Sparse Temporal Spanners with Low Stretch

Authors Davide Bilò , Gianlorenzo D'Angelo , Luciano Gualà , Stefano Leucci , Mirko Rossi

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Author Details

Davide Bilò
  • Department of Information Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics, University of L'Aquila, Italy
Gianlorenzo D'Angelo
  • Gran Sasso Science Institute, L'Aquila, Italy
Luciano Gualà
  • Department of Enterprise Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Italy
Stefano Leucci
  • Department of Information Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics, University of L'Aquila, Italy
Mirko Rossi
  • Gran Sasso Science Institute, L'Aquila, Italy

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Davide Bilò, Gianlorenzo D'Angelo, Luciano Gualà, Stefano Leucci, and Mirko Rossi. Sparse Temporal Spanners with Low Stretch. In 30th Annual European Symposium on Algorithms (ESA 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 244, pp. 19:1-19:16, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


A temporal graph is an undirected graph G = (V,E) along with a function λ : E → ℕ^+ that assigns a time-label to each edge in E. A path in G such that the traversed time-labels are non-decreasing is called a temporal path. Accordingly, the distance from u to v is the minimum length (i.e., the number of edges) of a temporal path from u to v. A temporal α-spanner of G is a (temporal) subgraph H that preserves the distances between any pair of vertices in V, up to a multiplicative stretch factor of α. The size of H is measured as the number of its edges. In this work, we study the size-stretch trade-offs of temporal spanners. In particular we show that temporal cliques always admit a temporal (2k-1)-spanner with Õ(kn^{1+1/k}) edges, where k > 1 is an integer parameter of choice. Choosing k = ⌊log n⌋, we obtain a temporal O(log n)-spanner with Õ(n) edges that has almost the same size (up to logarithmic factors) as the temporal spanner given in [Casteigts et al., JCSS 2021] which only preserves temporal connectivity. We then turn our attention to general temporal graphs. Since Ω(n²) edges might be needed by any connectivity-preserving temporal subgraph [Axiotis et al., ICALP'16], we focus on approximating distances from a single source. We show that Õ(n/log(1+ε)) edges suffice to obtain a stretch of (1+ε), for any small ε > 0. This result is essentially tight in the following sense: there are temporal graphs G for which any temporal subgraph preserving exact distances from a single-source must use Ω(n²) edges. Interestingly enough, our analysis can be extended to the case of additive stretch for which we prove an upper bound of Õ(n² / β) on the size of any temporal β-additive spanner, which we show to be tight up to polylogarithmic factors. Finally, we investigate how the lifetime of G, i.e., the number of its distinct time-labels, affects the trade-off between the size and the stretch of a temporal spanner.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Sparsification and spanners
  • temporal spanners
  • temporal graphs
  • graph sparsification
  • approximate distances


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