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In recent years, the physical layer data rate provided by 802.11 Wireless LANs has dramatically increased thanks to significant advances in the modulation and coding techniques employed. However, previous studies show that the 802.11 MAC operation, namely the distributed coordination function (DCF), represents a limiting factor: the throughput efficiency drops as the channel bit rate increases, and a throughput upper limit does indeed exist when the channel bit rate goes to infinite high. These findings indicate that the performance of the DCF protocol will not be efficiently improved by merely increasing the channel bit rate. This paper shows that the DCF performance may significantly benefit from the adoption of two separate physical carriers: one devised to manage the channel access contention, and another devised to deliver information data. We propose a scheme, referred to as out-of-band signaling (OBS), designed to reuse (and remain backward compatible with) the existing 802.11 medium access control (MAC) specification. Performance evaluation of OBS is carried out through analytical techniques validated via extensive simulation, for both saturation and statistical traffic conditions. Numerical results show that OBS improves the throughput/delay performance, and provides better bandwidth usage compared with the in-band signaling technique employed by DCF.