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On the Flexibility of the IEEE 802.11 Technology: Challenges and Directions


The original 802.11 standard, which is the de-facto standard for contention-based wireless data networks, has shown to give poor performance or to be scarcely suitable for dealing with new PHY-layer technologies, networking scenarios, or service contexts, thus boosting the proliferation of projects, technical solutions and dedicated task groups for extending the basic protocol operations. In this paper, starting from the evolution analysis of current 802.11 standard and de- vices, we propose an architectural solution for making the medium access protocol programmable. Our basic idea, pursued within the FP7 EU Project FLAVIA [1], started in July 2010, is changing the role of the wireless network interfaces, from closed architectures implementing standardized and constrained service access points, to programmable wireless-processors able to compose specific access operations on the basis of standardized instruction sets. We also discuss a simple example of a Medium Access Control (MAC) amendment, not supported by current 802.11 cards, which can be easily programmed by exploiting our new architecture.