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Distributed antenna systems (DAS) constitute one of the most attractive schemes to efficiently achieve the stringent quality of service demands of next generation wireless networks. However, existing works have been only focused on the analysis of the downlink of single-user DAS multi-cell networks with fixed node configurations and without considering the effects of upper layer algorithms. This paper partially fills this gap by presenting the performance analysis and optimization of the downlink of DAS systems in multi-cell environments with single and multiple users and with basic resource management algorithms. The cross-layer analysis and optimization is first carried out using a simplified system-level simulation tool which provides enough flexibility for the understanding of the basic rules of operation of the proposed algorithms. After this, the most promising algorithms are implemented in a full version of a system level simulator which has been especially developed for the accurate analysis and validation of 3G (third generation) and B3G (beyond 3G) radio access technologies. Our results show that under the appropriate allocation and management policies, distributed antenna systems efficiently counteract the main impairments of current cellular architectures.