IP over Avian Carriers

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In computer networking, IP over Avian Carriers (IPoAC) is a humorously-intended proposal to carry Internet Protocol (IP) traffic by birds such as homing pigeons. IP over Avian Carriers was initially described in RFC 1149, a "Request for Comments" (RFC) issued by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) written by D. Waitzman and released on 1 April 1990 (April Fools' Day). It is one of several April Fools' Day RFCs.

Waitzman described an improvement of his protocol in RFC 2549, IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service (1 April 1999).

IPoAC has been successfully implemented, but for only nine packets of data, with a packet loss ratio of 55% (due to user error[1]), and a response time ranging from 3000 seconds(~54 minutes) to over 6000 seconds(~1.77 hours). Thus, this technology suffers from poor latency. Nevertheless, for large transfers avian carriers are capable of high average throughput when carrying flash memory devices.


Real-life implementation

On 28 April 2001 IPoAC was actually implemented by the Bergen Linux user group.[2] They sent nine packets over a distance of approximately five kilometers (three miles), each carried by an individual pigeon and containing one ping (ICMP Echo Request), and received four responses.

Script started on Sat Apr 28 11:24:09 2001
vegard@gyversalen:~$ /sbin/ifconfig tun0
tun0      Link encap:Point-to-Point Protocol  
          inet addr:  P-t-P:  Mask:
          RX packets:1 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
          TX packets:2 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
          RX bytes:88 (88.0 b)  TX bytes:168 (168.0 b)

vegard@gyversalen:~$ ping -i 900 PING ( 56 data bytes 64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=255 time=6165731.1 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=255 time=3211900.8 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=5124922.8 ms 64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=6388671.9 ms

--- ping statistics --- 9 packets transmitted, 4 packets received, 55% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max = 3211900.8/5222806.6/6388671.9 ms vegard@gyversalen:~$ exit

Script done on Sat Apr 28 14:14:28 2001

[edit] Other avian data transfer methods

Rafting photographers already use pigeons as a sneakernet to transport digital photos on flash media from the camera to the tour operator.[3] Over a 30-mile distance a single pigeon may be able to carry tens of gigabytes of data in around an hour, which on an average bandwidth basis compares very favorably to current ADSL standards, even when accounting for lost drives.[4]

Inspired by RFC 2549, on 9 September 2009 the marketing team of The Unlimited, a regional company in South Africa, decided to host a tongue-in-cheek "Pigeon Race" between their pet pigeon "Winston" and local telecom company Telkom SA. The race is to send 4 gigabytes of data from Howick to Hillcrest, approximately 60 km apart. The pigeon carrying a microSD card (an avian variant of a sneakernet), versus a Telkom ADSL line.[5] Winston beat the data transfer over Telkom's ADSL line, with a total time of two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds from uploading data on the microSD card to completion of download from card. At the time of Winston's victory, the ADSL transfer was just under 4% complete.[6][7] A similar "Pigeon Race" was conducted by Michelle Brumfield in rural Yorkshire, England: delivering a five-minute video to a BBC correspondent 75 miles away in Skegness. She pitted the pigeon (again carrying a memory card) against an upload to YouTube via British Telecom broadband; the pigeon arrived in about ninety minutes while the upload was still incomplete: having failed once in the interim.[8]

In September 2010, ISP Timico UK pitted a few homing pigeons against a rural broadband connection to see which was faster. Each pigeon carried a microSD card with 200MB of HD video data, while simultaneously a typical Internet connection was used to upload the same video data to YouTube. This was done as a publicity stunt to raise awareness of poor Internet speeds experienced by many rural users.[9][10]

These kinds of simple bulk transport do not use the Internet Protocol.

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