Vint Cerf, Google’s internet evangelist, has unveiled a new protocol intended to power an interplanetary internet.
The Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol emerged from work first started in 1998 in partnership with Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The initial goal was to modify the ubiquitous Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to facilitate robust communications between celestial bodies and satellites. […]
The core issue is that TCP assumes a continuous (and fairly reliable) connection. DTN makes no such assumptions, requiring each node to buffer all of its packets until a stable connection can be established. Whereas TCP will repeatedly attempt to send packets until they are successfully acknowledged, DTN will automatically find a destination node with a reliable connection, and then send its payload just once. Given the latency of space communications and the minimal power restrictions placed upon satellites, DTNs approach seems prudent.
However most people don’t have a need for regular satellite communication (well, our columnist Warren Ellis has that death ray of his), but Cerf sees his robust protocol having more down-to-Earth applications. Mobile networks, for example, must regularly cope with long periods of delay or loss – a train tunnel rudely interrupting a YouTube stream, for example. Perhaps looking to gain an edge on its competitors, Google has already integrated DTN into Android’s networking stack.