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A Measurement Study of Vehicular Internet Access Using In Situ Wi-Fi Networks

Vladimir Bychkovsky, Bret Hull, Allen K. Miu, Hari Balakrishnan, Samuel Madden
12th ACM MOBICOM Conf., Los Angeles, CA, September 2006

The impressive penetration of 802.11-based wireless networks in many metropolitan areas around the world offers, for the first time, the opportunity of a “grassroots” wireless Internet service provided by users who “open up” their 802.11 (Wi-Fi) access points in a controlled manner to mobile clients. While there are many business, legal, and policy issues to be ironed out for this vision to become reality, we are concerned in this paper with an important technical question surrounding such a system: can such an unplanned network service provide reasonable performance to network clients moving in cars at vehicular speeds?

To answer this question, we present the results of a measurement study carried out over 290 “drive hours” over a few cars under typical driving conditions, in and around the Boston metropolitan area (some of our data also comes from a car in Seattle). With a simple caching optimization to speed-up IP address acquisition, we find that for our driving patterns the median duration of linklayer connectivity at vehicular speeds is 13 seconds, the median connection upload bandwidth is 30 KBytes/s, and that the mean duration between successful associations to APs is 75 seconds. We also find that connections are equally probable across a range of urban speeds (up to 60 km/hour in our measurements). Our end-toend TCP upload experiments had a median throughput of about 30 KBytes/s, which is consistent with typical uplink speeds of home broadband links in the US. The median TCP connection is capable of uploading about 216 KBytes of data.

Our high-level conclusion is that grassroots Wi-Fi networks are viable for a variety of applications, particularly ones that can tolerate intermittent connectivity. We discuss how our measurement results can improve transport protocols in such networks.

[PDF (1335KB)] [PostScript (2415KB)] [Gzipped PostScript (1209KB)] [Presentation (2410KB)]

The version of the paper on this site fixes some errors in the submitted version:

This paper won an award for best paper at Mobicom 2006.

Bibtex Entry:

   author =       "Vladimir Bychkovsky and Bret Hull and Allen K. Miu and Hari Balakrishnan and Samuel Madden",
   title =        "{A Measurement Study of Vehicular Internet Access Using In Situ Wi-Fi Networks}",
   booktitle =    {12th ACM MOBICOM Conf.},
   year =         {2006},
   month =        {September},
   address =      {Los Angeles, CA}