Internet DRAFT - draft-fpeng-wecn


Internet Draft                                               Fei Peng
draft-fpeng-wecn-04.txt				Beijing University of
						  posts and telecomm.
							      Jian Ma
						Nokia Research Center
							  June 2001

	An Effective way for Enhancement of TCP Performance
		in 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
with any rights other than to publish as an Internet-Draft

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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.

This paper provides an effective way to improve TCP performance in
wireless and mobile networks. Current ECN proposal used in
traditional wired networks with the purpose of avoiding unnecessary
packet losses can obtain separation of loss recovery from congestion
control if packet losses are disabled to initiate source window
reduction. However, to implement ECN, complex and inconsistent buffer
management in the networks is required; in the cases where
ECN-Capability is falsely indicated or the ECN congestion
Notification is erased, the congested router's queue could continue
to build, resulting in packet loss at the congested router. A flow
that is intentionally avoiding end-to-end congestion control by
packet losses at the end nodes can avoid end-to-end congestion
control even when the congested queue is in packet-dropping mode.

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By refusing to reduce its sending rate in response to packet drops
in the network, the flow experience higher queuing delays, and may
causes very severe problem on other flows. In this draft, we propose
to add Wireless-ECN just upon the first packet loss occurs. In this
way, it strongly achieves separation of congestion control and loss
recovery mechanism by quickly informing the sender that a loss
happened because of reasons related to network congestion. The
unnecessary window reduction caused by lost packets due to link
errors is avoided. When there is falsely indicating ECN-Capability
or erasing the ECN congestion indication (in the CE-bit) in wireless
and mobile networks, the addition of Wireless-ECN can represent
congestion losses to initiate window reduction in time and improve
ECN performance. Specially, to prevent unnecessary packet losses
due to buffer overflow, it is most recommended to cooperate WECN
with ECN or a better congestion avoidance mechanism to improve TCP
performance in wireless and mobile networks.

2. Conventions used in this document

"WECN" indicates Wireless-ECN. "WECN-Echo flag" indicates Wireless-
ECN-Echo flag.

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
document are to be interpreted as described in RFC-2119 [ ].

3. 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 the Internet was intended to support best effort
service, and the 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, the reliance on packet drops as
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 retransmitting
packets, initiates congestion control or avoidance mechanisms and
resets its retransmission timer, thereby result in an unnecessary

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reduction in the 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
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.

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 protocol 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 since 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

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This paper provides a mechanism called Wireless-ECN (WECN) used in
wireless and mobile networks. Like ELN, it is a mechanism by which
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 network
congestion, so that sender congestion control can be decoupled from
retransmissions. Since it is no need to reduce the congestion window
more than once in a round trip time, the burden to the implementation
is greatly released for judgment is not required for each dropped
packets due to congestion. Additionally, it is very easy to identify
which packets are lost due to buffer overflow.

4. Motivation

Currently, a scheme concerning adding an explicit congestion
notification (ECN) to TCP acknowledgment option through detecting
incipient congestion in network is proposed by IETF. Upon receiving
this ECN message, the sender reduces its congestion window whenever
loss occurs. With the purpose of preventing unnecessary packet
drops, TCP can base its congestion control not solely on packet
losses. However, when ECN mechanism is being used, it makes the
sense to add at the same time mechanisms to monitor the average
queue size. Many current networks with routers whose main function is
to route packets to the networks have no provision for the detection
of incipient congestion before the queue overflows. Even with this,
during periods where the average queue size exceeds an upper
threshold, packet-marking rate can not catch up with its passing rate,
and therefore routers drop packets rather than set the ECN in packet
header. It may be a deterrent in such case if packet losses are
completely kept from initiating congestion control. In spite of all
these difficulties, ECN is likely to be adopted gradually, So
accommodating migration is essential and it is also important to
provide a method to apply ECN to wireless and mobile environment.

