If you live in an area where your Internet connection suffers from lost packets or your mobile phone sounds horrible and has trouble streaming data, you have hope. A new breakthrough in how the Internet and digital transmissions handle lost packets may improve your life.
This breakthrough is all about how lost packets are handled. Think of the Internet as a pneumatic tube, like at some banks’ drive through services. Those with the clear tubes and cylindrical carriers you put your check and ID in to send to the teller and they return cash to you in them. Internet packets are like the carriers. But think of all the tubes coming from the drive ups you use into a single tube. If your carrier bumps into another it jams in the tube. In the digital world it sort of magically returns to the starting point.
A traffic controller in your network card and system handles those collisions. It uses a mathematical algorithm to decide when to send the packet/carrier on its way again. The idea is to prevent packets from various computers and devices from being sent at the same time. It is inefficient and slows things down.
Plus, if somewhere along the way a carrier falls out of the tube, the system has to realize that happened. So, you sit waiting for your money to come back. Eventually you hit the resend button and send a duplicate packet on its way. This resend is handled by your network card and system in the digital world. You don’t have to do anything. The system waits for acknowledgement that the sent packet got there. If not there is no acknowledgement and your system resends.
There is a bunch of talking among all the devices between you and your packet’s destination. When a packet is lost lots of additional chatter starts up as the devices try to find it or decide who has a copy to resend. Chatter means more packets/carriers trying to get into the tube. More collisions occur and more packets have to be resent. It cascades into a real mess. Of course there is technology to reduce problems but the basic idea is inefficient.
The new technology will use a type of error correction. Instead of just putting your information in the packet/carrier a type of cyclic redundancy check is included. If a packet is lost, the receiver can reconstruct what was in it from the previous and following packets. It does not have to ask for a resend and that reduces the packets on the network… carriers in the tubes.
The math for similar correction systems is well known and simple enough to place very little load on the devices using it. So, it is ideal for mobile phones.
The amount of improvement in throughput with the new tech is an order of magnitude. That is huge. Some call it a break through. Whatever it is, it is a big step forward in data transmission.
We have been heading toward network saturation, the limit of data a network can carry. Cisco system expects mobile data traffic to grow by 1,800% and Bell Labs thinks 2,500%. At those rates we are about 2 years away from total mobile network saturation. This tech greatly increase capacity and extends the date we will reach network saturation and no place to grow into.
This technology will definitely improve things and avoid problems from coming from spectrum crunch, which is just filling up the mobile network channels. Think of those pneumatic tubes and TV channels. Each tube is like a TV channel on a specific radio frequency. Mobile networks run on multiple channels. The ‘spectrum’ is the range of channels/tubes available. As each network/tube fills up, saturates, a new channel is brought on at a specific radio frequency. We are running out of usable frequencies/tubes to use/add.
With land lines we can add a new fiber cable. So, the capacity is highly extensible. With mobile transmission we only have one radio frequency medium, the atmosphere. We have so many broadcast communications we are running out of frequencies for various uses; fire, police, EMS, military, satellite broadcast, and now mobile devices. So, this new improvement to network efficiency is important.
While this technology won’t help much with physical fiber channels that are all ready reliable and have little packet loss, it will help once the packets reach the mobile access points. Plus, it will improve throughput on weak and overloaded wire and fiber networks with packet loss. I suppose for Second Life users this will eventually make wireless and poor connections more reliable and improve throughput.
You can expect to see this technology built into home and business routers in 2 to 3 years… so much for instant gratification.