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Quality Adaptation for Congestion Controlled Video Playback over the Internet

Reza Rejaie
Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California

Mark Handley
AT&T Center of Internet Research, The International Computer Science Institute

Deborah Estrin
Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California

Streaming audio and video applications are becoming increasingly popular on the Internet, and the lack of effective congestion control in such applications is now a cause for significant concern. The problem is one of adapting the compression without requiring video-servers to re-encode the data, and fitting the resulting stream into the rapidly varying available bandwidth. At the same time, rapid fluctuations in quality will be disturbing to the users and should be avoided.

In this paper we present a mechanism for using layered video in the context of unicast congestion control. This quality adaptation mechanism adds and drops layers of the video stream to perform long-term coarse-grain adaptation, while using a TCP-friendly congestion control mechanism to react to congestion on very short timescales. The mismatches between the two timescales are absorbed using buffering at the receiver. We present an efficient scheme for the distribution of buffering among the active layers. Our scheme allows the server to trade short-term improvement for long-term smoothing of quality. We discuss the issues involved in implementing and tuning such a mechanism, and present our simulation results.

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The referenced paper appears in Computer Communication Review, a publication of ACM SIGCOMM, volume 29, number 4, October 1999.

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