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Wireless LAN Handoff Module Implementation to

OPNET Simulator and

Handoff Performance Analysis
Sewon Jung, Chaewoo Lee
School of Electncal and Computer Engineenng
Oswhaha, cwlee}@ajou ac kr

Abstract-To simulate handoff performance of IEEE 802.11b The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In section 2, to
Wireless LAN, we added a handoff module to OPNET Modeler understand handoff mechanism of IEEE 802.1 1 WLAN, we
9.0 which currently does not support handoff. In this paper, we explain basic handoff mechanism. In section 3, we describe
analyze handoff procedures and IEEE 802.11 part of OPNET WLAN module provided by OPNET and in section 4, we
Modeler 9.0 in detail and explain the module we added. Using present the handoff module we developed. In section 5 , we
this simulator, we assessed performance such as delay and packet
loss of WLAN during handoff. We used T C P and UDP traffic to
assess the handoff performance when TCP and UDP sessions
analyze how applications are affected by their traffic types. are on going, and finally in section 6 we conclude this paper.

Keywords- WLAN, handoflsimulator, OPNET 2. Handoff Process in IEEE 802.11b WLAN

1. Introduction The handoff process is consisted of two distinct phases [I]:

one is Scanning Phase which searches for neighbor APs and
As the demand for mobile computing is growing, WLAN the other is Reauthentication Phase associating MS with NAP
becomes more popular. WLAN technologies are being (New Access Point). Reauthentication Phase i s composed of
extended to the outdoor like as road, park, and campus from Authentication Phase which verifies the identity of MS with
the indoor environment. But current IEEE 802.1 1 WLAN has NAP and Reassociation Phase which forwards the frames
many problems that must be solved. Among these problems, buffered at OAP (Old AP) to NAP. In this section, to
the handoff delay and the packet loss caused by the handoff understand handoff process of WLAN, we explain each phase
are important factor when applications need QoS (Quality of in detail. Figure 1 shows control messages exchanged between
In this paper, we develop the handoff simulator to assess
MS, NAP and OAP during handoff.
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handoff performance of IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN using
OPNET Modeler 9.0 and analyze the packet loss and the delay
caused by the handoff at the transport layer. In WLAN the
handoff delay and its impact depend on several conditions. For
example, the wireless channel scanning delay of MS (Mobile
Station) depends on how many wireless channels that
neighbor APs (Access Points) use. Although the handoff
delays are same, its impact to the applications differs also. In
the case of UDP (User Datagram Protocol) in which no flow
control mechanism i s provided, many packet losses occur due
to buffer overtlow during the handoff. In TCP, on the other
hand, the buffer overflow does not appear during the handoff
process because TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) adjusts
the data rate to the context of the network. I I 1
OPNET provides flexible simulation environment and it is
widely used for assessing network performance. In the latest
version of OPNET 9.0 provides basic WLAN features, Figure 1. Control signal sequence used io the handoff p r w u
however, it does not contain handoff mechanism. To use
OPNET simulator for analyzing handoff performance of 1. Scanning Phase
WLAN, we added a handoff module to it. In this paper, we When SNR from AP is lower than CST (Cell Search
will explain the module we developed and present the Threshold), MS starts handoff process and enters Scanning
simulation result using it. Phase [I]. In Scanning Phase, MS searches for neighboring

