Achievable performance gain of IEEE 802.11 multi-rate link adaptation algorithm with cross-layer design

Zuoyin Tang, Jianhua He*, Yan Zhang, Zhong Fan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Link quality-based rate adaptation has been widely used for IEEE 802.11 networks. However, network performance is affected by both link quality and random channel access. Selection of transmit modes for optimal link throughput can cause medium access control (MAC) throughput loss. In this paper, we investigate this issue and propose a generalised cross-layer rate adaptation algorithm. It considers jointly link quality and channel access to optimise network throughput. The objective is to examine the potential benefits by cross-layer design. An efficient analytic model is proposed to evaluate rate adaptation algorithms under dynamic channel and multi-user access environments. The proposed algorithm is compared to link throughput optimisation-based algorithm. It is found rate adaptation by optimising link layer throughput can result in large performance loss, which cannot be compensated by the means of optimising MAC access mechanism alone. Results show cross-layer design can achieve consistent and considerable performance gains of up to 20%. It deserves to be exploited in practical design for IEEE 802.11 networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-59
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Autonomous and Adaptive Communications Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding: EPSRC (EP/1010157/1)


  • adaptive communications systems
  • autonomous communications.
  • cross-layer design
  • IEEE 802.11
  • link adaptation
  • MAC
  • Markov chain
  • medium access control
  • performance modelling
  • wireless networks


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