TCP in wireless environments: Problems and solutions

Ye Tian, Kai Xu, Nirwan Ansari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

258 Scopus citations


The Internet provides a platform for rapid and timely information exchange among a disparate array of clients and server. TCP and IP are separately designed and closely tied protocols that define the rues of communication between end hosts, and are the most commonly used protocol suite for data transfer in the Internet. The combination of TCP/IP dominates today's communication in various networks from the wired backbone to the heterogeneous network due to its remarkable simplicity and reliability. TCP has become the de facto standard used in most applications ranging from interactive sessions such as Telnet and HTTP, to bulk data transfer like FTP. TCP was originally designed primarily for wired networks. In a wired network, random bit error rate, a characteristic usually more pronounced in the wireless network, is negligible, and congestion is the main cause of packet loss. The emerging wireless applications, especially high-speed multimedia services and the advent of wireless IP communications carried by the Internet, call for calibration and sophisticated enhancement or modifications of this protocol suite for improved performance. Based on the assumption that packet losses are signals of network congestion, the additive increase multiplicative decrease congestion control of the standard TCP protocol reaches the steady state, which reflects the protocol's efficiency in terms of throughput and link utilization. However, this assumption does not hold when the end-to-end path also includes wireless links. Factors such as high BER, unstable channel characteristics, and user mobility may all contribute to packet losses. Many studies have shown that the unmodified standard TCP performs poorly in a wireless environment due to its inability to distinguish packet losses caused by network congestion from those attributed to transmission errors. In this article, following a brief introduction to TCP, we analyze the problems TCP exhibits in the wireless IP communication environment, and illustrate viable solutions by detailed examples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S27-S32
JournalIEEE Communications Magazine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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