Recent trends in the telecommunication industry have been moving toward the development of ubiquitous information systems, where the provision of a plethora of advanced multimedia services should be possible, regardless of time and space limitations. An efficient and seamless delivery of multimedia services over various types of wireless networks is still a challenging task. The underlying difficulty consists of the disparity in the bandwidth availability over each network type. Indeed, the fundamental challenge upon a handoff phenomenon in a heterogeneous wireless network consists of an efficient probing of the bandwidth availability of the new network, followed by a prompt adjustment of the data delivery rate. This paper presents a cross-layer approach that involves five layers, namely, physical, data link, application, network, and transport layers. The three former layers are used to anticipate the handoff occurrence and to locate the new point of attachment to the network. Based on their feedback, the transport layer is used then to probe the resources of the new network using low-priority dummy packets. Being the most widely used protocol for multimedia delivery, this paper addresses multimedia applications based on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP). The design of the whole cross-layer architecture is discussed, and enhancements to the two protocols are proposed. The performance of the enhanced TCP and the RTP are evaluated and compared against existing schemes through extensive simulations. The obtained results are encouraging and promising for the delivery of multimedia services in heterogeneous wireless networks.
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