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Wireless communication medium

Medium properties

  • Unreliable
    • Disconnectable communication
    • Packet loss
  • Latency
    • One-Way or Round Trip Time (RTT)
  • Low data transfer rates
  • Varying cost of communication
    • Location/ technology
  • Extent of problems depends on utilised technology

Disconnected communication

  • Connection between devices is lost
  • Causes are:
    • Blocking elements - tunnel, buildings, magnetic fields
    • Gap /void in coverage area
  • Problems
    • Did the action get through
      • Was the entire transaction successful
      • Is the customer/client aware?
    • What messages were lost?
    • Two hill army/generals problem
    • What happens when the connection is re-established?
      • State of interuption stored

Disconnected communication ...

Mobility management

  • Seamless connectivity
  • Vertical handoff - seameless connectivity with different technos
  • Automatic failover from one medium to another to maintain connectivity

How does client/server application react?

  • Can we affect the behaviour of both applications?
  • How long to wait?

Packet loss

Missing packets

  • Really short term disconnection


  • Interferences
  • Congested medium - E.g. too many users of same frequency in small area


  • Similar to disconnected communication to some degree
  • Audio-Video stream heavily affected

Buffers could reduce/eliminate the problem

Handling packet loss & disconnected communications


  • Non-blocking communications
    • Threading
    • Loss of network should not interrupt/deter writting email
  • Use protocols that handle the problem for you

Handling packet loss & disconnected communications ...

  • Let the user know is going on - Enlighten
  • Allow user to react
    • Thus can move to area with better coverage
  • Not knowing why application has delays → users frustrations
  • Frustration causes extreme measure
    • Repeated push of send button
    • Restart application
    • Reboot the device
  • The environment (e.g. device capabilities) may reduce the options
  • Anticipate connection loss at any time in your design phase!


  • Delays between sending & receiving
    • Round trip time (RTT) between sending & getting response
  • What affects latency
    • Distance
    • Amounts of hops
  • What affects on RTT
    • Number of users on same base station (AP)
    • Processing of messages
    • Application latency
  • Problems
    • Communication delays
    • Slow start on applications

Latency remedies

  • Say No! to chatty protocols
    • E.g. HTTP 1.0 vs WTP
  • Avoid unnecesary waits for ACKs and other responses
  • Remedies used for packet loss & intertuptions also help on latency issues

Small data transfer rate & bandwidth

  • Transmission rates vary a lot between technologies
  • Causes communication delays
  • Remedies
    • Minimise headers
    • Avoid unnecessary meta-data
      • Predetermined fields vs XML based notations
    • Use compression

Price of use

  • 3rd party networks
    • Charge service provider
    • Charge network user
    • Cost may vary depending on location
  • Different models of charging on communication by 3rd parties
    • Time based
    • Data transmission based
    • Flat fee per connection
    • Flat fee per message (SMS)
  • Recall creating your own infrastructure for a service is not free either

Good wireless application design

  • Optimising
  • Minimise
    • Battery use
    • Communication (overhead)
    • Amount of transmitted packets
    • External costs
  • Maximise
    • Speed of application
    • User experience

Good wireless application design ...

  • Best solution depends on platform & medium used
    • Which platform & mediums should be taken into account
    • Robust design
      • Can cope with problems of different possible communication mediums
    • Should data be compressed at mobile device before sending?
      • How will it take to compress?
      • How long will it take to transmit non-compressed data?

Good wireless application design ...

  • Strive to reduce overheads
    • One connection vs. multiple connections
    • Send only required data
      • E.g. synchronisation - only data that has changed
      • Use cache
    • Smaller packets have higher overhead
      • Each packet has some headers
      • Bigger packets means bigger retransmission on error condition

Good wireless application design ...

  • Efficient use of buffers
    • Place to store data while waiting for application to handled it
      • Small device CPU need more time to process data than desktop PCs
    • Packets ought be received even if application is not ready to use them
    • Decide who handles retransmissions
    • Custom make protocols E.g. Air link, transmission protocol, our application,..
    • Are retransmissions required?

Good wireless application design ...

  • User's perception of the application
    • For small devices reducing the quality of picture is not perceivable
      • Faster transmission time appreciated
    • Give user control - (Empower)
      • On-line/Off-line modes
      • When to stop trying retransmissions
    • Provide the information about the current state

Good wireless application design ...

  • Use existing protocol layers suited best for you & work the rest yourself
    • Use of standard protocols provides inter-operability
    • Use of existing protocols → reduce amount of coding
    • Existing protocols may cause unnecessary overhead
      • E.g Web services
    • Existing protocols may not be optimised for your services
      • Find the best compromise for your needs between work & efficiency

Case: TCP/IP on wireless

  • IP
    • Connectionless protocol
    • Transports packets through several nodes to the destination
      • Is it needed when we have direct point-to-point connection between two devices?
    • IP v4 → insufficient address for entire mobile world (32bits → 4.3×10^9 = 4.3 Billion )
    • Mobility & handover are problems for IP
      • Mobile IP → mobility management course

Case: TCP/IP on wireless ...

  • TCP
    • High latency is a problem
    • Wireless RTT can be seconds
    • Initial re-transmission time-out (IRTO)
      • Many Internet servers demand this to in hundred of milliseconds
      • IETF recommends 3 seconds
    • Provides reliable transmission between two applications
      • Lost packets detected by time-outs & acknowledgements (ACKS)
      • Causes end-to-end retransmissions instead of just retransmission over 1 link
        • Lower layer may assist on this
    • High latency requires higher time-outs

Case: TCP/IP on wireless ...

  • TCP …
    • Flow control & congestion
      • Lost packet is a sign of congestion
        • In wireless lost packets are more common & not neccesarily signs of congestion
      • Retransmission & congestion control activated
      • Slow start
        • Sending window is extended slowly when packets get through
    • Openning a session requires 3 messages
      • Size of transmission window reduced
        • Slow start started again
      • TCP reduces the transmission speed → smaller packets → more overhead

Next lecture

  • TODO
    1. Summarise mechanisms used to evaluate wireless services
      • Read few articles (ACM, IEEE, Springer etc)
      • 1 page summary (table/diagram/tree etc)
      • List proper references at bottom
      • Bring it to next lecture
  • Personal Area Networks (PAN)
Last modified: 2013/07/01 14:42