IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN traffic analysis: a cross-layer approach

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Na, Chen

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The deployment of broadband wireless data networks, e.g., wireless local area networks (WLANs) [29], experienced tremendous growth in the last several years, and this trend is continuously gaining momentum. In fact, WLAN is becoming an indispensable component of the modern telecommunication infrastructure. Despite this optimistic outlook, however, little is known about the impact of the wireless channel on the characteristics of WLAN traffic. This dissertation characterizes the correlation structures of WLAN channel with traffic statistics from a cross-layer point of view, and provides new measurement methodologies and statistical models for WLAN networks. Currently WLAN standards are designed within the paradigm of the layered network architecture. For example, the architecture of IEEE 802.11 vii is almost identical to the Ethernet. However, wireless networks are fundamentally different from their wired peers due to the shift of transmission media from cables to over-the-air radio waves. This transition exposes wireless systems to the influence of radio propagation, and more importantly, to the temporal and spacial fluctuations of the radio channel that can actually be propagated up to upper layers. However, the current WLAN architecture isolates network layers, and largely ignores this impact. Therefore, we believe that a cross-layer based approach is necessary to understand and reflect this underlying impact of the channel to the upper layers of the network, especially in relation to WLAN traffic behavior. Measurement is one of the fundamental tools used to quantify radio propagation. As part of this dissertation, a complete framework for a measurement methodology, including hardware, software, and measurement procedures, is established. Characteristics of the propagation channel are estimated from measurement data, and the channel knowledge is applied to the upper layers for more realistic and accurate modeling. In WLAN environments, knowledge of the traffic characteristics is essential for proper network provisioning, and for improving the performance of the IEEE 802.11 standard and network devices, e.g., to design improved MAC schemes, or to build better buffer scheduling algorithms with channel knowledge, etc. Built upon extensive WLAN traffic traces, this dissertation work presents cross-layer models for WLAN throughput predictions, traffic statistics, and link layer characteristics. viii The main goal of this dissertation work is to experiment with and develop new methods for identifying channel characteristics. Thereby utilizing this knowledge, we show how to predict and improve WLAN performance. Within the framework of the developed cross-layer measurement methodology, we conducted extensive measurements in different physical environments and different settings such as office buildings and stores, and (1) show that the impact of the propagation channel can be quantified by using simple large scale channel metric (throughput over longer period of time), and (2) also present the existence of a Doppler effect within today’s WLAN packet traffic at sub-second time scales. We also show the real-world WLAN usage pattern from our measurement results. From this data, we conclude that the key issues to study WLAN networks include accurate site-specific propagation channel modeling and real-time autonomous traffic control.