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Spectrum Sharing between IEEE 802.

16 and IEEE
802.11 based Wireless Networks
Mohammad M. Siddique, Bernd-Ludwig Wenning,
Carmelita Gorg
Department of Communication Networks
University of Bremen, Germany
Email: [mms, wenn, cg]@comnets.uni-bremen.de

AbstractDue to the high scarcity and high costs of radio


spectrum, more and more radio services are occupying unlicensed
bands for their operation. Due to this, there is a high risk of
destructive interference which degrades the performance and
fails to support Quality of Service (QoS) for systems operating in these bands. IEEE 802.11 based wireless networks are
already operating in unlicensed band. A new competitor for
unlicensed bands is the IEEE 802.16 based wireless metropolitan
area network. Therefore, spectrum sharing between coexisting
competing wireless systems like 802.11 and 802.16 is an upcoming
challenge. To understand the characteristics of interference in
such a heterogeneous scenario, an analysis of possible interference
is presented and the performance of the legacy systems is
evaluated. Then a spectrum sharing concept is proposed which
can generally be applied to both systems. In this paper, the
proposed concept is adapted for coexisting 802.16 and 802.11e
based systems, which is an extention of 802.11. In this case,
the 802.11e Hybrid Coordination Function (HCF) Controlled
Channel Access (HCCA) is extended to provide a protocol for
airtime sharing. Simulation results are presented showing that
the proposed algorithm provides excellent improvement of system
performance in the context of capacity and channel utilization
compared to the case without applying any spectrum sharing
method.
Index TermsIEEE 802.11, IEEE 802.16, Coexistence.

I. I NTRODUCTION

AND

R ELATED W ORK

Licensed spectrum is becoming more and more expensive.


So from the economical point of view, there is a high
probability in the future that WiMAX (aka IEEE 802.16 [1])
will operate in the same unlicensed bands (e.g. U-NII bands)
where WLAN (aka IEEE 802.11 [2]) is operating [3]. Aside
from economical consideration, technical recommendations
considering the evolution of technologies are also going to
that direction. According to the recommendation from e.g.
the 4G draft [4], International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication (ITU-R), the next generation wireless
networks will be an integration of different wireless standards
like WLANs, WiMAX and cellular networks. This increases
the probability that multiple different radio access technologies
will be present in the future, all or some of which have to
operate in the same (unlicensed) frequency band. In such
a case several possible coexistence scenarios could occur.
One example scenario which appears in apartments or office
buildings in dense urban areas can be defined as follows. An
IEEE 802.11 system starts using the same unlicensed channel
c
978-1-4244-7265-9/10/$26.00 2010
IEEE

Maciej Muehleisen
Chair of Communication Networks
RWTH Aachen University
Germany
Email: mue@comnets.rwth-aachen.de

which is used by an IEEE 802.16 system or vice versa, because


an alternative channel is not available. This is denoted for
further reference as a heterogeneous networks coexistence
scenario.
One of the main drawbacks of an unlicensed band is unpredictable interference. If the systems are not managed to use
the spectrum properly, this interference leads to poor spectral
efficiency and performance. So there is an increased requirement to efficiently utilize the unlicensed spectrum bands by
means of spectrum sharing or coexistence methods. The more
systems operate within a mutual range, the more they require
methods for coexistence or even cooperation. The objective of
this paper is therefore twofold. First, an analysis of possible
interference occurring in a heterogeneous coexistence scenario
is shown. Secondly, a generic spectrum sharing algorithm,
which is developed in the framework of the Policy-based
Spectrum Sharing for unlicensed Mesh (PoSSuM) project [5],
is described and applied to the same heterogeneous scenario
and the system performance is evaluated.
The IEEE standard draft 802.16h [6] proposes methods for
802.16 system coexistence. In [7] Rapp evaluates the coexistence of HiperLAN/2 [8] systems. Scheduling policies creating
Silent Periods as transmission opportunities for other systems
are introduced. A similar coexistence scheme is presented
in [9] and [10]. In [9] a scheme is presented and evaluated
analytically on how this idle period can be exploited by
letting a second system fill the subframes from the other time
direction. A scheme that reschedules data and allows multiple
systems to coexist by shifting their frame start is described
and analyzed in [10]. In [11], a concept of using a busy
tone signal to protect 802.16 transmissions in a heterogeneous
coexistence scenario is presented, but not evaluated. The IEEE
Standards Coordinating Committee 41 (SCC41) is currently
working on enabling network coexistence through dynamic
spectrum access and a cognitive approach.
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. Section II
provides background information about different channel access methods in the case of 802.11 and 802.16, Section III
gives an analysis of possible interference in the heterogeneous
scenario. Section IV is about the spectrum sharing method and
its adaptation to coexisting 802.11 and 802.16 systems. The
simulation setup and results are provided in Section V. The