In the following section, we provide a mechanism called Wireless-ECN
(WECN) used in wireless and mobile networks. It provides a way by
which senders can be informed that a loss happened because of reasons
related to network congestion, so that sender congestion control can
be decoupled from retransmissions. Since it is arranged to mark a
data packet with an explicit wireless congestion notification
(WECN) immediately after a packet loss has occurred due to a buffer
overflow, it ensures that Wireless-ECN notification can be added
without worrying about slow marking rate for dropping packets give
the buffer time to vacate some space to hold and transmit new data.
With Wireless-ECN, the complexity and inconsistency of buffer
management and more conservative TCP congestion control over a short-
scale period in ECN mechanism is not necessarily needed. When apply
ECN into wireless and mobile networks, it is not required that packet
losses to initiate congestion control. WECN at this time can
represents congestion losses to invoke window reduction in time and
improve ECN performance. So, Wireless-ECN provides a simple and
effective way to cooperate ECN into wireless environment.

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In particular, considering WECN message is set not later than
threshold duplicate ACKs, it is hoped WECN would provide a more
timely reaction to loss retransmission than reactions based on drop
detection via duplicate ACKs or timeout.

5. Assumptions

In this section, we describe some of the important assumptions that
guided the design choices in this proposal.

(1) It is one of the premises of WECN mechanism that all the end
nodes in the experiment are WECN capable. Otherwise, congestion
control would be invoked in response to packet loss whenever it is
due to congestion or transmit errors.
(2) It is assumed that each node in the network can add WECN bit in
the packets to indicate congestion once packet losses occur.
(3) We also assume that the transport is capable and willing to
participate in WECN in each transmitting packet.
(4) With the above assumption, implementing WECN need not having to
resort to "islands" of WECN-capable and non-WECN-capable environments.
(5) Asymmetric routing is likely to be a normal occurrence in the
Internet. The path (sequence of links and routers) followed by the
acknowledgment packets in the reverse direction.

6. Wireless Explicit Congestion Notification in IP

Upon the first lost packet due to buffer overflow in the intermediate
router, Wireless-ECN notification is added in the header of following
passing packet for dropping packets give the buffer time to vacate
some space to hold and transmit new data. This ensures that the

Wireless-ECN notification can inevitably be added even with multiple
packet losses and no need of mechanisms in the router to monitor the
average queue size. The request for the Wireless-ECN to be added as
quickly as possible after a congestion loss occurs is to make
certain to alleviate network congestion in time.

It is requested that each node in the network can add Wireless-ECN
signal to indicate congestion once a packet loss occurs. If multiple
packet losses occur in a congestion window, multiple Wireless-ECN
messages are to be set in a node. It is also allowed to set Wireless-
ECN bit in the following packets belonging to the same congestion
window in the successive passing routers. As it must take a round-
trip time for the first added Wireless-ECN to reach to the sender,
and also for the condition and buffer occupancy in each network node
varies greatly, not only one Wireless-ECN are set in a transmission
window during a round-trip time. Some Wireless-ECN set may belong to

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different transmitting network nodes and some may belong to the same
node. Moreover, once the Wireless-ECN is added in one router, the
following routers may not erase the Wireless-ECN bit in arriving
packets to maintain the Wireless-ECN compliance in the network. As
TCP receiver must set Wireless-ECN bit in TCP header in response to
each IP packet with Wireless-ECN bit added, the TCP source, however,
may receive multiple Wireless-ECN packets in a congestion window.
Since the main function of Wireless-ECN is to reduce the congestion
window only once in a transmission window in the event of network
congestion, this multiple Wireless-ECN messages also provide
robustness against the possibility of a dropped Wireless-ECN packet
in the bi-directional transmitting paths.

To comply with current proposed ECN mechanism in IETF draft, we obey
the suggestion of keeping congestion experienced information in the
regular headers of an IP packet since processing the regular headers
in IP packets is more efficient than processing the header
information in IP options and denote it as W-CE bit to differentiate
that of CE bit used for ECN. According to this, we use 'W-CE packet'
to indicate a packet that has the W-CE bit set. Since the Wireless-
ECN-Echo flag set in the TCP header which will directly cause window
reduction at the source side is determined by W-CE bit set in the IP
header, to initiate reduction of window size as ECN does, we choose
bit 6 and bit 7 that are designated as the ECT bit an the CE bit of
ECN packet in the IPv4 TOS octet to indicate the congestion packet
losses in the intermediate routers. So, the use of Wireless-ECN
field as specified in this document is the same as traditional ECN,
but it provides function of indicating packet losses due to

7. Congestion Control Support from the Transport Protocol

7.1. TCP initialization

In the TCP connection setup phase, the source and destination TCPs
exchange information about their desire and/or capability to use WECN.
Subsequent to the completion of this negotiation indicates to the
network that the transport is capable and willing to participate in
WECN for each transmitting packet.

