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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 rfc2488                                  
Internet Engineering Task Force                              Mark Allman
INTERNET DRAFT                              NASA Lewis/Sterling Software
File: draft-ietf-tcpsat-stand-mech-04.txt                     Dan Glover
                                                              NASA Lewis
                                                             May 1, 1998
                                              Expires: Novemeber 1, 1998

                 Enhancing TCP Over Satellite Channels
                       using Standard Mechanisms

Status of this Memo

    This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
    documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
    and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute
    working documents as Internet-Drafts.

    Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six
    months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents
    at any time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as
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    To view the entire list of current Internet-Drafts, please check the
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    The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) provides reliable delivery
    of data across any network path, including network paths containing
    satellite channels.  While TCP works over satellite channels there
    are several IETF standardized mechanisms that enable TCP to more
    effectively utilize the available capacity of the network path.
    This draft outlines some of these TCP mitigations.  At this time,
    all mitigations discussed in this draft are IETF standards track
    mechanisms (or are compliant with IETF standards).

1.  Introduction

    Satellite channel characteristics have an effect on the way
    transport protocols, such as the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
    [Pos81], behave.  When protocols, such as TCP, perform poorly,
    channel utilization is low.  While the performance of a transport
    protocol is important, it is not the only consideration when
    constructing a network containing satellite links.  For example,
    data link protocol, application protocol, router buffer size,
    queueing discipline and proxy location are some of the considerations
    that must be taken into account.  However, this document focuses on
    improving TCP in the satellite environment and non-TCP
    considerations are left for another document.  Finally, there have

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    been many satellite mitigations proposed and studied by the research
    community.  While these mitigations may prove useful and safe for
    shared networks in the future, this document only considers TCP
    mechanisms which are currently well understood and on the IETF
    standards track (or are compliant with IETF standards).

    This draft is divided up as follows: Section 2 provides a brief
    outline of the characteristics of satellite networks.  Section 3
    outlines two non-TCP mechanisms that enable TCP to more effectively
    utilize the available bandwidth.  Section 4 outlines the TCP
    mechanisms defined by the IETF that benefit satellite networks.
    Finally, Section 5 provides a summary of what modern TCP
    implementations should include to be considered "satellite

2.  Satellite Characteristics

    There is an inherent delay in the delivery of a message over a
    satellite link due to the finite speed of light and the altitude of
    communications satellites.

    Many communications satellites are located at Geostationary Orbit
    (GSO) with an altitude of approximately 36,000 km [Sta94].  At this
    altitude the orbit period is the same as the Earth's rotation
    period.  Therefore, each ground station is always able to "see" the
    orbiting satellite at the same position in the sky.  The propagation
    time for a radio signal to travel twice that distance (corresponding
    to a ground station directly below the satellite) is 239.6
    milliseconds (ms) [Mar78].  For ground stations at the edge of the
    view area of the satellite, the distance traveled is 2 x 41,756 km
    for a total propagation delay of 279.0 ms [Mar78].  These delays are
    for one ground station-to-satellite-to-ground station route (or
    "hop").  Therefore, the propagation delay for a message and the
    corresponding reply (one round-trip time or RTT) would be no more
    than 558 ms.  The RTT is not based solely on satellite propagation
    time.  The RTT can be increased by other factors in the network,
    such as the transmission time and propagation time of other links in
    the network path and queueing delay in gateways.  Furthermore, the
    satellite propagation delay will be proportionately longer if the
    link includes multiple hops or if intersatellite links are used.  As
    satellites become more complex and include on-board processing of
    signals, additional delay may be added.

    Other orbits are possible for use by communications satellites
    including Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)
    [Mar78].  The lower orbits require the use of constellations of
    satellites for constant coverage.  In other words, as one satellite
    leaves the ground station's sight, another satellite appears on the
    horizon and the channel is switched to it.  The propagation delay to
    a LEO orbit ranges from several milliseconds when communicating with
    a satellite directly overhead, to as much as 80 ms when the
    satellite is on the horizon.  These systems are more likely to use

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    intersatellite links and have variable path delay depending on
    routing through the network.

