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Voice Performance in WLAN Networks


Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) voice performance and capacity. While most WLAN applications today are data centric, the growing popularity of Voice over IP (VoIP) applications and the escalating trend towards convergence with cellular networks will catalyze an increased mix of voice traffic. Since voice applications must compete with each other and with simultaneous data applications for WLAN bandwidth, quantifying voice performance and capacity in the presence of background data traffic is an important issue. We offer a practical investigation into the ability of 802.11b MAC layer to support simultaneous voice and data. We quantify VoIP capacity for standard WLAN networks, indicative of those already in the field, as well as evaluate the practical benefits of implementing backoff control and priority queuing at the access point. Conclusions are drawn based on an extensive set of real-world measurements conducted using off-the-shelf equipment in a commercial testbed.

Once only seen within the enterprise, Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) are increasingly making their way into residential, commercial, industrial and public areas. Examples of such environments are hotels, airports and coffee shops, which typically have a floating end user population. University campuses and conference settings also benefit from WLANs since they provide flexible connectivity and network access at reduced costs. While the majority of traffic in WLAN deployments is data, we expect that voice will be an increasingly important application and a significant driver for WLAN adoption and integration, particularly as voice over IP (VoIP) applications flourish. Additionally, voice will be especially important in vertical industries such as construction, healthcare, and banking, etc. Therefore it is crucial to understand voice performance in WLANs. Furthermore, since WLAN endpoints share a common transmission medium, voice applications must compete with data applications for access and bandwidth. As such, voice quality and capacity can be significantly affected by the simultaneous transmission of data traffic in these networks. So it is also critical to understand the effects of data transmissions on voice performance and capacity. We focus exclusively on research 802.11b , the most popular and prominently deployed WLAN standard. We measure the achievable voice performance and capacity using an experimental testbed consisting of commercially available, off-the-shelf components indicative of those that have already been deployed. With such a large legacy base for 802.11b equipment, especially among residential and enterprise customers, we believe that this approach provides the most immediately relevant results. In addition to standard 802.11b, we also investigate additional MAC-layer and queuing mechanisms that can improve voice performance with minimal implementation. Specifically, we measure the effects of backoff control and priority queuing (BC-PQ), as provided by . Using both the standard and additional techniques, we determine the aggregate voice capacity by examining multiple scenarios involving various combinations of simultaneous voice and data traffic. We determine that implementing a simple BC-PQ mechanism at the access point (AP) can provide improvement in both voice performance and capacity

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