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APs. Once MS starts Scanning Phase, it searches all channels. APs can not communicate with new MNs. Table I shows the
For example, WLANs usually use 3 or 4 channels among features provided in OPNET and the ones needed for handoff
available 13, and the channel information is set in both APs simulation.
and MNs.
When Scanning Phase starts, MS broadcasts Probe Request Table 1. Handoff related functions implement in the current OPNET
through the first channel and waits for Probe Response for a Function Modeler9.0 Need to
WLAN model Develop
predefined amount of time (MinChannelTime). If MS receives Communication on wireless link Yes Yes
Probe Response or this channel is BUSY (channel is used) Intra-cell mobility ofMS Yes Yen
during MinChannelTime, MS considers AP exists in this Inter-cell mobility of MS NO YCS
channel and continues to wait for Probe Response for a Communication between APs NO Yes
predefined amount oftime (MaxChannelTime). If this channel through lAPP
Scanning Phare NO Yes
is IDLE (channel is not used) during MinChannelTime, MS Authentication Phase NO Yes
concludes that there is no neighboring AP serving this channel Reassociation Phase NO Yes
and starts the scanning procedure for the next available Measurement of S N R NO Yes
channel [Z]. Thus, either MinChannelTime or
MaxChannelTime is spent for each channel depending on the Figure 2 shows the state transition diagram of the WLAN
existence AP in the channel. In many implementations, model supported in OPNET Modeler 9.0. The model describes
MinChannelTime and MaxChannelTime are respectively set Data Link layer of all wireless nodes. We can see that no
to 3ms and 3Oms. After MS completes the scanning procedure handoff features are imbedded in this WLAN process model.
for all available channels, MS can decide NAP and start
Reauthentication Phase to connect with NAP.

2. Reauthentication Phase
In Reauthentication Phase, MN tries to join new AP which
sends Probe Response frame with strongest SNR during
Scanning Phase. Reauthentication Phase is composed of
Authentication Phase in which MS verifies its identity with
NAP, and Reassociation Phase in which frames buffered at
OAP are forwarded to NAP [I]. The open-system
authentication method and the shared-key authentication
method can be used as the standard authentication method in
IEEE 802.1 1 WLAN. After MS completes the authentication
with NAP, it sends Reassociation Request to NAP. Then NAP
responses with Reassociation Response and asks OAP to send
buffered data to it. The protocol between NAP and OAP used
to send this request is called IAPP (Inter Access Point
Protocol). Through IAPP, NAP disassociates OAP from MS In Figure 2, when simulation starts, it enters MIT and
and requests OAP that will forward packets buffered in OAP BSS-NIT states. IDLE, DFFER, BKOFF-NEED,
to itself. BACKOFF, and TRANSMIT states perform CSMAICA
(Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance) MAC of
3. IEEE 802.1 lb WLAN features supported in WLAN. Afler transmitting a frame, FRM-END is always
OPNET Modeler 9.0 visited and depending on the frame that transmitted the next
state is determined. If a response such as Ack or CTS (Clear to
Send) is need for the transmitted frame, WAIT-FOR is
In this section, we analyze the IEEE 802.1 Ib WLAN that is
selected. Othetwise, it jumps to IDLE state. In Figure 2, all
implemented in the latest version of OPNET and identify what
are necessary to make handoff simulation possible. For states are related with frame transmission. Procedures to
handoff simulation, the simulator must provide the following: receive frames can be done in any state through the interrupt
routine whenever frame is received. Table 2 summarizes each
the communication between AP and MSs on wireless link,
state shown in Figure 2.
Intra-cell mobility of MS, Inter-cell mobility of MS, and the Table 2. Each stpte shown in FiEnre 2
communication between APs using IAPP. Among these, the state Descnptlon
latest OPNET provides only basic communication capability INIT The state initiating the Simulation
between MSs and APs, and almost all features that are BSS-INIT The state w i n g 811 BSSr in scenario
necessary to support handoff are missing. IDLE Tne state having no packet buffered in this node
DFFER The state waiting for each ISF time in order to m s m i t a
We can not simulate the handoff process using current fram
OPNET for the following major reason. In 802.11b WLAN BKOFF-NEED The state deciding the execution ofthe Backoffprocedure
model supported by OPNET Modeler 9.0, all nodes must BACKOFF The state waiting for Backoff do& decided randomly
register with the channel frequency and BSSID (Basic Service TRANSMIT The state transmining a frame
FRh-END The state right after a frame msmission
Set Identification) defined by the user. Because the WAIT-FOR The state waiting for a response frame (Aek or CTS)
registration can be done only once at the simulation initiation,

