Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Tuning the Internet for Mobility

The Internet is becoming the de facto standard for all telecommunications; services like voice-over-IP and Internet Protocol television are overtaking the technologies purpose-built for telephones and televisions. But the protocols underlying the Internet make assumptions about physical connections that do not always fit well with wireless communications: that all links are generally the same and provide close to real-time connectivity from one end of the link to the other. Wireless services are often intermittent, vary widely in the amount of bandwidth they offer, and, especially in the case of satellite services, can lag, making websites sluggish to respond to clicks. As new applications place new demands on Internet-based networks, “maybe it makes more sense to think about some radically different architectures,” says Preston Marshall, director of the wireless-­networking division at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute and a former manager for many of the advanced wireless technology programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

NASA is testing delay-tolerant networking to allow researchers to monitor experiments onboard the International Space Station.

This kind of thinking informs efforts to integrate technologies such as delay-­tolerant networking (DTN) with Internet protocols. Because DTN allows communication even when establishing an end-to-end link is impossible, it would make networks more robust. It’s also well suited for applications such as machine-to-machine communication. For example, a meter on a “smart” electric grid may need to exchange only small amounts of data with the power company within a relatively broad window of time; it doesn’t need a high-bandwidth real-time connection.

This story is part of our November/December 2010 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Beyond DTN, it may ultimately be possible to shift between different kinds of wireless links from moment to moment, depending on the type of data to be accessed. A user could browse for a movie title using a low-lag but low-bandwidth cellular connection and then download the movie over a high-lag, high-bandwidth satellite connection.

Countdown to EmTech Digital 2019. Join us and be the AI leader your company needs.

Register now
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.