Experimental Analysis of Opportunistic Communication for Vehicular Internet Access
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This thesis examines the problem of using 802.11 hotspots for vehicular Internet access. In this access paradigm, a user in a vehicle performs batch transfers by opportunistically communicating with roadside 802.11 access points while driving along a highway. Despite the short connection duration, a significant amount of data can be transferred. Because complete coverage is not needed, this method of Internet access provides a low-cost alternative to using cellular technology for applications that can tolerate some delay and require large data transfer such as sending or receiving music, movies, or digital photographs. Although vehicular opportunistic connections offer the potential to transfer a large of amount of data, utilizing this potential is non-trivial because existing transport and data-link layer network protocols were not designed for this use. This thesis presents an experimental analysis of transport and data-link layer protocol operation at a level of detail not previously explored. We identify ten problems that cause a reduction of up to 50% of the amount of data that could have been transferred in this scenario. Our primary finding is that transmission errors during connection setup and inadequate MAC data rate selection are the main causes of the under-utilization of the connection. Based on these findings we make preliminary recommendations for best practices for using vehicular opportunistic connections. In particular, we argue that overall throughput could be significantly improved if environmental information was available to the lower layer network protocols.