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Figure 3-(a) and 343) respectively show that what happens To implement Reassocjation Phase, we created new frames
when MS moves out of the current BSS in OPNET Modeler such as Authentication Request and Authentication Response
9.0, and the functions that we developed to handoff possible and made these two frames transmitted on TRANSMIT state
are combined. In next section, we explain the modules that we shown in Figure2. Here, Reassociation Request is made up of
developed. 20 bytes of the Data Link layer header, 6 bytes of the frame
body, and 4 bytes of FCS (Frame Check Sequence). Among
EH3-E them, the frame body field includes 2 byte status code which
delivers reassoication approval to MS.
(a) I n the current OPNET,communication brhveen MS and AP
is broken when MS moves out of current BSS 3) Reconfiguration of BSS
When handoff of MS i s occurred, the BSS should be
I' reconfigured, which means that AP must list the MS in its
table and fonvards the data heading to it. Since configuration
-c+-[_1-1_7 of BSS is done only once at the beginning of simulation in
WLAN model supported by OPNET Modeler 9.0, we made
(a) The module we developed can provide hindofl the reorganization of BSS possible during handoff. In current
Figure 3. WLAN feahlrcs implementedi o OPNET Pod the WLAN model, a global list is used for the organization of BSS.
modules we developed So, we modified that handoff of MS can be done through the
update ofthis list. When the simulation starts, all MSs and APs
4.The development of Handoff Simulation Module register on the global list that is used for the purpose of
for OPNET connecting MSs with APs serving each BSS. Based on this list,
AP creates the table for MSs under BSS it serves and
In this section, we explain the modules we developed for maintains this table during the simulation. Thus, if the handoff
OPNET to make handoff simulation possible. is occurred, MS should register again on the global list with
the fresh information containing the migration of it and AP
1. Implementation of the Scanning Phase should update its table based on the global list which MS
To initiate handoff process, we modified MS so that it can register.
send Probe Request with broadcast address when SNR from
CAP is below 20dB. We also modified AP that if it receives
Probe Request, it sends Probe Response to MS immediately
after current frame transmission completes. To do this, we packets
created Probe Request and Probe Response frames and made 3s
As Smma
soan as i t sends Reassociatidn Response to MS. Lpon
these two frames transmitted on TRANSMIT state shown in receiving IAPP Request, OAP srnds these pxkrts to NAP
Figure 2 . -hen 11 rrcrives IAPI' Keqursi. When NAP .ends IAPP
In this implementation, to make handoff possible, we created Request to OAP, all bndges on the route between OAP and
13 channels and made MS scan all these channels. We set 3ms NAP can change the content of their wble with thr fresh
for MinChannelTime and 3Oms for MaxChannelTime. To add information contaimng the migration of MS because NAP
this to OPNET, after MS sends Probe Request, it transfers to uses the address of MS as the sourcc address of IAPP Request
WAIT-FOR state of Figure 2 and waits on this state for the
time decided by channel status (MinChannelTime or 5. Handoff Performance analysis through the
MaxChannelTime). In this way, MS scans each channel simulation
continuously until it completes the scanning for 13 c
After Scanning Phase is completed, MS selects A E 6 h n-!#fl
lection, anMQg$$mG\f
we TCP and
strongest SNR among APS collected during Scanning Phase.
when there is any AP whose SNR is larger than S N R a t I
CAP, the handoff is occurred.
Qnal using our
scenarios considme In
results shown in each scenario.
?$#d"$$yAfter we explai
atlo,,, analyze

2. Implementation of Reauthentication Phase 1. Scenario scenarios

T o make Reauthentication Phase, we implemented
Authentication Phase, Reassociation Phase' BSS
reconfiguration and IAPP.

