The Information Highway -- Sprint, ITTC Collaborate to Improve Internet Quality
When people go to make a phone call, they expect to get a dial tone when they pick up the telephone. But when they log on to their Internet server, they may find themselves waiting for a connection.
A new two-year contract between Sprint Corp. and KU's Information Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC) will lead to customer satisfaction for Internet users. With Sprint support, ITTC researchers will develop or refine the rules, or protocols, that govern the information highway.
"Like telephone service, Internet service comes with consumer expectations," says Joe Evans, director of ITTC's Networking and Distributed Systems Lab. "With telephones, you want to get a dial tone 99.9 percent of the time. You want to hear clearly and without time delays. Internet customers also don't want delays, downtime or disconnects, and they don't want lost data."
Internet Protocol-known simply as IP-functions much like other protocols or governing rules. Rather than a formal agreement between nations, however, IP governs the messages that travel along the Internet. IP helps answer questions like How fast will messages travel? and Which will get priority?
Doctoral student Peter Whiting says the IP the research will help create will partly be based on a widely held belief that in life some things take precedence over others. "If I'm talking to my mom on the phone and you're emailing your mother a message, which should have priority as to quality of service?" he asks.
Clearly phone users will notice a few-seconds interruption in service. "What if in that time I said, 'Mom, I love you.' But your mother wouldn't notice if her email arrived a few seconds later. In fact, she might not read it for hours."
The ITTC team, which includes Evans, co-PI Gary Minden, Sprint employees, and Whiting and two KU graduate students, is using advanced networking gear like that used by the major carriers. "It's rare to find this level of equipment at the academic research level," says Evans. "We have the unique ability to model a real carrier backbone, gather real data, and set up test scenarios. By modeling a network, the team will find ways to improve it," says Evans.
Whiting welcomes the chance to play with a network system. A former senior network engineer with Sprint in Washington, D.C., he was responsible for the upkeep of Sprint's backbone routers. As an ITTC researcher he can create and then solve problems within the test system.
"Adding quality of service to the rules that govern the Internet is the way the industry is going to grow," says Evans. "Through this research we help to bring up the standards and to address an important problem."
Evans foresees this research will benefit Sprint, as well as the Great Plains Network - the regional backbone running north to south through the Midwest - and Internet II, the next major upgrade in Internet capability.
For more information, contact ITTC.