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Power consumption is one of the most stringent bottlenecks in mobile devices. In this paper, we investigate the joint effect of MAC and PHY layers on power efficiency in IEEE 802.11a WLAN. Specifically, we study the link adaptation for a power efficient transmission by selecting a proper transmission mode and power level with the aid of our derived power efficiency model. This study addresses the fundamental impact of the CSMA MAC protocol on the power efficiency of IEEE 802.11a WLANs. Some implications for system design are also discussed. In particular, we show that the non-radio-transmission power plays an important role in the power optimization of IEEE 802.11a WLAN.