Internet DRAFT - draft-fpeng-ecn


Internet Draft                                                Fei Peng
draft-fpeng-ecn-03.txt			        Beijing University of 
   						   posts and telecomm.
                                                               Jian Ma
                                                 Nokia Research Center
                                                          January 2001

	A proposal to apply ECN into Wireless and Mobile Networks

Status of this Memo

This document is an Internet-Draft and is NOT offered in accordance 
with Section 10 of RFC2026, and the author does not provide the IETF 
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1. Abstract

TCP congestion control has been developed on the assumption that 
congestion in the network to be the only cause for packet loss. Thus, 
it drops its transmit window upon detecting a packet loss. In the 
presence of high error rates and intermittent connective 
characteristic of wireless link, these results in an unnecessary 
reduction in link bandwidth utilization for packet losses are not 
mainly due to congestion. 

Current ECN proposal proposed by IETF obtains a part separation of 
congestion control and packet losses with the purpose of preventing 
unnecessary packet drops due to buffer overflow. However, network 

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congestion can not be completely avoided and because of the losses of 
ECN by corruption and congestion, ECN will have to interact with the 
existing congestion control mechanism in TCP. This paper provides an 
effective way to improve TCP performance in wireless and mobile 
networks and cooperate ECN into such environment. Upon each dropped 
packets due to buffer overflow or the RED routers, an ISQ (ICMP 
Source Quench) is generated and sent back to the source of each 
dropped packet. The approach reduces congestion losses and the 
reaction time to congestion in the network. With the ECN 
control, network congestion is alleviated. When CE bit can be 
marked, no ISQ is required to be generated and ISQ messages created 
will not cause wasting of bandwidth. To ensure system more secure 
in case of losses of ECN or ISQ messages, a window threshold is 
calculated to allow that packet losses should initiate window 
reduction during times without ISQ and ECN messages coming back. It 
is important to note that this method is simple to implement for it 
makes minimal modification of current systems.

2. Introduction

Congestion control is one of the key mechanisms to accommodate the 
increasingly diverse range of services and types of traffic in the 
Internet. Initially Internet was intended to support best-effort 
service, and TCP congestion control method that was actually 
implemented has been developed on the assumption that the network 
would be treated as a black box. This means that the end nodes do not 
exercise control by directly ascertaining the state of routers and 
transmission line, but rather regulate the traffic by inferring the 
network load indirectly from packet loss and response time 
fluctuations. In wired networks, this may not induce serious problems 
as packet losses are mainly due to congestion. However, in the 
presence of high error rates and intermittent connective 
characteristic of wireless links typically like wireless and mobile 
networks or the satellite environment, this reliance on packet drop 
as an indication of congestion causes a significant degradation in 
TCP performance, for TCP reacts to packet loss as it would in the 
wired environment: it drops its retransmit window size before 
retransmiting packets, initiates congestion control or avoidance 
mechanisms and resets its retransmission timer, thereby result in an 
unnecessary reduction in link bandwidth utilization, which 
causing poor throughput and very high interactive delays. 

Recently, several schemes have been proposed to alleviate the effects 
of non-congestion-related losses on TCP performance over networks 
that have wireless or similar high-loss links.
One of the researches concerns on improvement of transport underlying 
protocol stacks. For example, there have been several proposals for 

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reliable link-layer protocols as forward error correction (FEC) and 
retransmission of lost packets in response to automatic repeat 
Request (ARQ) messages. However, it is the main worry about link-
layer protocols that an adverse effect on certain transport-layer 
protocols such as TCP is very possible. Another solution of network 
layer protocol called snoop protocol is proposed to cache packets at 
the base station and perform local retransmissions across the 
wireless link. Like link-layer solutions, the snoop approach could 
also suffer from not being able to completely shield the sender from 
wireless losses. In practice, with the enhancement of TCP underlying 
protocols, the link error rate will still remain 1E-6 bits/sec. So it 
is essential to give a solution in TCP protocol stack.

