Studying transfer opportunities between wireless devices carried by humans, we observe that the distribution of the inter-contact time, that is the time gap separating two contacts of the same pair of devices, exhibits a heavy tail such as one of a power law, over a large range of value. This observation is confirmed on six distinct experimental data sets. It is at odds with the exponential decay implied by most mobility models.

In this paper, we study how this new characteristic of human mobility impacts a class of previously proposed forwarding algorithms. We use a simplified model based on the renewal theory to study how the parameters of the distribution impact the delay performance of these algorithms. We make recommendation for the design of well founded opportunistic forwarding algorithms, in the context of human carried devices.