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Performance issues with general packet radio service

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2 Author(s)
Chakravorty, Rajiv ; University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, William Gates Building, Cambridge, CB3 0FD, England ; Pratt, Ian

The General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is being deployed by GSM network operators world-wide, and promises to provide users with “always-on” data access at bandwidths comparable to that of conventional fixed-wire telephone modems. However, many users have found the reality to be rather different, experiencing very disappointing performance when, for example, browsing the web over GPRS. In this paper, we examine the causes, and show how unfortunate interactions between the GPRS link characteristics and TCP/IP protocols lead to poor performance. A performance characterization of the GPRS link-layer is presented, determined through extensive measurements taken over production networks. We present measurements of packet loss rates, bandwidth availability, link stability, and roundtrip time. The effect these characteristics have on TCP behavior are examined, demonstrating how they can result in poor link utilization, excessive packet queueing, and slow recovery from packet losses. Further, we show that the HTTP protocol can compound these issues, leading to dire WWW performance. We go on to show how the use of a transparent proxy interposed near the wired-wireless border can be used to alleviate many of these performance issues without requiring changes to either client or server end systems.

Published in:

Communications and Networks, Journal of  (Volume:4 ,  Issue: 4 )