It is expected that reception quality feedback will be useful not only for the sender but also for other receivers and third-party monitors. The sender may modify its transmissions based on the feedback; receivers can determine whether problems are local, regional or global; network managers may use profile-independent monitors that receive only the RTCP packets and not the corresponding RTP data packets to evaluate the performance of their networks for multicast distribution.
Cumulative counts are used in both the sender information and receiver report blocks so that differences may be calculated between any two reports to make measurements over both short and long time periods, and to provide resilience against the loss of a report. The difference between the last two reports received can be used to estimate the recent quality of the distribution. The NTP timestamp is included so that rates may be calculated from these differences over the interval between two reports. Since that timestamp is independent of the clock rate for the data encoding, it is possible to implement encoding- and profile-independent quality monitors.
An example calculation is the packet loss rate over the interval between two reception reports. The difference in the cumulative number of packets lost gives the number lost during that interval. The difference in the extended last sequence numbers received gives the number of packets expected during the interval. The ratio of these two is the packet loss fraction over the interval. This ratio should equal the fraction lost field if the two reports are consecutive, but otherwise not. The loss rate per second can be obtained by dividing the loss fraction by the difference in NTP timestamps, expressed in seconds. The number of packets received is the number of packets expected minus the number lost. The number of packets expected may also be used to judge the statistical validity of any loss estimates. For example, 1 out of 5 packets lost has a lower significance than 200 out of 1000.
From the sender information, a third-party monitor can calculate the average payload data rate and the average packet rate over an interval without receiving the data. Taking the ratio of the two gives the average payload size. If it can be assumed that packet loss is independent of packet size, then the number of packets received by a particular receiver times the average payload size (or the corresponding packet size) gives the apparent throughput available to that receiver.
In addition to the cumulative counts which allow long-term packet loss measurements using differences between reports, the fraction lost field provides a short-term measurement from a single report. This becomes more important as the size of a session scales up enough that reception state information might not be kept for all receivers or the interval between reports becomes long enough that only one report might have been received from a particular receiver.
The interarrival jitter field provides a second short-term measure of network congestion. Packet loss tracks persistent congestion while the jitter measure tracks transient congestion. The jitter measure may indicate congestion before it leads to packet loss. Since the interarrival jitter field is only a snapshot of the jitter at the time of a report, it may be necessary to analyze a number of reports from one receiver over time or from multiple receivers, e.g., within a single network.