    Satellite channels are dominated by two fundamental characteristics,
    as described below:

        NOISE - The strength of a radio signal falls in proportion to
        the square of the distance traveled.  For a satellite link the
        distance is large and so the signal becomes weak before reaching
        its destination.  This results in a low signal-to-noise ratio.
        Some frequencies are particularly susceptible to atmospheric
        effects such as rain attenuation.  For mobile applications,
        satellite channels are especially susceptible to multi-path
        distortion and shadowing (e.g., blockage by buildings).  Typical
        bit error rates for a satellite link today are on the order of 1
        error per 10 million bits (1 x 10^-7) or better.  Advanced error
        control coding (e.g., Reed Solomon) can be added to existing
        satellite services and is currently being used by many services.
        Satellite error performance approaching fiber will become more
        common as advanced error control coding is used in new systems.
        However, many legacy satellite systems will continue to exhibit
        higher BER than newer satellite systems and terrestrial

        BANDWIDTH - The radio spectrum is a limited natural resource,
        hence there is a restricted amount of bandwidth available to
        satellite systems which is typically controlled by licenses.
        This scarcity makes it difficult to trade bandwidth to solve
        other design problems.  Typical carrier frequencies for current,
        point-to-point, commercial, satellite services are 6 GHz
        (uplink) and 4 GHz (downlink), also known as C band, and 14/12
        GHz (Ku band).  A new service at 30/20 GHz (Ka band) will be
        emerging over the next few years.  Satellite-based radio
        repeaters are known as transponders.  Traditional C band
        transponder bandwidth is typically 36 MHz to accommodate one
        color television channel (or 1200 voice channels).  Ku band
        transponders are typically around 50 MHz.  Furthermore, one
        satellite may carry a few dozen transponders.

    Not only is bandwidth limited by nature, but the allocations for
    commercial communications are limited by international agreements so
    that this scarce resource can be used fairly by many different

    Although satellites have certain disadvantages when compared to
    fiber channels, they also have certain advantages over terrestrial
    links.  First, satellites have a natural broadcast capability.  This
    gives satellites a natural advantage for multicast applications.
    Next, satellites can reach geographically remote areas or countries
    that have little terrestrial infrastructure.  A related advantage is
    the ability of satellite links to reach mobile users.

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    Satellite channels have several characteristics that differ from
    most terrestrial channels.  These characteristics can degrade the
    performance of TCP.  These characteristics include:

    Long feedback loop

        Due to the propagation delay of some satellite channels (e.g.,
        approximately 250 ms over a geosynchronous satellite) it may
        take a long time for a TCP sender to determine whether or not a
        packet has been successfully received at the final destination.
        This delay hurts interactive applications such as telnet, as
        well as some of the TCP congestion control algorithms (see
        section 4).

    Large delay*bandwidth product

        The delay*bandwidth product (DBP) defines the amount of data a
        protocol should have "in flight" (data that has been
        transmitted, but not yet acknowledged) at any one time to fully
        utilize the available channel capacity.  The delay used in this
        equation is the RTT and the bandwidth is the capacity of the
        bottleneck link in the network path.  Because the delay in some
        satellite environments is large, TCP will need to keep a large
        amount of data "in flight".

    Transmission errors

        Satellite channels exhibit a higher bit-error rate (BER) than
        typical terrestrial networks.  TCP uses all packet drops as
        signals of network congestion and reduces its window size in an
        attempt to alleviate the congestion.  In the absence of
        knowledge about why a packet was dropped (congestion or
        corruption), TCP must assume the drop was due to network
        congestion to avoid congestion collapse [FF98].  Therefore,
        packets dropped due to corruption cause TCP to reduce the size
        of its sliding window, even though these packet drops do not
        signal congestion in the network.

    Asymmetric use

        Due to the expense of the equipment used to send data to
        satellites, asymmetric satellite networks are often constructed.
        For example, a host connected to a satellite network will send
        all outgoing traffic over a slow terrestrial link (such as a
        dialup modem channel) and receive incoming traffic via the
        satellite channel.  Another common situation arises when both
        the incoming and outgoing traffic are sent using a satellite
        link, but the uplink has less available capacity than the
        downlink.  This asymmetry can have an impact on TCP performance.