can be initiated during a Contention Period (CP) or during


a Contention Free Period (CFP). The CAP may span across
multiple consecutive polled TXOPs. The HC can start a CAP
by sending a CF-Poll or a data frame (in the case of uplink
or downlink respectively) when the medium is idle for more
than a PCF Interframe space (PIFS) period.
Frame n ! 1
Preamble FCH

Frame n

Downlink Subframe

MAP PDU 1

PDU bD

Idle

Frame n + 1
T
T
G

Uplink Subframe
PDU 1

R
T
G

PDU bU Idle

Random
Access

TTG: Transmit / receive Transition Gap


RTG R
RTG:
Receive
i / ttransmit
it Transition
T
iti Gap
G
PDU: Protocol Data Unit
FCH: Frame Control Header

Fig. 2.
Fig. 1.

IEEE 802.16 Time Division Duplex MAC Frame [9]

IEEE 802.11e superframe structure

C. IEEE 802.16
paper is concluded in Section VI.
II. M EDIUM ACCESS C ONTROL M ETHOD
A. IEEE 802.11
The IEEE 802.11 standard defines channel access mechanisms for WLAN namely the Distributed Coordination Function (DCF) and the Point Coordination Function (PCF). The
DCF [2] is a contention based random channel access scheme
based on the Carrier Sense Multiple access/Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA) protocol.
However, it has been widely found like in [12] that the DCF
and the PCF have limitations supporting QoS. This motivates
the development of 802.11e [13] to provide user level QoS.
Wireless multimedia extension (WME) [14] is the commercial
version of IEEE 802.11e based WLANs.
B. IEEE 802.11e and Hybrid Coordination Function
IEEE 802.11e [13] defines a coordination function called
Hybrid Coordination Function (HCF). The HCF includes
two channel access mechanisms: the Enhanced Distributed
Channel Access (EDCA) and the HCF Controlled Channel
Access (HCCA). Fig. 1 gives an overview of the IEEE
802.11e superframe structure in the time domain. In HCCA
the Hybrid Coordinator (HC), which is located in the access
point (AP), has control over the channel. One main feature
introduced in HCF is the Transmission Opportunity (TXOP).
A TXOP specifies the duration of time in which a station
can occupy the medium uninterrupted and exchange multiple
consecutive frames with only Short Interframe Space (SIFS)
spacing between an acknowledgement (ACK) and the next data
frame. A station is granted a TXOP (called polled TXOP) by
the HC through a CF-Poll frame. Other stations in the network
set their network allocation vector (NAV) according to the
duration field of the CF-Poll frame to stop their transmissions.
Another special improvement in the HCCA is the contention
free burst, known as Contention Access Phase (CAP), which