When a node sends a TCP SYN packet, it may set the WECN-Echo flag in
the TCP header as an indication that the sending TCP is ECN-Capable,
rather than as an indication of congestion or of response to
congestion. More precisely, a SYN packet with WECN-Echo flags set
indicates that the TCP implementation transmitting the SYN packet
will participate in WECN as both a sender and receiver.

When a node sends a SYN-ACK packet, it may set WECN-Echo flag, the
sending TCP correctly interprets a receiver's reflection of it own
flags in the Reserved field as an indication that the receiver is
ECN capable.

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The WECN-Echo flag is at the same field location as ECN-Echo flag in
TCP header.

7.2. The TCP Sender

Though our proposed Wireless-ECN mechanism can not avoid unnecessary
packet drops for short or delay-sensitive TCP connections as ECN can,
it has the effect on independence of TCP of packet loss as the
indication of congestion. As TCP use Wireless-ECN message to invoke
congestion control, whenever a packet loss occurs, only
retransmission mechanism is used at that time which does not affect
TCP data flow rate. This is very useful in wireless and mobile
networks for the network itself has the function of distinguishing
different source of packet losses. By informing the sender with
Wireless-ECN packets when the congestion loss occurs, packet losses
due to transmission errors could not reduce TCP flow control window,
which results in significant performance improvement. The TCP
congestion window can only be reduced by Wireless-ECN message that
is set due to congestion losses.

The additional requirement for the TCP source to react to multiple
Wireless-ECN packets is that it should not repeat the reduction of
the congestion window; since the packet was probably dropped before
the source reduced its window in response to the WECN. TCP should
react to a WECN at most once per round-trip time. The sender would
react to the subsequent WECN only after the outstanding data before
the sender entered into loss recovery phase upon receiving the first
W-CE bit have all been acknowledged. Like ECN, another change for
TCP is a negotiation phase during setup to determine if both end
nodes are WECN-capable.

TCP follows existing algorithms for sending data packets in response
to incoming ACKs. Multiple duplicate acknowledgements or retransmit
timeouts only in charge of loss retransmission and are separated from
window reduction.

7.3. The TCP Receiver

When TCP receives a W-CE data packet at the destination end-system,
the TCP data receiver sets the ECN-Echo flag in the TCP header of the
subsequent ACK packet. The ECN-Echo flag in the reserved field of the
TCP header are designated as Wireless-ECN-Echo flag since WECN
uses the same flag as ECN. If any of the received data packets are
W-CE packets, then the returning ACK has the ECN-Echo flag set.
As only one Wireless-ECN is required to be added in a router,
the frequency of Wireless-ECN to be set in a congestion window
will not exceed the number of total network nodes where packets
must travel across. This could relieve the burden of providing
interface facility between IP and TCP at the receiver side.

To provide robustness against the possibility of a dropped ACK packet

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carrying a Wireless-ECN-Echo flag, the TCP receiver must set the WECN-
Echo flag in a series of ACK packets. The TCP receiver uses the CWR
(Congestion Window Reduced) flag as in ECN of reserved field of
TCP header to determine when to stop setting the WECN-Echo flag.

8. Retransmission Support from the Transport Protocol

In contrast to Fast Retransmit algorithm in Reno, Tahoe TCP uses
retransmit timers to detect lost packets All transmitted data is
acknowledged by the receiver, and a lost packet is signaled by the
expiration of a timer at the transmitter even with the arrival of
duplicate acknowledgements Mutiple lost packets in a congestion
window are recovered by multiple backoff of Retransmission Timeout
Instead of modifying TCP behavior of detecting packet losses basing
on timeout, WECN quicken the recovery phase of lost papckets by
reducing the backoff of the timeout value in our simulator, that is,
if a WECN message is received in a congestion window, the Retransmit
Timeout set for the following packet losses in the same window will
not be doubled.