    Variable Round Trip Times

        In some satellite environments, such as low-Earth orbit (LEO)
        constellations, the propagation delay to and from the satellite

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        varies over time.  This can have a negative impact on TCP's
        ability to accurately set retransmission timeouts and determine
        the appropriate window size.

    Intermittent connectivity

        In non-GSO satellite orbit configurations, TCP connections must
        be transferred from one satellite to another or from one ground
        station to another from time to time.  This handoff can cause
        packet loss.

    Most satellite channels only exhibit a subset of the above
    characteristics.  Furthermore, satellite networks are not the only
    environments where the above characteristics are found.  However,
    satellite networks do tend to exhibit more of the above problems or
    the above problems are aggravated in the satellite environment.  The
    mechanisms outlined in this document should benefit most networks,
    especially those with one or more of the above characteristics.

3.  Lower Level Mitigations

    It is recommended that those utilizing satellite channels in their
    networks should use the following two non-TCP mechanisms which can
    increase TCP performance.  These mechanisms are Path MTU Discovery
    and forward error correction (FEC) and are outlined in the following
    two sections.

    The data link layer protocol employed over a satellite channel can
    have a large impact on performance of higher layer protocols.  While
    beyond the scope of this document, those constructing satellite
    networks should tune these protocols in an appropriate manner to
    ensure that the data link protocol does not limit TCP performance.
    In particular, data link layer protocols often implement a flow
    control window and retransmission mechanisms.  When the link level
    window size is too small, performance will suffer just as when the
    TCP window size is too small (see section 4.3 for a discussion of
    appropriate window sizes).  The impact link level retransmissions
    have on TCP transfers is not currently well understood.  The
    interaction between TCP retransmissions and link level
    retransmissions is a subject for further research.

3.1 Path MTU Discovery

    Path MTU discovery [MD90] is used to determine the maximum packet
    size a connection can use on a given network path without being
    subjected to IP packet fragmentation.  The sender transmits a packet
    that is the appropriate size for the local network to which it is
    connected (e.g., 1500 bytes on an Ethernet) and sets the IP "don't
    fragment" (DF) bit.  If the packet is too large to be forwarded
    without being fragmented to a given channel along the network path,
    the gateway that would normally fragment the packet and forward the
    fragments will return an ICMP message to the originator of the
    packet.  The ICMP message will indicate that the original segment
    could not be transmitted without being fragmented and will also

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    contain the size of the largest packet that can be forwarded by the
    gateway.  Additional information from the IESG on Path MTU discovery
    is available in [Kno93].

    Path MTU Discovery allows TCP to use the largest possible packet
    size, without incurring the cost of fragmentation and reassembly.
    Large packets reduce the packet overhead by sending more data bytes
    per overhead byte.  As outlined in section 4, increasing TCP's
    congestion window is segment based, rather than byte based and
    therefore, larger segments enable TCP senders to increase the
    congestion window more rapidly than smaller segments.

    The disadvantage of Path MTU Discovery is that it may cause a long
    pause before TCP is able to start sending data.  For example, assume
    a packet is sent with the DF bit set and one of the intervening
    gateways (G1) returns an ICMP message indicating that it cannot
    forward the segment.  At this point, the sending host reduces the
    packet size per the ICMP message returned by G1 and sends another
    packet with the DF bit set.  The packet will be forwarded by G1,
    however this does not ensure all subsequent gateways in the network
    path will be able to forward the segment.  If a second gateway (G2)
    cannot forward the segment it will return an ICMP message to the
    transmitting host and the process will be repeated.  Therefore, path
    MTU discovery can waste a large amount of time determining the
    maximum allowable packet size on the network path between the sender
    and receiver.  Satellite delays can aggravate this problem (consider
    the case when the channel between G1 and G2 is a satellite link).
    However, in practice, Path MTU Discovery does not consume a large
    amount of time due to wide support of common MTU values.

    The relationship between BER and segment size is likely to vary
    depending on the error characteristics of the given channel.  This
    relationship deserves further study, however with the use of good
    forward error correction (see section 3.2) larger segments should
    provide better performance in most cases and therefore Path MTU
    Discovery is recommended.