Several schemes modified at transport layer have been proposed to 
alleviate the effects of non-congestion-related losses on transport 
performance. The indirect-TCP is one of the first protocols to 
distinguish different losses by splitting a TCP connection between a 
fixed and mobile host into two separate connections at the base 
station, a more optimized wireless link-specific protocol tuned for 
better performance can be used over a one-hop wireless link. The 
advantage of the split connection approach is that it achieves a 
separation of flow and congestion control of the wireless link from 
that of the fixed network. However, there are some drawbacks of this 
approach such as loss of semantics, application re-linking and 
software overhead, etc. And there is no need to sacrifice the 
semantics of acknowledgments in order to achieve possible good 

As lost packets can be simply divided into congestion-related losses 
and non-congestion-related losses, an ELN protocols can be used to 
differentiate the packet loss by adding an explicit loss notification 
option to TCP acknowledgments when a packet is dropped on the 
wireless link. Future cumulative acknowledgments corresponding to 
each lost packet must be always marked to identify that a non-
congestion-related loss has occurred, then the sender may perform 
retransmissions without invoking the associated congestion-control 
procedures. In practice, this algorithm brings burden to the 
implementation nodes for judgment is required for each dropped 
packets and each lost packet due to transmission errors needs marking 
otherwise it will invoke congestion control. Additionally, it might 
be difficult to identify which packets are lost due to errors on 
lossy link, for example, it may be hard to determine the connection 
that a corrupted packet belongs to since the header could itself be 

This paper provides a mechanism used in wireless and mobile networks. 
Like ELN, it is a mechanism by which 

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the reason for the loss of a packet can be communicated to the TCP 
sender. In particular, it provides a way by which senders can be 
informed that a loss happened because of reasons related to 
congestion), it is very easy to identify which packets are lost due 
to buffer overflow or RED mechanism in routers. The window threshold 
set to avoid unnecessary reduction of window size by
Packet losses ensure that most of the times the congestion control 
mechanism is invoked by ISQ or ECN. 

3. Current ECN proposal in IETF

Bits 10 and 11 in the IPV6 header are proposed respectively for the 
ECT(ECN Capable Transport indicator) and CE (Congestion Experienced 
indicator).  Bits 6 and 7 of the IPV4 header TOS field are also 
proposed as the ECT and CE placeholders respectively. TCP header is 
modified to add an additional flag, the ECN Echo flag, to notify the 
sender (from the receiver) that it is contributing to congestion. The 
flag's bit-space is borrowed from the reserved field in the TCP 
header.  This bit is also interchangeably referred to as the ECT bit 
in this text.

The ECT bit is set by the sender end system if both the end systems 
are ECN capable. This is confirmed in the pre-negotiation during the 
connection setup phase in TCP. Packets encountering congestion are 
marked (CE bit) by a router on their way to receiver end systems
(from sender end systems), with a probability proportional to their 
bandwidth usage following the procedure used in RED [RFC2309] routers. 
When the receiver end system receives packet with CE and ECT bits set, 
it informs the sender end system that it is contributing to 
congestion by the setting of ECT bit in the ACK packet.
The sender end system reacts by halving the congestion window upon 
receiving the ACK packet.  And it reacts only once to ECT messages 
per in-flight window of messages.

4. Limitations of the Current ECN Proposal in wireless/mobile networks 
[RFC 2481]

It is assumed that the participating routers are capable of RED or 
some other active queue management mechanism. In such a router, a 
packet has a probability of being dropped where this probability is 
dependent on average queue size. 
Because of the complex condition of the networks, packet drops due to 
buffer overflow can not be completely prevented with ECN mechanism, 
in addition, ECN itself will be lost by congestion or the corruption. 

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According to above assumption, it is most required that ECN proposal 
shall coupled with congestion control mechanism in TCP. In networks 
over imperfect links where packet losses are not mainly due to 
congestion, the unnecessary reduction of throughput will occur for 
the congestion window has been shielded half before ECN could come 

It should mention that Current ECN mechanism does not have to change 
any way with our proposal at the transport layer. 

5. ICMP Source Quench

All gateways must contain code for sending ICMP Source Quench 
messages when they are forced to drop IP datagram due to congestion.  
Although the Source Quench mechanism is known to be an imperfect 
means for Internet congestion control, and research towards more 
effective means is in progress, Source Quench is considered to be too 
valuable to omit from production gateways. [RFC 1009]

There is some argument that the Source Quench should be sent before 
the gateway is forced to drop datagram. For example, a parameter X 
could be established and set to have Source Quench sent when only X 
buffers remains. Or, a parameter Y could be established and set to 
have Source Quench sent when only Y per cent of the buffers remain.   

Two problems for a gateway sending Source Quench are (1) the 
consumption of bandwidth on the reverse path, and (2) the use of 
gateway CPU time.  To ameliorate these problems, a gateway
should be prepared to limit the frequency with which it sends Source 
Quench messages.  This may be on the basis of a counter (e.g., only 
send a Source Quench for every N dropped datagrams overall or per 
given source host), or on the basis of a timer (e.g., send a Source 
Quench to a given source host or Overall at most once per T 
milliseconds). The parameters (e.g., N or T) must be settable as part 
of the configuration of the gateway; How to give a suitable value of
N or T in practice is also a  problem. 

