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The second figure illustrates how the hosts handle the loss of one control frame.
The Alternating Bit Protocol can recover from transmission errors and frame losses. However, it has one important drawback. Consider two hosts that are directly connected by a 50 Kbits/sec satellite link that has a 250 milliseconds propagation delay. If these hosts send 1000 bits frames, then the maximum throughput that can be achieved by the alternating bit protocol is one frame every :math:`20+250+250=520` milliseconds if we ignore the transmission time of the acknowledgment. This is less than 2 Kbits/sec !
Go-back-n and selective repeat
To overcome the performance limitations of the alternating bit protocol, reliable protocols rely on `pipelining`. This technique allows a sender to transmit several consecutive frames without being forced to wait for an acknowledgment after each frame. Each data frame contains a sequence number encoded as an `n` bits field.
Pipelining improves the performance of reliable protocols
`Pipelining` allows the sender to transmit frames at a higher rate. However this higher transmission rate may overload the receiver. In this case, the frames sent by the sender will not be correctly received by their final destination. The reliable protocols that rely on pipelining allow the sender to transmit `W` unacknowledged frames before being forced to wait for an acknowledgment from the receiving entity.
This is implemented by using a `sliding window`. The sliding window is the set of consecutive sequence numbers that the sender can use when transmitting frames without being forced to wait for an acknowledgment. The figure below shows a sliding window containing five frames (`6,7,8,9` and `10`). Two of these sequence numbers (`6` and `7`) have been used to send frames and only three sequence numbers (`8`, `9` and `10`) remain in the sliding window. The sliding window is said to be closed once all sequence numbers contained in the sliding window have been used.
The sliding window
The figure below illustrates the operation of the sliding window. It uses a sliding window of three frames. The sender can thus transmit three frames before being forced to wait for an acknowledgment. The sliding window moves to the higher sequence numbers upon the reception of each acknowledgment. When the first acknowledgment (`OK0`) is received, it enables the sender to move its sliding window to the right and sequence number `3` becomes available. This sequence number is used later to transmit the frame containing `d`.
Sliding window example
In practice, as the frame header includes an `n` bits field to encode the sequence number, only the sequence numbers between :math:`0` and :math:`2^{n}-1` can be used. This implies that, during a long transfer, the same sequence number will be used for different frames and the sliding window will wrap. This is illustrated in the figure below assuming that `2` bits are used to encode the sequence number in the frame header. Note that upon reception of `OK1`, the sender slides its window and can use sequence number `0` again.
Utilisation of the sliding window with modulo arithmetic
Unfortunately, frame losses do not disappear because a reliable protocol uses a sliding window. To recover from losses, a sliding window protocol must define :
a heuristic to detect frame losses
a `retransmission strategy` to retransmit the lost frames
The simplest sliding window protocol uses the `go-back-n` recovery. Intuitively, `go-back-n` operates as follows. A `go-back-n` receiver is as simple as possible. It only accepts the frames that arrive in-sequence. A `go-back-n` receiver discards any out-of-sequence frame that it receives. When `go-back-n` receives a data frame, it always returns an acknowledgment containing the sequence number of the last in-sequence frame that it has received. This acknowledgment is said to be `cumulative`. When a `go-back-n` receiver sends an acknowledgment for sequence number `x`, it implicitly acknowledges the reception of all frames whose sequence number is earlier than `x`. A key advantage of these cumulative acknowledgments is that it is easy to recover from the loss of an acknowledgment. Consider for example a `go-back-n` receiver that received frames `1`, `2` and `3`. It sent `OK1`, `OK2` and `OK3`. Unfortunately, `OK1` and `OK2` were lost. Thanks to the cumulative acknowledgments, when the sender receives `OK3`, it knows that all three frames have been correctly received.
The figure below shows the FSM of a simple `go-back-n` receiver. This receiver uses two variables : `lastack` and `next`. `next` is the next expected sequence number and `lastack` the sequence number of the last data frame that has been acknowledged. The receiver only accepts the frame that are received in sequence. `maxseq` is the number of different sequence numbers (:math:`2^n`).
A `go-back-n` sender is also very simple. It uses a sending buffer that can store an entire sliding window of frames [#fsizesliding]_. The frames are sent with increasing sequence numbers (modulo `maxseq`). The sender must wait for an acknowledgment once its sending buffer is full. When a `go-back-n` sender receives an acknowledgment, it removes from the sending buffer all the acknowledged frames and uses a retransmission timer to detect frame losses. A simple `go-back-n` sender maintains one retransmission timer per connection. This timer is started when the first frame is sent. When the `go-back-n sender` receives an acknowledgment, it restarts the retransmission timer only if there are still unacknowledged frames in its sending buffer. When the retransmission timer expires, the `go-back-n` sender assumes that all the unacknowledged frames currently stored in its sending buffer have been lost. It thus retransmits all the unacknowledged frames in the buffer and restarts its retransmission timer.
The operation of `go-back-n` is illustrated in the figure below. In this figure, note that upon reception of the out-of-sequence frame `D(2,c)`, the receiver returns a cumulative acknowledgment `C(OK,0)` that acknowledges all the frames that have been received in sequence. The lost frame is retransmitted upon the expiration of the retransmission timer.
Go-back-n : example
The main advantage of `go-back-n` is that it can be easily implemented, and it can also provide good performance when only a few frames are lost. However, when there are many losses, the performance of `go-back-n` quickly drops for two reasons :
the `go-back-n` receiver does not accept out-of-sequence frames
the `go-back-n` sender retransmits all unacknowledged frames once it has detected a loss
`Selective repeat` is a better strategy to recover from losses. Intuitively, `selective repeat` allows the receiver to accept out-of-sequence frames. Furthermore, when a `selective repeat` sender detects losses, it only retransmits the frames that have been lost and not the frames that have already been correctly received.
A `selective repeat` receiver maintains a sliding window of `W` frames and stores in a buffer the out-of-sequence frames that it receives. The figure below shows a five-frame receive window on a receiver that has already received frames `7` and `9`.
The receiving window with selective repeat
A `selective repeat` receiver discards all frames having an invalid CRC, and maintains the variable `lastack` as the sequence number of the last in-sequence frame that it has received. The receiver always includes the value of `lastack` in the acknowledgments that it sends. Some protocols also allow the `selective repeat` receiver to acknowledge the out-of-sequence frames that it has received. This can be done for example by placing the list of the correctly received, but out-of-sequence frames in the acknowledgments together with the `lastack` value.
When a `selective repeat` receiver receives a data frame, it first verifies whether the frame is inside its receiving window. If yes, the frame is placed in the receive buffer. If not, the received frame is discarded and an acknowledgment containing `lastack` is sent to the sender. The receiver then removes all consecutive frames starting at `lastack` (if any) from the receive buffer. The payloads of these frames are delivered to the user, `lastack` and the receiving window are updated, and an acknowledgment acknowledging the last frame received in sequence is sent.
The `selective repeat` sender maintains a sending buffer that can store up to `W` unacknowledged frames. These frames are sent as long as the sending buffer is not full. Several implementations of a `selective repeat` sender are possible. A simple implementation associates one retransmission timer to each frame. The timer is started when the frame is sent and canceled upon reception of an acknowledgment that covers this frame. When a retransmission timer expires, the corresponding frame is retransmitted and this retransmission timer is restarted. When an acknowledgment is received, all the frames that are covered by this acknowledgment are removed from the sending buffer and the sliding window is updated.
The figure below illustrates the operation of `selective repeat` when frames are lost. In this figure, `C(OK,x)` is used to indicate that all frames, up to and including sequence number `x` have been received correctly.
Selective repeat : example


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