    Choosing the maximum packet size to be used on the satellite link
    should be based on the characteristics of the channels and the
    amount and type of forward error correction employed.  The exact
    method of choosing the satellite link's MTU is outside the scope of
    this document.  However, it is recommended that TCP use the largest
    MTU possible on a given network path.

3.2 Forward Error Correction

    A loss event in TCP is always interpreted as an indication of
    congestion and always causes TCP to reduce its window size.  Since
    window growth is based on returning acknowledgments (see section 4),
    TCP spends a long time recovering from loss when operating in
    satellite networks.  When packet loss is due to corruption, rather
    than congestion, TCP does not need to reduce its window size.
    However, at the present time there is no accepted method for
    detecting corruption loss.

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    Therefore, for TCP to operate efficiently, the channel
    characteristics should be such that nearly all loss is due to
    network congestion.  The use of forward error correction coding
    (FEC) on a satellite link should be used to improve the bit-error
    rate (BER) of the satellite channel.  Reducing the BER is not always
    possible in satellite environments.  However, since TCP takes a long
    time to recover from lost packets because the long propagation delay
    imposed by a satellite link delays feedback from the receiver
    [PS97] the link should be made as clean as possible to prevent TCP
    connections from receiving false congestion signals.

    FEC should not be expected to fix all problems associated with noisy
    satellite links.  There are some situations where FEC cannot be
    expected to solve the noise problem (such as military jamming, deep
    space missions, noise caused by rain fade, etc.).  In addition, link
    outages can also cause problems in satellite systems that do not
    occur as frequently in terrestrial networks.  Furthermore, TCP has
    an end-to-end feedback loop; therefore, noise in other parts of a
    high delay connection will cause problems even if the satellite link
    portion is error-free.  Finally, FEC is not without cost.  FEC
    requires additional hardware and uses some of the available
    bandwidth.  It can add delay and timing jitter due to the processing
    time of the coder/decoder.

    Further research is needed into mechanisms that allows TCP to
    differentiate between congestion induced drops and those caused by
    corruption.  Such a mechanism would allow TCP to respond to
    congestion in an appropriate manner, as well as repairing corruption
    induced loss without reducing the transmission rate.  However, in
    the absence of such a mechanism packet loss must be assumed to
    indicate congestion to preserve network stability.  Incorrectly
    interpreting loss as caused by corruption and not reducing the
    transmission rate accordingly can lead to congestive collapse

4.  Standard TCP Mechanisms

    This section includes an outline of the mechanisms that may be
    necessary in satellite or hybrid satellite/terrestrial networks to
    better utilize the available capacity of the link.  These mechanisms
    may also be needed to fully utilize fast terrestrial channels.
    Furthermore, these mechanisms do not fundamentally hurt performance
    in a shared terrestrial network.  Each of the following sections
    outlines one mechanism and why that mechanism may be needed.

4.1 Congestion Control

    To avoid generating an inappropriate amount of network traffic for
    the current network conditions, during a connection, TCP employs
    four congestion control mechanisms [JK88] [Jac90] [Ste97].  These
    algorithms are slow start, congestion avoidance, fast retransmit and
    fast recovery.  These algorithms are used to adjust the amount of

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    unacknowledged data that can be injected into the network and to
    retransmit segments dropped by the network.

    TCP uses two variables to accomplish congestion control.  The first
    variable is the congestion window (cwnd).  This is an upper bound on
    the amount of data the sender can inject into the network before
    receiving an acknowledgment (ACK).  The value of cwnd is limited to
    the receiver's advertised window.  The congestion window is
    increased or decreased during the transfer based on the inferred
    amount of congestion present in the network.  The second variable is
    the slow start threshold (ssthresh).  This variable determines which
    algorithm is being used to increase the value of cwnd.  If cwnd is
    less than ssthresh the slow start algorithm is used to increase the
    value of cwnd.  However, if cwnd is greater than or equal to
    ssthresh the congestion avoidance algorithm is used.  The initial
    value of ssthresh is the receiver's advertised window size.
    Furthermore, the value of ssthresh is reduced when congestion is

    The four congestion control algorithms are outlined below, followed
    by a brief discussion of the impact of satellite environments on
    these algorithms.