I) Implementation of Authentication Phase AccesdCollision Avoidance) [3]. Retry Limit the is maximum
To implement Authentication Phase, we created new frames
number that MS or AP can retransmit, MSor AP drop the
such as Authentication Request and Authentication Response packet, ifit doe. not receive Ack (Acknowledgment) although
and made these two frames transmitted On State
it retransmitted a packet until the number of the retransmission
shown in Figure 2. comes to R e m Limit. Parameters of the Data Link laver are
summarized in Table 3.
2) Implementation of Reassociation Phase

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Table 3. WLAN Data Link layer Attributes used in the simulation In the UDP simulation, we varied the data rate between I O
Parameters for Data Link layer VaiUeB and 40 framesisec and the buffer size of AP from 256 to 1024
thta Rate (biIJsec) IIMbps
Kbits. Other parameters of the Data Link layer except for
Physical Characteristic DSSS
PCF (Point Cwrdination Function) mode Not Used maximum buffer size of AP are the same with the TCP
RTSiCTS Not Used simulation scenario.
Rerry Limit 7
Maximum Buffer Sire ofData Link layer 256kbil
2. Simulation results
The average delay of handoff measured through the
In this paper, we used two scenarios to simulate the simulation is 99.26ms in the case ofthe scenario including two
performance of two different application types classified by overlapped BSSs and is 126.37ms in the case of the scenario
the transport layer. Because UDP generates the datagram into including three overlapped BSSs. Before we analyze the
the lower layer regardless of the packet loss in the lower layer, simulation results, we verify that the handoff functions that we
a number of the packet loss is generated by the handoff of the had implemented operated correctly..
MS. On the other hand, TCP does not send more data than the
CWND (Congestion WiNDow). So in the case of TCP, few 1) Verification of handoff procedures
packet losses are generated by handoff of the MS. We verify the operation of the developed handoff module
through Figure 5 and Figure 6 .
1) Scenario using TCP
In this scenario, we use FTP as the application that uses TCP 0 0 F
and make MS to handoff while a FTP server transmits an 18
Mbyte file to the MS. Figure 4-(a) shows the network
I! 1I i I I. I I I?LLL$Q
ilm n%
. rn h nn n I. "Y
configuration and the path that MS moves along. We measure Figure 5. Haodoff signaling caphlrcd at MS
the size of CWND in order to analyze the throughput during
handoff. The parameters and version of TCP that are used in Figure 5 shows the exchange of the control signals between
the simulation are shown in Table 4. MS and APs during handoff in the UDP scenario with the two
overlapped BSSs (Figure 4-(a)). In Figure 5, the horizontal
Table 4. TCP Attributes used in the simulation
Parameters ofTCP Vd"eS
indicates the time around the handoff. Events marked 0.0,
MSS (Maximum Segment Size) 1460 byte 0 represents Probe Request and Probe Response frames
Receive Buffer Sire 64 kbyte generated in Scanning Phase. We can observe both Probe
TCP version Reno Request and Probe Response frames on the events marked 0
Fast Remnsmit Used
Initial RTO (sec) 3s s
and Q, however, we can observe Probe Request frames on the
Minimum RTO (see) lsec event 0, since there are only two overlapped channels. When
Maximum RTO (sec) 64 sec signal is detected in the channel, MS scans these channels for
MaxChannelTime set as 30ms. However, when no signal is
detected for MinChannelTime set as 3ms, MS stops the
current scanning and starts to scan next available channel. The
events marked as @ and EJ represent the control signals used
in Authentication Phase and Reassociation Phase.
To verify the operation of IAPP, Figure 6 shows the number
of packets queued at OAP and NAP during handoff when both
APs have 5 12 Kbit buffer. Figure 6-(a) shows the queue length
for the scenario that uses UDP in which data rate was set to 30
framesisec and Figure 6-(b) for the scenario using TCP. From
the figure, we can see that the packets buffered OAP
successfully forwarded to NAP and after handoff the packet is
delivered to NAP. So we can be assured that IAPP was
., ..
Figure 4.=keh*ork fonflguratioo sod the pith of MS
implemented correctly also.