The [draft-salim] proposal concerns: ISQ message is generated by 
the intermediate RED router when it capture a packet with ECT bit set 
by the active queue management. Before the origination of the 
ISQ, the packet, which was chosen by RED probability, should be 
marked if it has not already marked. If the ECT bit is not set, the 
packet will be dropped whether RED chooses it or the average queue 
size goes above the maximum threshold. The purpose of this approach 
is to reduce the reaction time to congestion in the network and 
provide multilevel congestion feedback. In the following section, we 

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propose our ISQ mechanism to fit wireless and mobile environment. 

6. Source Quench in Wireless/mobile networks

While there are some applications/environments where it might be 
highly advantageous for the sender to receive some indication of 
congestion without having to wait a roundtrip time, this is not the 
common case. Source Quench packets add traffic in the reverse 
direction on what might be a congested path. Even with multilevel 
function of ISQs, the congestion window and the slow start threshold 
value are only halved at TCP source. Without the corresponding 
reaction of the source behavior, the multilevel ISQ lose its 
significant. Moreover, if threshold is set appropriately lower, ECN 
is also to be considered effective to alleviate network congestion in 
time. So, this section propose the ISQ messages are not required to 
be generated if only ECN can be set by the RED or other queue 
mandation without the packet being dropped in such case. Only upon 
the dropping of packets due to buffer overflow or queue management 
without ECN, ISQ messages are sent back to the corresponding sources. 
The algorithm in the router can be described as follows:

If the incoming message causes average queue size go above maximum 
threshold or causes buffer overflow, the packet is dropped and an ISQ 
then sent back to the source of the incoming packet. 

If the incoming message causes the average queue to go between the 
minimum and maximum thresholds then:
    If the RED probability picks this packet then: 
  If the ECT bit is set and the CE bit is not already marked then: 
	Mark the packet (CE bit) 
  Else if RED chooses this packet and ECT bit is not set then: 
	Send an ISQ back and drop the packet.

As long as ECT bit is set, CE bit is marked in most of times when 
condition permits. And also with ECN mechanism in networks, the 
frequency of generation of ISQ messages is reduced which result in 
saved bandwidth and avoid implementation complexity though CPU time 
is no longer a constrained resource today. When ECN is not supported 
in some cases, Reasonable performance of the protocols that use IP 
(e.g., TCP) requires an IP datagram loss rate of less than 5%[RFC 
1009]. Moreover, it has been quantitatively shown in simulations 
[kcho-97] that less packet drops happen (only about 1-5%) of the 
packets are marked or dropped in a RED gateway under incipient 
congestion. This implies the amount of processing needed at the 
router is reduced and little waste of bandwidth by generation of ISQ.   

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So, ICMP Source Quench message (ISQ) are not generated by the 
intermediate congested RED router if only that router decides to mark 
the CE bit. ISQ are usually not generated for a packet that has 
already been marked previously by another router regardless of 
whether that packet is contributing to some congestion; however, when 
the router queue level mandates the dropped packet then an ISQ is 
sent back to the source regardless of whether the packet was marked 
previously or not. This function of ISQ has been supported in the 
routers [rfc1009] and since each router is required to provide a 
disable parameter, only configuration operation is taken to enable 
its function. 

7. Support at TCP layer

The requirements for the end host's reaction to ISQ are at the moment 
[RFC1122]. The source reacts at the transport protocol level by 
lowering its data throughput into the network. In TCP, upon 
identifying the flow causing the congestion, the sender reacts by 
halving both the congestion window and the slow start threshold value 
for that flow. The sender does not react to an ISQ message more than 
once per window. For multiple ECN and ISQ come back from the networks, 
The source only reacts the first one in a window. Upon receipt of the 
first ISQ or ECN at time t, it notes the packets that are outstanding 
at that time (sent but not yet acked) and waits until a time u when 
they have all been acknowledged before reacting to a new ISQ or ECN 

To prevent unnecessary reduction of window size, as notes previously, 
unnecessary window shield back causes low utilization of bandwidth, 
the measurement of the maximum window (called Wmax) experienced on a 
given connection. We expect this can change over time, and TCP should 
track these changes and modify its timeout accordingly. First TCP 
must measure the Wmax whenever it begins to shun down window by ISQ 
or ECN, we will use Mw to denote the measured Wmax. Then TCP updates 
a smoothed Wmax estimator using the low-pass filter

