by Israel Science Foundation Grant No. 1828/19 and 1512/19 and by the Zagagi Foundation.

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Haviv, M., Oz, B. A busy period approach to some queueing games. Queueing Syst (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11134-021-09692-0

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  • Strategic behavior in queues
  • Games with random number of players
  • Nash equilibrium
  • Renewal process
  • Non-cooperative games

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 60K05
  • 60K25
  • 91A10