The IEEE 802.16 standard defines a centrally controlled


wireless communication protocol. Subscriber Stations (SSs)
associate with the Base Station (BS) forming a cell. IEEE
802.16 supports Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time
Division Duplex (TDD) operation but TDD is mandatory for
unlicensed operation [10]. The IEEE 802.16 system follows
a periodic MAC frame as shown in Fig. 2. If TDD is used,
each frame consists of a downlink (DL) and an uplink (UL)
subframe. Each frame starts with a preamble followed by the
Frame Control Header (FCH). Besides general information
about the system, the FCH provides the first part of the so
called Medium Access Pointer (MAP). The MAP is formed
by the scheduler at the beginning of each frame deciding the
exact structure of the current frame. A SS can register its
traffic demands through bandwidth requests in the Random
Access phase. The scheduling algorithm is not defined by the
standard. It is common to fill the subframes by Protocol Data
Units (PDUs) in ascending time order. Idle periods occur at the
end of the downlink and uplink subframe if they are not fully
utilized. The Transmit Transition Gap (TTG) and the Receive
Transition Gap (RTG) provide the required guard time for the
transceiver to change from receive to transmit mode or the
other way round. In the following we focus on Orthogonal
Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) based systems.
III. I NTERFERENCE IN H ETEROGENEOUS S CENARIOS
Fig. 3 shows the interference and collision events (numbered
for reference and explained in the following) which occur
during the channel access of 802.16 and legacy 802.11 DCF
systems. Systems are within mutual interference range and
operate in the same channel. The Upper part shows the 802.16
channel access and the lower part shows the 802.11 DCF
channel access. Events like (4) and (5) are described in [11].
1) When the channel is busy due to transmissions of the
802.16 system, 802.11 channel access is deferred up to
when the channel is idle.

Fig. 3. Timing diagram for channel access by collocated IEEE 802.11 and
802.16 systems; possible interference and collisions events

2) However, the channel access by the 802.16 system is not


deferred though the channel is being used by the 802.11
system. This results in very high probability of losing
interfered packets in both systems.
3) The same as (1) happens during the uplink subframe of
802.16.
4) The same as (2) can happen when the next 802.16 frame
starts. It is even more critical because in this case the
preamble, FCH and MAP of the 802.16 frame would be
lost.
5) When Subscriber Stations with no queued PDUs are not
accessing the channel though they are scheduled to do
so, this generates an idle period. The 802.11 system can
take over the control of the channel which would cause
interference to following 802.16 PDUs.
It is important to note that the 802.11 system can take over
the control if required when the idle period duration is equal
or more than DIFS, depending on its backoff state. This
characteristic of 802.11 DCF channel access is one of the
main problems in the context of collocated wireless networks,
mainly when the other system is following tightly scheduled
medium access control like Time Division Multiple Access
(TDMA) and TDD as in IEEE 802.16. In such a case, coexistence performance can be improved by making the channel
access of 802.11 more regular like 802.16 and adapting the
periodicity, service starting point, and service period length of
both systems, which is introduced in the following section.
IV. C OEXISTENCE A LGORITHM
Three following assumptions have been taken into account
in this paper for the spectrum sharing mechanism: 1) the
systems have a method to estimate their own traffic demand
and the traffic demands of other systems, 2) the systems
have a method to detect the beacons/FCHs from other systems and shift their own frame starting time referring to
the beacons/FCHs and 3) systems follow a common periodic
interval to serve their stations. We refer the methods mentioned
in the first two assumptions as detection and identification
methods, the outcome of which is considered as input to
the spectrum sharing algorithms for decision making and
scheduling. Development and integration of those methods
are considered as related but separate research topics in
the framework of this paper; they are ongoing work. These

detection methods are required for the adaptation of resource


allocation in (significant) varying traffic conditions and varying
scenario topology in larger time scale. The adaptation is
considered as transient phase of the spectrum sharing method.
In this paper the steady state phase is considered where mean
traffic load does not change significantly from the systems
perspective, which justifies the consideration of the first two
assumptions. These methods can be developed by using radio
resource measurement. For example in the case of 802.11,
measurement techniques on the basis of IEEE 802.11k can be
applied to identify the idle/busy periods and to develop the
detection methods. Measurement of spectrum utilization helps
to estimate the traffic demand of other systems [3]. A method
of detecting the beacon and estimating the number of systems
based on that in the vicinity is given in [15].

