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Recent measurement and simulation studies have revealed that wide area network traffic displays complex statistical characteristics-possibly multifractal scaling-on fine timescales, in addition to the well-known property of self-similar scaling on coarser timescales. In this paper we investigate the performance and network engineering significance of these fine timescale features using measured TCP and MPEG2 video traces, queueing simulations and analytical arguments. We demonstrate that the fine timescale features can affect performance substantially at low and intermediate utilizations, while the longer timescale self-similarity is important at intermediate and high utilizations. We relate the fine timescale structure in the measured TCP traces to flow controls, and show that UDP traffic — which is not flow controlled-lacks such fine timescale structure. Likewise we relate the fine timescale structure in video MPEG2 traces to sub-frame encoding. We show that it is possibly to construct a relatively parsimonious multi-fractal cascade model of fine timescale features that matches the queueing performance of both the TCP and video traces. We outline an analytical method to estimate performance for traffic that is self-similar on coarse timescales and multi-fractal on fine timescales, and show that the engineering problem of setting safe operating points for planning or admission controls can be significantly influenced by fine timescale fluctuations in network traffic. The work reported here can be used to model the relevant characteristics of wide area traffic across a full range of engineering timescales, and can be the basis of more accurate network performance analysis and engineering.