4.1.1 Slow Start and Congestion Avoidance

    When a host begins sending data on a TCP connection the host has no
    knowledge of the current state of the network between itself and the
    data receiver.  In order to avoid transmitting an inappropriately
    large burst of traffic, the data sender is required to use the slow
    start algorithm at the beginning of a transfer [JK88] [Bra89]
    [Ste97].  Slow start begins by initializing cwnd to 1 segment.  This
    forces TCP to transmit one segment and wait for the corresponding
    ACK.  For each ACK that is received, the value of cwnd is increased
    by 1 segment.  For example, after the first ACK is received cwnd
    will be 2 segments and the sender will be allowed to transmit 2 data
    packets.  This continues until cwnd meets or exceeds ssthresh, or
    loss is detected.

    When the value of cwnd is greater than or equal to ssthresh the
    congestion avoidance algorithm is used to increase cwnd [JK88]
    [Bra89] [Ste97].  This algorithm increases the size of cwnd more
    slowly than does slow start.  Congestion avoidance is used to probe
    the network for any additional capacity.  During congestion
    avoidance, cwnd is increased by 1/cwnd for each incoming ACK.
    Therefore, if one ACK is received for every data segment, cwnd will
    increase by 1 segment per round-trip time (RTT).

    The slow start and congestion control algorithms can force poor
    utilization of the available channel bandwidth when using long-delay
    satellite networks [All97].  For example, transmission begins with
    the transmission of one segment.  After the first segment is
    transmitted the data sender is forced to wait for the corresponding
    ACK.  When using a GSO satellite this leads to an idle time of
    roughly 500 ms when no useful work is being accomplished.

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    Therefore, slow start takes more real time over GSO satellites than
    on typical terrestrial channels.  This holds for congestion
    avoidance, as well [All97].  This is precisely why Path MTU
    Discovery is an important algorithm.  While the number of segments
    we transmit is determined by the congestion control algorithms, the
    size of these segments is not.  Therefore, using larger packets will
    enable TCP to send more data per segment which yields better channel

4.1.2 Fast Retransmit and Fast Recovery

    TCP's default mechanism to detect dropped segments is a timeout
    [Pos81].  In other words, if the sender does not receive an ACK for
    a given packet within the expected amount of time the segment will
    be retransmitted.  The retransmission timeout (RTO) is based on
    observations of the RTT.  In addition to retransmitting a segment
    when the RTO expires, TCP also uses the lost segment as an
    indication of congestion in the network.  In response to the
    congestion, the value of ssthresh is set to half of the cwnd and the
    value of cwnd is then reduced to 1 segment.  This triggers the use
    of the slow start algorithm to increase cwnd until the value of cwnd
    reaches half of its value when congestion was detected.  After the
    slow start phase, the congestion avoidance algorithm is used to
    probe the network for additional capacity.

    TCP ACKs always acknowledge the highest in-order segment that has
    arrived.  Therefore an ACK for segment X also effectively ACKs all
    segments < X.  Furthermore, if a segment arrives out-of-order the
    ACK triggered will be for the highest in-order segment, rather than
    the segment that just arrived.  For example, assume segment 11 has
    been dropped somewhere in the network and segment 12 arrives at the
    receiver.  The receiver is going to send a duplicate ACK covering
    segment 10 (and all previous segments).

    The fast retransmit algorithm uses these duplicate ACKs to detect
    lost segments.  If 3 duplicate ACKs arrive at the data originator,
    TCP assumes that a segment has been lost and retransmits the missing
    segment without waiting for the RTO to expire.  After a segment is
    resent using fast retransmit, the fast recovery algorithm is used to
    adjust the congestion window.  First, the value of ssthresh is set
    to half of the value of cwnd.  Next, the value of cwnd is halved.
    Finally, the value of cwnd is artificially increased by 1 segment
    for each duplicate ACK that has arrived.  The artificial inflation
    can be done because each duplicate ACK represents 1 segment that has
    left the network.  When the cwnd permits, TCP is able to transmit
    new data.  This allows TCP to keep data flowing through the network
    at half the rate it was when loss was detected.  When an ACK for the
    retransmitted packet arrives, the value of cwnd is reduced back to
    ssthresh (half the value of cwnd when the congestion was detected).

