Fast retransmit

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Fast Retransmit is an enhancement to TCP which reduces the time a sender waits before retransmitting a lost segment.

A TCP sender uses a timer to recognize lost segments. If an acknowledgement is not received for a particular segment within a specified time (a function of the estimated Round-trip delay time), the sender will assume the segment was lost in the network, and will retransmit the segment.

Duplicate acknowledgement is the basis for the fast retransmit mechanism which works as follows: after receiving a packet (e.g. with sequence number 1), the receiver sends an acknowledgement by adding 1 to the sequence number (i.e., acknowledgement number 2) which means that the receiver receives the packet number 1 and it expects packet number 2 from the sender. Let's assume that three subsequent packets have been lost. In the meantime the receiver receives packet numbers 5 and 6. After receiving packet number 5, the receiver sends an acknowledgement, but still only for sequence number 2. When the receiver receives packet number 6, it sends yet another acknowledgement value of 2. Because the sender receives more than one acknowledgement with the same sequence number (2 in this example) this is called duplicate acknowledgement.

The fast retransmit enhancement works as follows: if a TCP sender receives a specified number of acknowledgements which is usually set to three duplicate acknowledgements with the same acknowledge number (that is, a total of four acknowledgements with the same acknowledgement number), the sender can be reasonably confident that the segment with the next higher sequence number was dropped, and will not arrive out of order. The sender will then retransmit the packet that was presumed dropped before waiting for its timeout.

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