2) Performance of TCP during handoff

In the simulation, packet loss due to the buffer overflow was
2) Scenario using UDP not observed since we set the buffer size of AP larger than
In this scenario, we use VOD (Video On Demand) as the CWND of TCP. When the communication is broken during
application that uses UDP and make MS to handoff while a handoff, the TCP sender does not transmit packets because it
video server transmits a video'file to the MS. To analyze how does not receive Acks from the receiver for the same reason.
handoff delay is impacted when the number of BSS is increase, Though no packet loss is occurred at the buffer, we observe
this scenario is composed of two sub-scenarios shown in some packets losses. In IEEE 802.11, when a frame is not
Figure 4. One scenario is made up of two overlapped BSSs in successfully delivered until 7 retransmissions, it is discarded.
the region of the handoff generation and the other is made up When MS begins handoff, OAP transmits frames destined for
of three overlapped BSSs. MS because OAP does not know this fact until NAP sends

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.. ....
. Timeout. Also, SST (Slow Start Threshold) decreases due to
a . . Fast Retransmit and Retransmit Timeout. In this way, TCP
8 30 .... ...
0- .. . ... reduces the throughput through the Congestion Control
... ... mechanism because it considers the packet losses due to the
handoff as the congestion of the network. This simulation
shows why current TCP does not show good performance in
the wireless environment and why we need an intelligent TCP
algorithm which can distinguish packet loss at the wireless
connection from network congestion.

125.000 /-:
31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4
Time (Second)
31.5 31.6 31.7 31.8 100,000 d
(a) Queue Length in scenario using UDP

25.000 i I
0 , "

20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55
Time (Second)
~. ..
Figure 7. The size of CWND during the Ble transmission
z i -
r -3 30

- Y
- 0 2 3) Performance of UDP during handoff
maa 8.77
f- IO %
Figure %(a) shows the number of the packet losses for each
buffer size when the data rate is varied. As expected, as the
data rate becomes higher and the buffer size of APs smaller,
we can observe more packet losses. When data transmission
rate is low, we can observe three packet losses only. These
packet losses are occurred not by the buffer overflow but by
discard. When AP has 1024 Kbits of buffer size, the number of
IAPP request to OAP. OAP retransmits the same packet the packet loss does not increase although the data rate is
because it does not receive an Ack and finally OAP drops that higher, because the buffer is large enough to buffer the packets
packet after retransmitting 7 times. In this way, on average arriving during handoff.
three packet losses are occurred during handoff. Figure 8-01) shows the average end-to-end delay just aRer
Figure 7 shows the size of CWND during the file handoff. In Figure 8-(a), as the buffer size of AP becomes
transmission. In Figure 7, the horizontal axis indicates the time large, the packet loss decreases. But in Figure 8-@), as the
in which a file of 18 Mbytes is being transmitted and the buffer size of AP becomes large, we can observe that the
vertical axis indicates the size of CWND in terms of byte. At end-to-end delay increases. From these results, we conclude
23 sec when the FTP server starts to transmit a file, the size of that the QoS of VOD application is still not guaranteed
CWND starts to increase and at the time when handoff is being although we can reduce the number of the packet loss by using
occurred, the size of CWND decreases drastically. This large buffer at AP.
decrease is due to the three consecutive packet losses occurred Figure 9 shows the number of the packet loss and the
in AP. Although the FTP server retransmits the first lost end-to-end delay in the scenario of the three overlapped BSSs.
packet due to the three duplicated Ack for the first packet loss, In the previous scenario, MS scans two channels each with
the size of CWND is not recovered by Fast Recovery, because 3 h s e c and scans for other channels during 3ms. But in this
Retransmit Timeout is occurred by second packet loss. The scenario, overall handoff delay increase about 27111sbecause
size of CWND after Retransmit Timeout is given as [4] MS scans three channels with spending 3 h s each and other
channels with each 3ms. So, as shown in Figure 9, we can
observe more packet losses and longer end-to-end delay. From
this simulation, we can imagine that if the number of neighbor
CWND,bnro is the size of CWND after Retransmit Timeout BSSs is large, the number of the packet loss and the end-to-end
and CWNDkfaeRm is the size of CWND before Retransmit delay are increased.

