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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Lower-Layer (Interface, Internet and Transport) Protocols (OSI Layers 2, 3 and 4)
      9  TCP/IP Transport Layer Protocols
           9  Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
                9  TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
                     9  TCP Reliability and Flow Control Features and Protocol Modifications

Previous Topic/Section
TCP Non-Contiguous Acknowledgment Handling and Selective Acknowledgment (SACK)
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23
Next Page
TCP Window Size Adjustment and Flow Control
Next Topic/Section

TCP Adaptive Retransmission and Retransmission Timer Calculations
(Page 1 of 3)

Whenever a TCP segment is transmitted, a copy of it is also placed on the retransmission queue. When the segment is placed on the queue, a retransmission timer is started for the segment, which starts from a particular value and counts down to zero. It is this timer that controls how long a segment can remain unacknowledged before the sender gives up, concludes that it is lost and sends it again.

The length of time we use for retransmission timer is thus very important. If it is set too low, we might start retransmitting a segment that was actually received, because we didn't wait long enough for the acknowledgment of that segment to arrive. Conversely, if we set the timer too long, we waste time waiting for an acknowledgment that will never arrive, reducing overall performance.

Difficulties in Choosing the Duration of the Retransmission Timer

Ideally, we would like to set the retransmission timer to a value just slightly larger than the round-trip time (RTT) between the two TCP devices, that is, the typical time it takes to send a segment from a client to a server and the server to send an acknowledgment back to the client (or the other way around, of course). The problem is that there is no such “typical” round-trip time. There are two main reasons for this:

  • Differences In Connection Distance: Suppose you are at work in the United States, and during your lunch hour you are transferring a large file between your workstation and a local server connection using 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet, at the same time you are downloading a picture of your nephew from your sister's personal Web site—which is connected to the Internet using an analog modem to an ISP in a small town near Lima, Peru. Would you want both of these TCP connections to use the same retransmission timer value? I certainly hope not!

  • Transient Delays and Variability: The amount of time it takes to send data between any two devices will vary over time due to various happenings on the internetwork: fluctuations in traffic, router loads and so on. To see an example of this for yourself, try typing “ping www.tcpipguide.com” from the command line of an Internet-connected PC and you'll see how the reported times can vary.

Previous Topic/Section
TCP Non-Contiguous Acknowledgment Handling and Selective Acknowledgment (SACK)
Previous Page
Pages in Current Topic/Section
1
23
Next Page
TCP Window Size Adjustment and Flow Control
Next Topic/Section

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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

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