In the author's experience, dialup connections are particularly prone to data errors. These errors interact with compression in two different ways:
First is the local effect of an error in a compressed packet. All error detection is based on redundancy yet compression has squeezed out almost all the redundancy in the TCP and IP headers. In other words, the decompressor will happily turn random line noise into a perfectly valid TCP/IP packet./26/ One could rely on the TCP checksum to detect corrupted compressed packets but, unfortunately, some rather likely errors will not be detected. For example, the TCP checksum will often not detect two single bit errors separated by 16 bits. For a V.32 modem signalling at 2400 baud with 4 bits/baud, any line hit lasting longer than 400us. would corrupt 16 bits. According to , residential phone line hits of up to 2ms. are likely.
The correct way to deal with this problem is to provide for error detection at the framing level. Since the framing (at least in theory) can be tailored to the characteristics of a particular link, the detection can be as light or heavy-weight as appropriate for that link./27/ Since packet error detection is done at the framing level, the decompressor simply assumes that it will get an indication that the current packet was received with errors. (The decompressor always ignores (discards) a packet with errors. However, the indication is needed to prevent the error being propagated --- see below.)
The `discard erroneous packets' policy gives rise to the second interaction of errors and compression. Consider the following conversation:
|1: A |
|1: A |
|1: A |
|1: A |
(Each entry above has the form "starting sequence number:data sent" or "sequence number change,data sent".) The first thing sent is an uncompressed packet, followed by four compressed packets. The third packet picks up an error and is discarded. To reconstruct the fourth packet, the receiver applies the sequence number change from incoming compressed packet to the sequence number of the last correctly received packet, packet two, and generates an incorrect sequence number for packet four. After the error, all reconstructed packets' sequence numbers will be in error, shifted down by the amount of data in the missing packet./28/
Without some sort of check, the preceding error would result in the receiver invisibly losing two bytes from the middle of the transfer (since the decompressor regenerates sequence numbers, the packets containing F and GH arrive at the receiver's TCP with exactly the sequence numbers they would have had if the DE packet had never existed). Although some TCP conversations can survive missing data/29/ it is not a practice to be encouraged. Fortunately the TCP checksum, since it is a simple sum of the packet contents including the sequence numbers, detects 100% of these errors. E.g., the receiver's computed checksum for the last two packets above always differs from the packet checksum by two.
Unfortunately, there is a way for the TCP checksum protection described above to fail if the changes in an incoming compressed packet are applied to the wrong conversation: Consider two active conversations C1 and C2 and a packet from C1 followed by two packets from C2. Since the connection number doesn't change, it's omitted from the second C2 packet. But, if the first C2 packet is received with a CRC error, the second C2 packet will mistakenly be considered the next packet in C1. Since the C2 checksum is a random number with respect to the C1 sequence numbers, there is at least a 2^-16 probability that this packet will be accepted by the C1 TCP receiver./30/ To prevent this, after a CRC error indication from the framer the receiver discards packets until it receives either a COMPRESSED_TCP packet with the C bit set or an UNCOMPRESSED_TCP packet. I.e., packets are discarded until the receiver gets an explicit connection number.
To summarize this section, there are two different types of errors: per-packet corruption and per-conversation loss-of-sync. The first type is detected at the decompressor from a link-level CRC error, the second at the TCP receiver from a (guaranteed) invalid TCP checksum. The combination of these two independent mechanisms ensures that erroneous packets are discarded.