An empirical analysis of the IEEE 802.11 MAC layer handoff process


IEEE 802.11 based wireless networks have seen rapid growth and deployment in the recent years. Critical to the 802.11 MAC operation, is the <i>handoff</i> function which occurs when a mobile node moves its <i>association</i> from one <i>access point</i> to another. In this paper, we present an empirical study of this handoff process at the link layer, with a detailed breakup of the latency into various components. In particular, we show that a MAC layer function - <i>probe</i> is the primary contributor to the overall handoff latency. In our study, we observe that the latency is significant enough to affect the quality of service for many applications (or network connections). Further we find variations in the latency from one hand-off to another as well as with APs and STAs used from different vendors. Finally, we discuss optimizations on the probe phase which can potentially reduce the probe latency by as much as 98% (and a minimum of 12% in our experiments). Based on the study, we draw some guidelines for future handoff schemes.

DOI: 10.1145/956981.956990

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@article{Mishra2003AnEA, title={An empirical analysis of the IEEE 802.11 MAC layer handoff process}, author={Arunesh Mishra and Minho Shin and William A. Arbaugh}, journal={Computer Communication Review}, year={2003}, volume={33}, pages={93-102} }