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We propose a novel concept of cross-layer effective bandwidth that characterizes the unified resource usage taking into account both physical layer linear minimum mean square error (LMMSE) receivers and statistical characteristics of the packet traffic in code division multiple access (CDMA) networks. Based on the concept of cross-layer effective bandwidth, we develop an optimal connection admission control (CAC) scheme for variable bit rate packet traffic with QoS constraints at both physical and network layers. By introducing a small signal-to-interference ratio (SIR) outage probability using the concept of cross-layer effective bandwidth, the capacity of CDMA networks in the proposed CAC scheme can be increased significantly compared to some existing schemes. The effectiveness of the proposed approaches is demonstrated by numerical examples.