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Go With The Flow, Says Arpanet Founder

Iain Morris
9/25/2014
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LONDON -- Ultra-Broadband Forum -- Operators are used to thinking about access network bottlenecks and how to overcome them, but all the investments in bandwidth-boosting fiber access networks could mean little if there isn't a dramatic overhaul at the transport layer of the network.

That's according to Lawrence Roberts, anyway, and, as the founder of the Arpanet and one of the 'fathers' of the Internet, Roberts is a figure whose opinions would seem to count.

Speaking at Huawei's Ultra-Broadband Conference in London Thursday, Roberts, currently the chairman of Anagran Inc. , which develops network management products, issued a stark warning for operators about the limitations of the TCP transport technology that underpins the modern-day Internet.

"We are not going to get the throughput we need for 4K and 8K video or the latency we need for online gaming without changing the network," he told attendees gathered at the conference. "TCP is too erratic."

As Roberts explained, TCP wasn't conceived with today's bandwidth-hungry services and applications in mind and it is struggling to cope with soaring volumes of Internet traffic, simply discarding packets when networks are overloaded.

This feature of the technology is part of its original design, ensuring the network remained stable, but its effect is to significantly reduce throughput and increase delays for customers using online services.

That might not matter when it comes to simple Web browsing or even the use of video services, but it could rule out the future introduction of sophisticated applications such as remote-control surgery and robotics.

So whatís the answer?

Roberts was obviously keen to promote a new technology he has developed as the successor to TCP.

Called Flow State Aware (FSA), this could have major benefits for operators looking to address poor latency on their networks.

According to his data, an operator using FSA would be able to move a 1-megabit load in just 64 milliseconds, compared with 2.5 seconds with TCP, if the network were operating at 60% of capacity.

The aim is to ensure that delays are reduced to the point where the Internet can operate at "human response times," which is critical in the case of certain aforementioned applications.

Even so, FSA appears to have been around for some time and it has yet to be brought to market in any commercial fashion, although Roberts is optimistic this will happen "in the next year or so."

Roberts noted: "Ultra-broadband will not improve capacity until there is a change in overload control. These protocols can be implemented, but they haven't been and itís important that changes."

ó Iain Morris, Site Editor, Ultra-Broadband

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mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/4/2014 | 10:08:27 PM
Re: Indeed
I've heard these remote robot surgery possibilities before, too. But it just seems like an application that's a bit too far into the future. I guess it sounds cool and futuristic to point out now. But if a patient had the resources to pay for a robot enabled surgery now, he/she would probably want to make sure the weak link wasn't a slow internet connection. Latency would probably be a more fundamental problem for some locations anyway.
iainmorris
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iainmorris,
User Rank: Blogger
10/4/2014 | 3:34:49 PM
Re: Indeed
Sounds very much in the realm of science fiction at the moment, but it was mentioned by a couple of speakers at the UBB Forum so the industry is clearly giving thought to this kind of thing.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/3/2014 | 7:21:16 PM
latency used to be just a problem for voice...
It'll be so quaint when people remember that "telephone" calls were a specific channel because they required lower latency. But maybe we'll never see the end of specific "telephone" services?

 
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/3/2014 | 7:19:02 PM
Re: Indeed
This remote-controlled robot surgery... is it really something that is done? I'd think that the surgeons trained to use the robots would probably want to be located near the robots. Perhaps there's some minor cost savings for having MDs in Asia performing surgeries in the US via robots (via the internet?!?).. but I'd hope that the connections for those operations didn't necessarily go over the public internet.
iainmorris
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iainmorris,
User Rank: Blogger
9/30/2014 | 9:24:39 AM
Re: Indeed
Then you really would have a problem with latency ...
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
9/29/2014 | 12:51:46 PM
Indeed
You don't want your remote-control surgery robot to freeze in the middle of a heart transplant because the neighbor kid is downloading a pirated "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
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