We then discuss the implications of WECN for Reno and New-Reno TCP

With our Wireless-ECN consideration, TCP react to packet loss without
reduction of transmission window. When three duplicate ACKs inform
the sender about packet loss, only retransmission is invoked. And
since the sender response only the first ECN in a widow, the
congestion window reduces once even with multiple packets lost in a
window. So, Reno TCP with Wireless-ECN need not afraid to wait for a
retransmit time-out when multiple packets are dropped from a single
window of data. High TCP performance would be obtained since the
congestion window is only reduced once while retransmitting lost
packets. Large congestion window also ensures the arrival of adequate
threshold duplicate ACKs to trigger lost packet retransmission.

The New-Reno TCP includes a small change to the Reno algorithm at the
sender that eliminate the wait of Reno for a retransmit timer when
multiple packets are lost from a window because it also only reduce
congestion window once during loss recovery phase. To do this,
partial ACKs do not take TCP out of Fast Recovery in New-Reno as Reno
formally does, while WECN in Reno maintain congestion window by not
response to the following WECNs in a window. So, New-Reno TCP with
our WECN mechanism includes a small change to the New-Reno algorithm
at the sender that eliminates the reliance of New-Reno on the
threshold duplicate ACKs to invoke loss recovery. If the ACK has the
WECN bit set, it can ensure that the packet with the sequence number
in ACK has been lost. Using WECN to notify the reduction of
congestion window can avoid complex treatment of partial ACKs in New-

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9. Cooperate ECN into Wireless networks

Current ECN mechanism is proposed in traditional wired environment to
alleviate network congestion. Because of complexity of network
conditions and the nature of feedback congestion control mechanism,
congestion losses will not be completely averted. So, there exist a
wide range of ECN conditions such as an ECN followed by another ECN,
a Fast Retransmit, or a Retransmit Timeout; a Retransmit Timeout or a
Fast Retransmit followed by an ECN. So, it is also required that TCP
follows existing algorithm for sending data packets and reducing
congestion window in response to incoming ACKs, multiple duplicate
acknowledgements, or retransmit timouts when ECN is used.

To put ECN into wireless and mobile networks, we have to suggest that
TCP congestion window reduction can not be initiated by packet losses.
The dropping packets due to congestion may be an adequate deterrent
factor affecting network performance if congestion control is not
initiated by packet losses due to buffer overflow in time.

With the addition of Wireless-ECN, when some packet losses due to
congestion come first before ECN messages arrive in a round-trip time,
the Wireless-ECN signals added just upon the first packet loss caused
by congestion will come in time to initiate general congestion
control. And also, TCP only reacts to once and generally the earliest
one of Wireless-ECN or ECN ACK every round-trip time. The problem of
unnecessary reduction of window size by packet losse irrelavent to
congestion is solved for only wireless-ECN or ECN is interpreted by
the source TCP as a new instance of congestion.

10. Security Considerations

One disadvantages of Wireless-ECN mechanism is that Wireless-ECN
message could be dropped by the network before reaching the TCP
source. If the assumed source of data loss is not congestion, loss of
Wireless-ECN will result in the failure of congestion control for
that flow and a resulting increase in congestion in the network,
ultimately resulting in subsequent packets dropped for that flow as
the average queue size increased at the congested gateway. Since
Wireless-ECN is added upon packet losses caused by congestion,
subsequent packets dropped in the next congestion window may lead to
another successive try to add WECN? With the possibility of
additionally setting Wireless-ECN bit because of the previous lost
WECN, it does not show performance problems from dropped Wireless-ECN
message. In addition, the number of dropped WECN message should be
small in the network since multiple WECN messages set immediately
following each dropped packet provide robustness against the
possibility of a dropped WECN packet in the bi-directional
transmitting paths. In addition, dropping packets give the buffer
time to vacate some space to hold and slow down data transmission,
this ensures that the Wireless-ECN notification can be added even
with multiple packet losses for transmitting rate would not exceed
marking rate. The compliance of WECN in the network that ensures
that once WECN is added in one router, the following routers may not

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erase the WECN bit in arriving packets also implicit the security of

In spite of all these properties, we still give the security
mechanism of WECN, we set a threshold to indicate when WECN should
not be added, that is, when the buffer occupancy reduced below the
threshold and there is no packet losses due to buffer overflow
occurs, WECN bit is kept from setting otherwise it is added
continuously following the first WECN set immediately after buffer
overflow. Considering WECN leads at least half reduction of
congestion window size, we assume the threshold needed will not be
lower than fifty percent of buffer occupancy and it is better for the
threshold set not higher than eighty percent of buffer size to ensure
enough WECN generated. Since the threshold set for WECN is to
determine when to stop adding it, it has little relationship with
buffer management and is simple to implement. Additionally, WECN can
also use the existing threshold set for ECN or other congestion
avoidance mechanism if these mechanism are supported in the routers
at the moment.

