As a family of wireless local area network (WLAN) protocols between physical layer and higher layer protocols, IEEE 802.11 has to accommodate the features and requirements of both ends. However, current practice has addressed the problems of these two layers separately and is far from satisfactory. On one end, due to varying channel conditions, WLANs have to provide multiple physical channel rates to support various signal qualities. A low channel rate station not only suffers low throughput, but also significantly degrades the throughput of other stations. On the other end, the power saving mechanism of 802.11 is ineffective in TCP-based communications, in which the wireless network interface (WNI) has to stay awake to quickly acknowledge senders, and hence, the energy is wasted on channel listening during idle awake time. In this paper, considering the needs of both ends, we utilize the idle communication power of the WNI to provide a Cooperative Relay Service (CRS) for WLANs with multiple channel rates. We characterize energy efficiency as energy per bit, instead of energy per second. In CRS, a high channel rate station relays data frames as a proxy between its neighboring stations with low channel rates and the Access Point, improving their throughput and energy efficiency. Different from traditional relaying approaches, CRS compensates a proxy for the energy consumed in data forwarding. The proxy obtains additional channel access time from its clients, leading to th
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