		Wmax <- a Wmax + (1-a) Mw

Where a is a smoothing factor with a recommended value of 0.9. This 
smoothed Wmax is updated every time a new measurement is made. Ninety 
percent of each new estimate is from the previous estimate and ten 
percent is from the new measurement by the first receipt of ISQ or 
ECN in a widow cycle. 
Given this smoothed estimator, which changes as the Wmax changes, we 
recommended the threshold (Tl) to determine when packet losses should 
call the congestion control is set to 

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	Tl = B Wmax, 

where B is a delay variance factor with a recommended value of 1.5. 
Since in congestion avoidance phase, the window increasing rate is 
linearly, only one packet is increased after a RTT, so 1.5 value of 
threshold is enough to avoid unnecessary window reduction by packet 
losses. The ISQ or ECN gives the initialized value of Wmax after the 
measure of the first reduction of window by either of them. 

If the initialization of window size is caused by packet loss 
controled by the threshold. The Wmax and Tl are calculated as: 

	Wmax = a Wmax + (1-a) Tl
	Tl = B Wmax.

Since the sender does not reduce window more than once per window, 
the following ISQ or ECN message do not affect any change of 
transmission rate until the outstanding data before the sender 
initiate congestion control by a packet loss upon the reach of 

8. Security

With the addition of ISQ messages, It becomes more security for ECN 
used in wireless and mobile networks. For example when some node does 
not support ECN mechanism, ISQ could send because the node will 
otherwise forced to drop IP datagrams due to congestion.  Since all 
gateways must contain code for sending ICMP Source Quench messages in 
such case, the source transmission rate will be slow down even in 
non-ECN support environment. Also ISQ message and ECN will be lost, 
so it is not reliable, but since the source only shun down window 
once in a transmission cycle, multiple ISQs an ECNs generated at the 
network will not cause performance problem even with some losses of 
them. Moreove, the threshold set for window reduction by a packet 
loss though might be somehow later, it could guarantee to recover the 
severe congestion met by the losses of ISQ and ECN. 

9. Conclusion

All gateways must contain code for sending ICMP Source Quench 
messages when they are forced to drop IP datagrams due to congestion 
[RFC 1009], so only configure operation at each intermediate router 
in the networks is required to be taken. Without modification of ECN 
mechanism, we only set a threshold to delay the packt loss to 

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initiate congestion control and also guarantees the security of the 
whole system. It is very simple to implement and provides really an 
effective way to improve TCP performance in wireless and mobile 
networks for the unnecessary window reduction of losses due to 
transmission errors is effectively avoided. 
To further analyze the benefits of the whole systems, continuous 
simulations must execute in the future work, which contain multiple 
congested gateways and two way traffic with either support ECN or 
non-support ECN systems. Without modification of ECN mechanism, the 
addition of ISQ in no-support ECN systems would invariably improve 
TCP performance in wireless and mobile networks through preventing 
packet losses to initiate window reduction. It is also our future 
work to investigate to what extent it would contribute to improvement 
of TCP performance through more optimal active queue management, and a 
better window adaptive algorithm to suit large wide network 
configurations is also the requirement of study in the future. 

10. References

[kcho-97] Cho, K.J. ALTQ/RED 

[FeiNC] FEI, P., JIAN, M. "Overload
control method for a packet-switched 
network", Patent Application NC 18254, 
June 1999.

[ICCT98] FEI, P., Jian, M., etc. "TCP Performance Enhancements in 
Wireless and Mobile Networks", International Conference on 
Communication Technology (ICCT'98), Oct,1998, pp.S46-07-1:S46-07-5.

[draft-kksjf] K. K. Ramakrishnan, Sally 
Floyd, "A proposal to add Explicit     
Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP", Internet Draft-kksjf-ecn-03.txt, 
Oct, 1998.

[SF94] Sally Floyd, "TCP and Explicit 
Congestion Notification", Computer 
Communication Review, V.24 N.5, October 
1994, p.10-23.

[RFC1009] R. Braden, J. Postel, Requirements for Internet Gateways

[draft-salim] Hadi Salim,J.,etal, A proposal for Backward ECN for the 
Internet Protocol (Ipv4/Ipv6), June 1998.

11.  Acknowledgments

We would like to appreciate Nokia cooperation for supporting this 
idea. We also thank Beijing University of posts and 
telecommunicaitons with great advocacy of our research. And 
we will particularly mention professor (Mrs. Cheng Shiduan),her 
encouragement and good advice for our work. 

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