11. Support from ATM networks

The investigation of WECN in this paper concerns only TCP and IP
networks, we now consider a scenario of TCP traffic where part of or
all of the path might consist of ATM networks. For ECN, the threshold
set in ATM switch buffer to indicate congestion before buffer
overflow can not get accessible way to inform the TCP connections of
congestion, the only viable mechanism is for the ATM network to drop
TCP or IP packets, either inside or at the boundaries of the ATM
network. At the boundary of the ATM network where frame segmentation
and reassembly occur, IP level of WECN mechanism could immediately
add WECN to indicate congestion upon dropped TCP packet and invoke
WECN mechanism for packets from WECN source.

12. Conclusions and Future Works
With the incremental deployment of IETF proposed ECN in both end
systems and in routers, there exist many inconsistencies in the
network and end-systems. For example, some routers may drop packets
using the same RED policies for congestion detection while other
routers set the CE bit for equivalent level of congestion. Some
routers update its window once every two round-trip times while other
sources increase the congestion window additional every round-trip
time after equivalent threshold packets in the last window had the
ECN bit set.

Since active queue management is another complex research area in
IETF, we change the mechanism of setting CE bit basing on the average
queue length exceeding a threshold and propose to add Wireless-ECN
just upon the first packet loss due to buffer overflow occurs. By
doing this, inconsistent threshold judgment may not happen and no RED

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algorithm is required in the routers. The reduction of congestion
window upon receiving the first Wireless-ECN prevents the discordance
of different number of threshold ECNs chosen by end-systems with the
IETF ECN usage. With all these consistency in the networks and end-
systems, our mechanism not only improves TCP performance in wireless
and mobile networks but provide a compatible way to enhance ECN
performance across wireless paths as well for it realizes
distinguish different source of packet losses.

The simulation in our project shows that WECN mechanism would give
even higher throughput than ECN and ECN with WECN scheme because it
hasten the rate of loss recovery phase which mainly due to congestion.
Though in our simulation, we only utilize it in Tahoe TCP, it may
obtain advantages if apply WECN in Reno TCP and further to New Reno

In other cases, though Wireless-ECN achieve quick retransmit lost
packets mainly due to buffer overflow, sometimes the retransmission
is invoked by non-congestion related reasons and because the loss of
WECN though rarely occur, to find a better retransmission algorithm
is also important for the drawbacks in the current Fast
Retransmission and Recovery algorithm.
To further analyze the benefits of Wireless-ECN for TCP and for ECN,
continuous simulations must execute in the future works, which
contains congestion in both directions, two-way traffic performance,
and with multiple congested gateways.

13. Acknowledgments

We would like to appreciate Beijing University of posts and
telecommunicaitons for offering great advocacy of our research on
this mechanism. We also thank Nokia corporation for supporting this
idea with applying of a patent. And I (first author) will
particularly mention my professor (Mrs. Cheng Shiduan) for the
encouragement of my work.

14. References

[1] FEI, P., JIAN, M. "Overload control method for a packet-switched
    network", Patent Application NC 18254, June 1999.
[2] 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.
[3] K. K. Ramakrishnan, Sally Floyd, "A proposal to add Explicit
    Congestion Notification (ECN) to IP", Internet Draft-kksjf-ecn-03.
    txt, Oct, 1998.
[4] Sally Floyd, "TCP and Explicit Congestion Notification", Computer
    Communication Review, V.24 N.5, October 1994, p.10-23.

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[5] Sally Floyd, David Black, K.K.Ramakrishnan.,"IPsec Interactions
    with ECN", draft-ietf-ecn-01.txt. December 1999.

15. Author's Addresses

Fei Peng
Beijing University of Posts and Telecomm.
Phone: 010-62282007

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