    Fast retransmit can resend only one segment per window of data sent.
    When multiple segments are lost in a given window of data, one of
    the segments will be resent using fast retransmit and the rest of

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    the dropped segments must wait for the RTO to expire, which causes
    TCP to revert to slow start.

    TCP's response to congestion differs based on the way the congestion
    was detected.  If the retransmission timer causes a packet to be
    resent, TCP drops ssthresh to half the current cwnd and reduces the
    value of cwnd to 1 segment (thus triggering slow start).  However,
    if a segment is resent via fast retransmit both ssthresh and cwnd
    are set to half the current value of cwnd and congestion avoidance
    is used to send new data.  The difference is that when
    retransmitting due to duplicate ACKs, TCP knows that packets are
    still flowing through the network and can therefore infer that the
    congestion is not that bad.  However, when resending a packet due to
    the expiration of the retransmission timer, TCP cannot infer
    anything about the state of the network and therefore must proceed
    conservatively by sending new data using the slow start algorithm.

4.1.3 Congestion Control in Satellite Environment

    The above algorithms have a negative impact on the performance of
    individual TCP connection's performance because the algorithms
    slowly probe the network for addition capacity, which in turn wastes
    bandwidth.  This is especially true over long-delay satellite
    channels because of the large amount of time required for the sender
    to obtain feedback from the receiver [All97] [AHKO97].  However, the
    algorithms are necessary to prevent congestive collapse in a shared
    network [JK88].  Therefore, the negative impact on a given
    connection is more than offset by the benefit to the entire network.

4.2 Large TCP Windows

    The standard TCP window size (65,535 bytes) is not adequate to allow
    a single TCP connection to utilize the entire bandwidth available on
    some satellite channels.  TCP throughput is limited by the following
    formula [Pos81]:

        throughput = window size / RTT

    Therefore, using the maximum window size of 65,535 bytes and a
    geosynchronous satellite channel RTT of 560 ms [Kru95] the maximum
    throughput is limited to:

        throughput = 65,535 bytes / 560 ms = 117,027 bytes/second

    Therefore, a single standard TCP connection cannot fully utilize,
    for example, T1 rate (approximately 192,000 bytes/second) GSO
    satellite channels.  However, TCP has been extended to support
    larger windows [JBB92].  The window scaling options outlined in
    [JBB92] should be used in satellite environments, as well as the
    companion algorithms PAWS (Protection Against Wrapped Sequence
    space) and RTTM (Round-Trip Time Measurements).

    It should be noted that for a satellite link shared among many
    flows, large windows may not be necessary.  For instance, two

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    long-lived TCP connections each using a window of 65,535 bytes, as
    in the above example, can fully utilize a T1 GSO satellite channel.

    Using large windows requires applications or TCP stacks to be hand
    tuned (usually by an expert) to utilize large windows.  Research
    into operating system mechanisms that are able to adjust the buffer
    capacity as needed is currently underway [SMM98].  This will better
    allow stock TCP implementations and applications to better utilize
    the capacity provided by the underlying network.

4.3 Selective Acknowledgments

    Selective acknowledgments (SACKs) [MMFR96] allow TCP receivers to
    inform TCP senders exactly which packets have arrived.  SACKs allow
    TCP to recover more quickly from lost segments, as well as avoiding
    needless retransmissions.

    The fast retransmit algorithm can generally only repair one loss per
    window of data.  When multiple losses occur, the sender generally
    must rely on a timeout to determine which segment needs to be
    retransmitted next.  While waiting for a timeout, the data segments
    and their acknowledgments drain from the network.  In the absence of
    incoming ACKs to clock new segments into the network, the sender
    must use the slow start algorithm to restart transmission.  As
    discussed above, the slow start algorithm can be time consuming over
    satellite channels.  When SACKs are employed, the sender is
    generally able to determine which segments need to be retransmitted
    in the first RTT following loss detection.  This allows the sender
    to continue to transmit segments (retransmissions and new segments,
    if appropriate) at an appropriate rate and therefore sustain the ACK
    clock.  This avoids a costly slow start period following multiple
    lost segments.  Generally SACK is able to retransmit all dropped
    segments within the first RTT following the loss detection.  [MM96]
    and [FF96] discuss specific congestion control algorithms that rely
    on SACK information to determine which segments need to be
    retransmitted and when it is appropriate to transmit those segments.
    Both these algorithms follow the basic principles of congestion
    control outlined in [JK88] and reduce the window by half when
    congestion is detected.

