A competitive analysis for retransmission timeout

Shlomi Dolev, Michael Kate, Jennifer L. Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protocols that provide reliable communication on top of a network that can lose packets rely on periodically retransmitting packets. The choice of retransmission timeout critically affects system performance. This paper presents a first step toward a theoretical study of the choice of retransmission timeout, based on competitive analysis. In general, competitive analysis compares the performance of an on-line algorithm to the performance of an optimal off-line algorithm, which has access to more information. In this context, the job of an algorithm is to choose the retransmission timeout interval; an off-line algorithm knows the exact message delays, whereas an on-line algorithm knows only upper and lower bounds on the delays. The performance measure of interest is the expected value of a linear combination of the number of packets used and the amount of time elapsed. An on-line algorithm for choosing the retransmission timeout is presented that is optimal with respect to the difference between its performance and that of an optimal off-line algorithm. The algorithm is also analyzed with respect to the ratio of its performance and that of an optimal off-line algorithm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-80
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • Competitive analysis
  • Retransmission timeout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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