Fig. 4. Systems provide idle periods and shift their frame start to enable
coexistence

The proposed spectrum sharing technique allows systems


to coexist by multiplexing their channel access in the time
domain, which can be called TDMA between systems as
shown in Fig. 4. Each system leaves some capacity which
can be used as spectrum opportunities or idle periods for
other systems. Distributing idle periods randomly results in
collisions. Hence one of the main features of this scheme
is that it occupies the channel and keeps idle periods in a
regular pattern. Therefore, we refer to the scheme as Regular
Channel Access (RCA). It helps, on the one hand, systems
to reliably predict the length of the idle periods and their
offset in the superframe during the detection phase; on the
other hand, it helps systems to utilize the idle periods for own
transmissions causing less or no collisions with each other
due to orthogonality in time. It is worth to mention that it is
often experienced that the capacity or bandwidth requirements
of the applications used in the systems are less than the
channel capacity. In the case of high bandwidth requirements,
the system reserves some capacity for the admission of other
systems. The duration of occupying the channel by the own
system and the duration of idle periods for other systems can
be adapted by estimating traffic demands of the own system
and other systems. The time period or the air time allocated
to the own system is calculated to
T allocown =

T allocothers =

T Down
RI
T Down + T Dothers
T Dothers
RI
T Down + T Dothers

(1)

(2)

TABLE I
S YSTEM PARAMETERS

Here, TD (traffic demand) is defined as a ratio which is within


the range [0,1], where 1 means the demand is equal to the
channel capacity and RI means RCA Interval described below.

Carrier Frequency
MCS
Bandwidth

5.470 GHz
BPSK 1/2
20 MHz

802.11

Slot Duration
SIFS, PIFS and DIFS
CWMin and CWMax
ACK Duration

9 s
16, 25 and 36 s
15 and 1023
44 s

802.11e

RCA Interval
CF-Poll and QoS-Null Duration

10 ms
56 s and 56 s

Frame length
1 Symbol duration
Preamble+FCH
MAP
DL subframe
TTG
UL subframe
Random Access
RTG

10 ms (720 Symbols)
1/72 ms
3 Symbols
4 Symbols
355 Symbols
2 Symbols
328 Symbols
26 Symbols
2 Symbols

Common

A. RCA in Heterogeneous Networks


Fig. 5 shows the RCA in the case of collocated 802.11 and
802.16 systems. Here, the 802.16 frame length is considered
as RCA Interval. The 802.16 system schedules all downlink
(DL) and uplink (UL) subframes at the beginning of the
RCA Interval in such a way that there is only a TTG duration
gap between downlink and uplink. In such a case transmissions
during the downlink and uplink subframes can be viewed
logically as one continuous busy period. TTG is shorter than
DCF Interframe Space (DIFS). The rest of the airtime in the
superframe is kept as idle period for other systems. The air
time (resource) allocation for 802.16 (DL+UL) transmissions
inside the 802.16 frame can be dynamically adjusted considering the traffic load of the own system and others, using
equation (1) and (2). It is assumed that each individual system
does not require full bandwidth. To enable RCA in 802.11, an

802.16

V. S IMULATION S ETUP AND R ESULTS

Fig. 5. Timing diagram for channel access by collocated IEEE 802.11 and
802.16 system with Regular Channel Access (RCA) method; mitigate the
interference and collisions

802.11e based system, like Wireless multimedia extension is


considered. By introducing a MAC scheduler in the HC of the
802.11 system, a regular channel occupation and provision of
idle periods is possible as shown in the lower part of Fig. 5.
The basic functions are as follows: The interval between the
start of two successive channel occupations by 802.11 system
is realized as RCA Interval which is configured to be equal to
the 802.16 frame length. The required air time allocation for
802.11 transmissions inside RCA Interval can be calculated
considering the equation (1) and (2). To fill up the idle period
left by the 802.16 system, the 802.11e system schedules its
PDUs with an offset from the beginning of 802.16s FCH.
The offset is calculated to
T ime Shif town = T allocothers RI

(3)

By this proposed approach, the operation of coexisting


systems is coordinated and synchronized indirectly with the
help of regular channel occupation on the one hand and with
the use of measurement techniques on the other hand.

