A Longitudinal Measurement Study of TCP Performance and Behavior in 3G/4G Networks over High Speed Rails

Li Li, Ke Xu, Dan Wang, Chunyi Peng, Kai Zheng, Rashid Mijumbi, Qingyang Xiao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


While TCP has been extensively studied in static and low speed mobility situations, it has not yet been well explored in high speed mobility scenarios. Given the increasing deployment of high speed transport systems (such as high speed rails), there is an urgent need to understand the performance and behavior of TCP in such high speed mobility environments. In this paper, we conduct a comprehensive study to investigate the performance and behavior of TCP in a high speed environment with a peak speed of 310 km/h. Over a 16-month period spanning four years, we collect 500 GB of performance data on 3/4G networks in high speed trains in China, covering a distance of 108,490 km. We start by analyzing performance metrics, such as RTT, packet loss rate, and throughput. We then evaluate the challenges posed on the main TCP operations (establishment, transmission, congestion control, flow control, and termination) by such high speed mobility. This paper shows that RTT and packet loss rate increase significantly and throughput drops considerably in high speed situations. Moreover, TCP fails to adapt well to such extremely high speed leading to abnormal behavior, such as high spurious retransmission time out rate, aggressive congestion window reduction, long delays during connection establishment and closure, and transmission interruption. As we prepare to move into the era of 5G, and as the need for high speed travel continues to increase, our findings indicate a critical need for efforts to develop more adaptive transport protocols for such high speed environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7917320
Pages (from-to)2195-2208
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • high speed mobility
  • measurement
  • TCP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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