    TCP senders that do not use SACKs must infer which segments have not
    arrived and retransmit accordingly.  This can lead to unnecessary
    retransmissions, in the case when the sender infers incorrectly.
    When utilizing SACKs, the sender does not need to guess which
    segments have not arrived, thus eliminating the majority of
    unnecessary retransmissions.  Furthermore, when SACKs are used, the
    sender gets information about which segments need to be
    retransmitted more rapidly (within the first RTT following the loss)
    than without SACKs.

    Some satellite channels require the use of large TCP windows to
    fully utilize the available capacity, as discussed above.  With the
    use of large windows, the likelihood of losing multiple segments in
    a given window of data increases (either due to congestion or

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    corruption).  When multiple segments are lost, SACKs will ensure the
    data sender retransmits only those segments that were dropped and
    not those that arrived at the receiver.  Furthermore, the
    retransmission of these segments will happen more quickly than
    relying on a timeout.

5.  Mitigation Summary

    Table 1 summarizes the mechanisms that have been discussed in this
    document.  Those mechanisms denoted "Recommended" are IETF standards
    track mechanisms that are recommended by the authors for use in
    networks containing satellite channels.  Those mechanisms marked
    "Required" have been defined by the IETF as required for hosts using
    the shared Internet [Bra89].  Along with the section of this
    document containing the discussion of each mechanism, we note where
    the mechanism needs to be implemented.  The codes listed in the last
    column are defined as follows: ``S'' for the data sender, ``R'' for
    the data receiver and ``L'' for the satellite link.

      Mechanism                 Use          Section      Where
     | Path-MTU Discovery     | Recommended | 3.1        | S      |
     | FEC                    | Recommended | 3.2        | L      |
     | TCP Congestion Control |             |            |        |
     |   Slow Start           | Required    | 4.1.1      | S      |
     |   Congestion Avoidance | Required    | 4.1.1      | S      |
     |   Fast Retransmit      | Recommended | 4.1.2      | S      |
     |   Fast Recovery        | Recommended | 4.1.2      | S      |
     | TCP Large Windows      |             |            |        |
     |   Window Scaling       | Recommended | 4.2        | S,R    |
     |   PAWS                 | Recommended | 4.2        | S,R    |
     |   RTTM                 | Recommended | 4.2        | S,R    |
     | TCP SACKs              | Recommended | 4.3        | S,R    |
                                Table 1

    Satellite users should check with their TCP vendors (implementors)
    to ensure the recommended mechanisms are supported in their stack in
    current and/or future versions.  Alternatively, the Pittsburgh
    Supercomputer Center tracks TCP implementations and which extensions
    they support, as well as providing guidance on tuning various TCP
    implementations [PSC].

    Research into improving the efficiency of TCP over satellite
    channels is ongoing and will be summarized in a planned memo along
    with other considerations, such as satellite network architectures.

6.  Security Considerations

    The authors believe that the recommendations contained in this memo
    do not alter the security implications of TCP.  However, when using
    a broadcast medium such as satellites links to transfer user data
    and/or network control traffic, one should be aware of the intrinsic
    security implications of such technology.

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    Eavesdropping on network links is a form of passive attack that, if
    performed successfully, could reveal critical traffic control
    information that would jeopardize the proper functioning of the
    network.  These attacks could reduce the ability of the network to
    provide data transmission services efficiently.  Eavesdroppers could
    also compromise the privacy of user data, especially if end to end
    security mechanisms are not in use.  While passive monitoring can
    occur on any network, the wireless broadcast nature of satellite
    links allows reception of signals without physical connection to the
    network which enables monitoring to be conducted without detection.
    However, it should be noted that the resources needed to monitor a
    satellite link are non-trivial.