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6 . Conclusion

- 500000
In this paper, we implemented a handoff module to the
OPNET simulator and assessed the performance of TCP and
-'2 400000 +Buffer Size :
256Kbit UDP during handoff. Since the latest OPNET 9.0 provides
2 300000 +Buffer Size : basic communication function only, we implemented handoff
200000 51 ZKbil function to support handoff in IEEE 802.11b. After we
implemented the handoff function, we verified the operation
i: 100000 tBuffer Size :
1024Kbit of it with respect to the standard.
10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Using the simulator, when we assess the performance of
TCP, we observed that packet loss did not occur at the buffer
Transmission Rate
(framelsec) of AP. However, we observed that a small number packet
losses in the wireless connection. This is because AP does not

know that the handoff of MS, it tries to send packets to MS

(a) Packet Loss during the hamdaITDrocess
until it is notified by NAP after the handoff is completed.
End-to-End Delay Since AP discard the packet after 7 retries, some packet losses
-" 0.1 , I
occur during handoff. The number of packet losses depends on
the handoff delay. Because of the packet losses in the wireless
medium, TCP always timeouts and restarts in our simulation.
256K b i t For UDP, we observed that its performance is directly
-8-Buffer-Size : related to the handoff delay, the buffer size, and the
51 2Kbit transmission speed. In general large buffer results lower
-A- Buffer Size : packet loss. However, as the buffer size becomes large the
delay does too.
10 15 20 25 30 35 40 While we analyze the OPNET and IEEE 802.1 1 standard, we
observed that as the number of neighbor BSSs increases the
Transmission Rate
(framelsec) handoff delay also increases. This i s because most of handoff
I delay is due to the time spent in the Scanning Phase in which
@) ETE delay just .Ret the handoff proeera MS spends 3 h s once it finds signal in a given channel,
Fieure 8. Loss and Drlw in the sceoario with two owrlmved BSSs
whether it has received information on APs or not. Since the
LOSS end to end delay and packet losses and accordingly the
- 600000 performance of TCP and UDP are closely related to the
handoff delay, handoff algorithms with small delay are highly
- 400000
500000 tBuffer Size :
256Kbit 1 desirable and we may check their performance using the
simulator we developed.
3 300000 tBuffer Size :
z 200000 512Kbit
+Buffer Sire : 7. Acknowledgment
n 0 This work was done as a part of Information &
\ .Lo 9 PP Communication fundamental Technology Research Program
Transmission Rate supported by Ministry of Information & Communication in

(a) Packet Loss during the b m d o l l p m e r r

I' the Republic of Korea.


End-to-End Delay [I] A. Mishra, M. ho Shin,
W. A. Arbaugh, "An Analpis ofthe Layer 2
Handoff costs in vvlrelers Local Area Networks-, ACM Computer
Communication Review, 2W2.
2 0.1
[2] Matthew Gart, 802.11 Wireless Networks Ihe Definitive Guide,
4 0.08 256Kbil O'REILLY, 2002.
6 0.06 tBuffer Size : [3] ANSVIEEE rld 802.1 1, 1999 Edition : "Wireless LAN Medium Access
U Conml(MAC) and Physical Layer(PHY) Specifications"
0.04 51 2Kbit
[4] W. Stallings High-speed N e t w o h (TCPIIP and ATM d e s i p principles).
& 0.02 tBuffer Size :
Computer and Datl Communications Technology, January 1998.
10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Transmission Rate

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