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To facilitate the efficient support of quality of service (QoS) in next-generation wireless networks, it is essential to model a wireless channel in terms of connection-level QoS metrics such as data rate, delay, and delay-violation probability. However, the existing wireless channel models, i.e., physical-layer channel models, do not explicitly characterize a wireless channel in terms of these QoS metrics. In this paper, we propose and develop a link-layer channel model termed effective capacity (EC). In this approach, we first model a wireless link by two EC functions, namely, the probability of nonempty buffer, and the QoS exponent of a connection. Then, we propose a simple and efficient algorithm to estimate these EC functions. The physical-layer analogs of these two link-layer EC functions are the marginal distribution (e.g., Rayleigh-Ricean distribution) and the Doppler spectrum, respectively. The key advantages of the EC link-layer modeling and estimation are: 1) ease of translation into QoS guarantees, such as delay bounds; 2) simplicity of implementation; and 3) accuracy, and hence, efficiency in admission control and resource reservation. We illustrate the advantage of our approach with a set of simulation experiments, which show that the actual QoS metric is closely approximated by the QoS metric predicted by the EC link-layer model, under a wide range of conditions.