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Price Differentiation in the Kelly Mechanism. Richard Ma School of Computing, National University of Singapore Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Illinois at Singapore. Joint work with Dah Ming Chiu, John Lui (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

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Price Differentiation in the Kelly Mechanism

Richard Ma

School of Computing, National University of Singapore

Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Illinois at Singapore

Joint work with

Dah Ming Chiu, John Lui(Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Vishal Misra, Dan Rubenstein (Columbia University)

SPOC 2012

research interests
Research Interests
  • Computer Networking
    • Modeling and analysis
    • Stochastic processes and queueing theory
  • Economics of Networks
    • Resource allocation
    • Pricing
  • Game Theory
    • Optimization
    • Equilibrium analysis
a resource allocation problem
A Resource Allocation Problem
  • One divisible resource with capacity
    • E.g., bandwidth , CPU cycles
  • users compete for the resource
  • : user ‘s valuation (or monetary utility) on amount of resource
    • Increasing, Concave and Differentiable
  • A social welfare maximization problem:
    • Maximize
    • Subject to and
the kelly mechanism
The Kelly Mechanism
  • Each user submits a bid , which is the willingness to pay (for unknown amount of resource)
  • Resource is allocated proportionally by
  • The utility of each user is
properties of kelly mechanism
Properties of Kelly Mechanism
  • Equal price (per unit resource)
  • Price-taking assumption: Given a price , each user maximizes
    • First-order condition:
properties of kelly mechanism1
Properties of Kelly Mechanism
  • [Kelly ‘98] Under the price-taking assumption, there exists a unique competitive equilibrium under which
    • the network “clears the market”:
    • the social welfare is maximized
  • It works when the number of users is big, where each user’s strategy does not move the market price much.
non cooperative game
Non-cooperative Game
  • Without the price-taking assumption, Kelly mechanism creates a non-cooperative game
    • User ’s strategy:
    • User ’s objective: Maximize
  • [Hajek et al. 02] There exists a unique Nash equilibrium for the game.
  • [Johari et al. 04] Efficiency loss from the Nash equilibrium could be as big as 25% of the social optimum (or PoA).
price differentiation
Price Differentiation
  • Each user buys “tickets” for bidding
  • Allocation is proportional to # of “tickets”
  • User pays price for each “ticket”
  • Given a fixed price vector
  • User uses a strategy to maximize
a generalized mechanism
A Generalized Mechanism
  • Price differentiation: per unit resource price for user is
  • If the price vector , the special case is the Kelly mechanism
  • Result 1: Under any price vector , there exists a unique Nash equilibrium.
  • Result 2: For any allocation vector , there exists a vector such that is the allocation of the unique Nash equilibrium.
  • Result 3: For any two price vectors , with , the Nash equilibrium satisfies


  • Result 4: If any user gets zero under , then the equilibrium does not change if we further increase unilaterally.
  • Result 5: There is a connected set of price vectors that maps to the set of all resource allocations continuously and bijectively.
valuation revelation
Valuation Revelation
  • We want to find the vector that achieves the social welfare as a Nash equilibrium
  • Problem: we still don’t know the valuation
  • Result 6: In equilibrium, we have
  • In theory, we can recover the (shape of) valuation functions.
unsolved problem f uture work
Unsolved Problem (Future work)
  • Theorem 7: achieve social optimum iff

for all users and .

  • The above provides some hint about how to adjust the prices between a pair of users.
  • Question: how can we utilize the above result to maximize social welfare?
    • Feedback control?
    • Convergence?