Enabled by the emergence of various access technologies (such as ADSL and wireless LAN), the number of users with high-speed access to the Internet is growing rapidly, and their expectation with respect to the quality-of-service of the applications has been increasing accordingly. With TCP being the ubiquitous underlying end-to-end control, this motivates the interest in easy-to-evaluate, yet accurate, performance models for a TCP-based network shared by multiple classes of users. Building on the vast body of existing models, we develop a novel versatile model that explicitly captures user heterogeneity, and takes into consideration dynamics at both the packet level and the flow level. It is described as to how the resulting multiple time-scale model can be numerically evaluated. Validation is done by using NS2 simulations as a benchmark. In extensive numerical experiments, we study the impact of heterogeneity in the round-trip times on user-level characteristics such as throughputs and flow transmission times, thus quantifying the resulting bias. We also investigate to what extent this bias is affected by the networks' 'packet-level parameters', such as buffer sizes. We conclude by extending the single-link model in a straightforward way to a general network setting. Also in this network setting the impact of heterogeneity in round-trip times is numerically assessed. © 2005 Elsevier GmbH.All rights reserved.