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Much research work is currently focusing on the optimization of the MAC performance of high data-rate next generation wireless local area networks (WLANs). In particular, the IEEE 802.11 task group E is working on a draft proposal for a QoS-aware MAC protocol for the most widespread WLAN technology. This draft considers several service differentiation mechanisms, based on both contention and polling schemes, whose effectiveness is still under investigation by the task group. In this paper, we study the performance of this 802.11e MAC protocol by means of computer simulations in which the specifications given in the draft have been implemented in great detail. Real-life scenarios, such as home networking and hot spot environments, are considered to evaluate the effectiveness of the various 802.11e QoS mechanisms in supporting voice, video and data applications.