This paper presents a purely empirical approach to estimating the effective bandwidth of aggregated traffic flows independent of traffic model assumptions. The approach is shown to be robust when used in a variety of traffic scenarios such as both elastic and streaming traffic flows of varying degrees of aggregation. The method then forms the basis of two Quality of Service related traffic performance optimisation strategies. The paper presents a cost efficient approach to supplying suitably accurate demand matrix input for QoS related network planning and a QoS provisioning, revenue maximising admission control algorithm for an IPTV services network. This paper summarises these approaches and discusses the major benefits of an appropriately accurate effective bandwidth estimation algorithm.