The available bandwidth (avail-bw) of a network path is an important performance metric and its end-to-end estimation has recently received significant attention. Previous work focused on the estimation of the average avail-bw, ignoring the significant variability of this metric in different time scales.

In this paper, we show how to estimate a given percentile of the avail-bw distribution at a user-specified time scale. If two estimated percentiles cover the bulk of the distribution (say 10\% to 90\%), the user can obtain a practical estimate for the avail-bw variation range. We present two estimation techniques. The first is iterative and non-parametric, meaning that it is more appropriate for very short time scales (typically less than 100ms), or in bottlenecks with limited flow multiplexing (where the avail-bw distribution may be non-Gaussian).

The second technique is parametric, because it assumes that the avail-bw follows the Gaussian distribution, and it can produce an estimate faster because it is not iterative. The two techniques have been implemented in a measurement tool called Pathvar. Pathvar can track the avail-bw variation range within 10-20\%, even under non-stationary conditions. Finally, we identify four factors that play a crucial role in the variation range of the avail-bw: traffic load, number of competing flows, rate of competing flows, and of course the measurement time scale.