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This paper analyzes the effect of multi-rate transmissions in a CSMA wireless LAN environment. Observations in a real testbed showed that bandwidth resources (in Bytes/s) are shared fairly among all stations even though transmissions carried out at lower rates capture the medium for longer periods, which drastically reduces the overall throughput. The intrinsic concept of fairness in a CSMA scheme with multiple rates is quantified by means of a new formulation which is validated through simulations and practical measurements. The algorithm presented provides the maximum achievable bandwidth that can be offered to a given IEEE 802.11 station. Having this information has evident applications in real-time multimedia transmissions over WLANs.
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