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In this paper we characterize an IEEE 802.11a receiver using measurements in an indoor environment. While there have been a number of studies measuring path loss in indoor environments, there is little work on measurements regarding receiver synchronization, and packet error rate (PER) for IEEE 802.11a. This study allows better modeling of wireless reception in simulators, while also providing insights on wireless link performance. To study these characteristics, measurement tools were developed to capture relevant data pertaining to each stage of packet reception at the receiver. For the receiver considered, we find synchronization to be a critical component of packet reception. If synchronization is achieved, there are almost no data errors for 6 to 24 Mbps, resulting in almost identical PER performance of these data rates. For higher data rates, fluctuations in SNR are found to have a huge impact on PER, even for high average SNR values. The measurements bring out some factors which are normally not considered in PER models and the design of rate adaptation schemes. It also provides insights on the sensitivity of performance to various parameters, allowing better wireless network deployment.