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The authors propose a novel and practical approach to estimate resources and perform a distributed admission control in multi-hop ad hoc networks based on multi-rate enabled IEEE 802.11 technology. The main challenge is to determine if there exist sufficient resources [i.e. the available bandwidth (AB)] for a new incoming flow to be admitted rather than quantifying the exact amount of existing resources. In order to determine the AB along a multi-hop path, the authors take into consideration the channel rate at each hop as well as the channel idle ratio of relevant neighbouring nodes. Furthermore, the admission control is performed at the same time as the AB is determined which minimises overhead. The proposed approach can be applied hop-by-hop in a distributed manner by the end-user, thus being suitable for wireless ad hoc networks. Analysis and simulation based on the Network Simulator version 2 (NS2) platform verify the proposed approach.