    Data encryption at the physical and/or link layers can provide
    secure communication over satellite channels.  However, this still
    leaves traffic vulnerable to eavesdropping on networks before and
    after traversing the satellite link.  Therefore, end-to-end security
    mechanisms should be considered.  This document does not make any
    recommendations as to which security mechanisms should be employed.
    However, those operating and using satellite networks should survey
    the currently available network security mechanisms and choose those
    that meet their security requirements.


    This document has benefited from comments from the members of the
    TCP Over Satellite Working Group.  In particular, we would like to
    thank Aaron Falk, Matthew Halsey, Hans Kruse, Matt Mathis, Greg
    Nakanishi, Jeff Semke, Bill Sepmeier and Eric Travis for their
    useful comments about this document.  Finally, we are indebted to
    Luis Sanchez for providing much needed guidance on security section.


    [AHKO97] Mark Allman, Chris Hayes, Hans Kruse, and Shawn Ostermann.
        TCP Performance Over Satellite Links.  In Proceedings of the 5th
        International Conference on Telecommunication Systems, March

    [All97] Mark Allman.  Improving TCP Performance Over Satellite
        Channels.  Master's thesis, Ohio University, June 1997.

    [Bra89] Robert Braden.  Requirements for Internet Hosts --
        Communication Layers, October 1989.  RFC 1122.

    [FF96] Kevin Fall and Sally Floyd.  Simulation-based Comparisons of
        Tahoe, Reno and SACK TCP.  Computer Communication Review, July

    [FF98] Sally Floyd, Kevin Fall.  Promoting the Use of End-to-End
        Congestion Control in the Internet.  Submitted to IEEE
        Transactions on Networking.

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    [Jac90] Van Jacobson.  Modified TCP Congestion Avoidance Algorithm.
        Technical Report, LBL, April 1990.

    [JBB92] Van Jacobson, Robert Braden, and David Borman.  TCP
        Extensions for High Performance, May 1992.  RFC 1323.

    [JK88] Van Jacobson and Michael Karels.  Congestion Avoidance and
        Control.  In ACM SIGCOMM, 1988.

    [Kno93] Steve Knowles.  IESG Advice from Experience with Path MTU
        Discovery, March 1993.  RFC 1435.

    [Mar78] James Martin.  Communications Satellite Systems.  Prentice
        Hall, 1978.

    [MD90] Jeff Mogul and Steve Deering.  Path MTU Discovery, November
        1990.  RFC 1191.

    [MM96] Matt Mathis and Jamshid Mahdavi.  Forward Acknowledgment:
        Refining TCP Congestion Control.  In ACM SIGCOMM, 1996.

    [MMFR96] Matt Mathis, Jamshid Mahdavi, Sally Floyd, and Allyn
        Romanow.  TCP Selective Acknowledgment Options, October 1996.
        RFC 2018.

    [Pos81] Jon Postel.  Transmission Control Protocol, September 1981.
        RFC 793.

    [PS97] Craig Partridge and Tim Shepard.  TCP Performance Over
        Satellite Links.  IEEE Network, 11(5), September/October 1997.

    [PSC] Jamshid Mahdavi.  Enabling High Performance Data Transfers on
        Hosts.  http://www.psc.edu/networking/perf_tune.html.

    [SMM98] Jeff Semke, Jamshid Mahdavi and Matt Mathis.  Automatic TCP
        Buffer Tuning.  In ACM SIGCOMM, August 1998.  To appear.

    [Sta94] William Stallings.  Data and Computer Communications.
        MacMillian, 4th edition, 1994.

    [Ste97] W. Richard Stevens.  TCP Slow Start, Congestion Avoidance,
        Fast Retransmit, and Fast Recovery Algorithms, January 1997.
        RFC 2001.

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Author's Addresses:

    Mark Allman
    NASA Lewis Research Center/Sterling Software
    21000 Brookpark Rd.  MS 54-2
    Cleveland, OH  44135

    Dan Glover
    NASA Lewis Research Center
    21000 Brookpark Rd.  MS 54-2
    Cleveland, OH  44135

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