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Performance Impact of Interlayer Dependence in Infrastructure WLANs
July 2006 (vol. 5 no. 7)
pp. 829-845
Widespread deployment of infrastructure WLANs has made Wi-Fi an integral part of today's Internet access technology. Despite its crucial role in affecting end-to-end performance, past research has focused on MAC protocol enhancement, analysis, and simulation-based performance evaluation without sufficient consideration for modeling inaccuracies stemming from interlayer dependencies, including physical layer diversity, that significantly impact performance. We take a fresh look at IEEE 802.11 WLANs and using experiment, simulation, and analysis demonstrate its surprisingly agile performance traits. Our findings are two-fold. First, contention-based MAC throughput degrades gracefully under congested conditions, enabled by physical layer channel diversity that reduces the effective level of MAC contention. In contrast, fairness degrades and jitter increases significantly at a critical offered load. This duality obviates the need for link layer flow control for throughput improvement. Second, TCP-over-WLAN achieves high throughput commensurate with that of wireline TCP under saturated conditions, challenging the widely held perception that TCP throughput fares poorly over WLANs when subject to heavy contention. We show that TCP-over-WLAN prowess is facilitated by the self-regulating actions of DCF and TCP feedback control that jointly drive the shared channel at an effective load of two to three wireless stations, even when the number of active stations is large. We show that the mitigating influence of TCP extends to unfairness and adverse impact of dynamic rate shifting under multiple access contention. We use experimentation and simulation in a complementary fashion, pointing out performance characteristics where they agree and differ.

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Index Terms:
Wireless communication, access schemes, physical layer diversity, TCP-over-WLAN performance, experimentation versus simulation.
Sunwoong Choi, Kihong Park, Chong-kwon Kim, "Performance Impact of Interlayer Dependence in Infrastructure WLANs," IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, vol. 5, no. 7, pp. 829-845, July 2006, doi:10.1109/TMC.2006.102
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