The evaluation has been done by a simulation environment called Open Source Wireless Network Simulator (openWNS) [16]. In the framework of this paper a combined
simulation platform for simulating the heterogeneous scenario
is modeled and published as open source under Lesser General
Public License (LGPL) in [17]. To understand the characteristics of the effects of interference and collisions in the systems,
a scenario with one Base station and one Subscriber Station
for the 802.16 system and one Access Point and one station
for the 802.11 system is considered. This also resembles the
apartment scenario mentioned before, where other orthogonal
frequency channels in the unlicensed band are occupied by
other systems. The system parameters are listed in Table I.
Both systems are using the most robust modulation scheme of
binary phase shift keying (BPSK) with a coding rate of 1/2,
which can provide 6 Mbit/s of Data rate at the physical layer.
Each Simulation is run for 500 seconds. In each simulation
run, the static offered traffic for both systems during the span
of simulation duration is considered.
The results are shown in three steps.
1) Scenario1: Legacy 802.11 and 802.16 systems.
2) Scenario2: Legacy 802.11 and RCA enabled 802.16
systems
3) Scenario3: RCA enabled 802.11 and 802.16 systems.
For evaluation, throughput measured on top of the MAC layer
is considered.
A. Scenario1: Legacy 802.11 and 802.16 systems
Here, 2 Mbps (1 Mbps DL + 1 Mbps UL) traffic load and
Protocol Data Units (PDUs) of 375 bytes in the case of 802.16
system and 2 Mbps traffic load and PDUs of 1480 bytes in the
case of 802.11 system are configured as offered traffic load.
PDU Inter arrival times follow an exponential distribution. The

x 10

Throughput / bps

802.16
802.11

legacy (DCF) in 802.11 and


legacy 802.16
2 Mbps 802.16 Traffic

0
0

0.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

Offered IEEE 802.11 Traffic / bps

4
6

x 10

Fig. 6. Mean throughput of both systems in Scenario1 against 802.11 traffic

802.16 system uses a periodic frame of 10 ms length as shown


in fig 2.
Fig. 6 shows the mean throughput over offered 802.11
traffic. A stacked graph is used showing the throughput of each
system and each traffic direction as well as the total throughput
of both systems. The 802.16 uplink and downlink throughputs
are decreasing significantly with increasing 802.11 traffic up to
2 Mbps; because it increases the probability of collision events
like (2) and (4) shown in 3. However, the 802.11 throughput
is not affected as lost packets are retransmitted in the idle
time period inside the current frame. For offered IEEE 802.11
traffic of more than 2 Mbps, the 802.11 throughput reaches
saturation. The effects of selfish characteristic of 802.11
during channel access is visible in the curves. Overall, it has
been found that around 2.5 Mbps capacity can be achieved, in
other words, 40% of the channel capacity can be utilized.
B. Scenario2: Legacy 802.11 and RCA enabled 802.16 systems

severe. In this case, the channel is idle for about half of the
time. At low loads of 1 Mbps and 2 Mbps, no data loss
occurs in the IEEE 802.11 system. A trend of decreasing
802.16 throughput like in Scenario1 is observed, the level
of throughput is higher than in the case of Scenario1 as the
number of collisions between the systems is less. The overall
throughput is improved which resembles better utilization of
resources (20 percent more than in Scenario1). The downlink
only results give a hint towards the achievable performance
if the 802.16 downlink and uplink traffic flows are scheduled
directly after each other in the beginning of the superframe or
the uplink subframe is filled from the back as presented in [10].
To see the impact of offered 802.16 traffic in a coexistence
scenario, Fig. 8 is depicted. Increasing the offered load of
both systems results in more collisions and overheads.
6

x 10

legacy (DCF) in 802.11 and


RCA model in 802.16
5

Throughput / bps

0.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic


1.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
1.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
2.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
2.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
3.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic

0
0

Fig. 8.

0.5

1.5
2
2.5
3
Offered IEEE 802.11 Traffic / bps

3.5

4
6

x 10

Overall mean throughput of both systems in Scenario2

From the above results it is found that unrestricted and


uncoordinated channel access of 802.11 severely degrades the
performance.
C. Scenario3: RCA enabled 802.11 and 802.16 systems

x 10

legacy (DCF) in 802.11 and


RCA model in 802.16
2 Mbps 802.16 Traffic

802.16
802.11

x 10

Throughput / bps

Throughput / bps

RCA in both 802.11 and 802.16


2 Mbps 802.16 Traffic

0
0

0.5

1.5
2
2.5
3
Offered IEEE 802.11 Traffic / bps

3.5

802.16
802.11

x 10

0
0

Fig. 7. Mean throughput of both systems in Scenario2 against 802.11 traffic

0.5

1.5
2
2.5
3
Offered IEEE 802.11 Traffic / bps

3.5

4
6

x 10

Fig. 9. Mean throughput of both systems in Scenario3 against 802.11 traffic

In this scenario downlink traffic is configured in the 802.16


system equal to the sum of downlink and uplink (2Mbps) in
Scenario1, to model the scheduling of downlink and uplink
directly after each other. We can consider this as a model
of regular channel access in an 802.16 system. Fig. 7 shows
the individual and overall system throughput against offered
802.11 traffic. As expected, the impact of interference is less

The IEEE 802.11 system uses RCA with an RCA Interval


of 10 ms (which is the superframe length of 802.16). The
results in Fig. 9 show individual and overall throughput against
offered 802.11 traffic when the 802.16 offered traffic is 2
Mbps. In this case the airtime is equally divided between the
systems. In this RCA case, the 802.11 system utilizes the idle

periods by shifting its channel access starting time and limiting


its own channel occupation to fit into those idle periods. This
process decreases interference, resulting in lower probability
of losing packets, which eventually increases the throughput
performance of the 802.16 system. Due to fixed allocation
of airtime, the 802.11 system does not interfere at all. The
802.11 throughput goes to saturation at less offered load due
to fixed allocation, however better fairness between systems is
achieved.
Fig. 10 shows the overall throughput. Here the airtime in the
superframe is equally divided between the systems. Due to the
fixed capacity allocation of 50%, the 802.11 throughput is not
varied much for different 802.16 offered load and the 802.16
throughput is almost equal to the 802.16 traffic up to 3 Mbps.
The dark line in the figure shows the coexistence performance
when both systems have equal traffic load and airtime is
allocated accordingly. The maximum achievable throughput is
almost 5.5 Mbps which shows that proper sharing can improve
the spectrum utilization up to 90 percent. The same is true for
differing traffic demands of the systems.
6

x 10

RCA in both 802.11 and 802.16

Throughput / bps

Airtime allocated according to


traffic demand estimation

0.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic


1.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
1.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
2.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
2.5 Mbps 802.16 Traffic
3.0 Mbps 802.16 Traffic

0
0

Fig. 10.

0.5

1.5
2
2.5
3
Offered IEEE 802.11 Traffic / bps

3.5

4
6

x 10

Overall mean throughput of both systems in scenario3

VI. C ONCLUSION

AND

O UTLOOK

In this paper, an analysis of possible interference that can


occur in the heterogeneous coexistence scenario with legacy
802.11 and 802.16 systems is identified and shown. Simulation results are evaluated considering such a scenario which
resembles next generation coexistent wireless networks in an
apartment scenario. It shows only 40% capacity could be
utilized. A generic spectrum sharing method is developed and
described enabling the systems to operate in harmony and to
mitigate interference, resulting in increased spectral efficiency.
Applying the method in a first step only on 802.16 system
shows the channel utilization is increased up to 20%. When
both systems are following the method, the improvement is
even higher and fairness between the systems is observed.
From the implementation point of view the main advantages
of the adapted scheme are: The method does not change or
violate the standards, the implementation complexity of this
algorithm is rather low. However, there are some open issues
like, the consideration of QoS parameters of the systems in

equations (1) and (2), adaptation and performance evaluation


of the method in large scale network setting, etc.
For future work, the performance of coexistence of legacy
802.11 and 802.16h based systems where Listen-Before-Talk
is applied will be evaluated. Application of the proposed
regular channel access based coexistence method in 802.11
and 802.16h based systems and a performance comparison
will be done.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors would like to thank the German Research
Foundation (DFG) project Policy-based Spectrum Sharing
for unlicensed Mesh (PoSSuM) which has funded the work
presented.
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