In the field of computer networking and other packet-switched telecommunication networks, the traffic engineering term quality of service (QoS) refers to resource reservation control mechanisms rather than the achieved service quality. Quality of service is the ability to provide different priority to different applications, users, or data flows, or to guarantee a certain level of performance to a data flow. For example, a required bit rate, delay, jitter, packet dropping probability and/or bit error rate may be guaranteed. Quality of service guarantees are important if the network capacity is insufficient, especially for real-time streaming multimedia applications such as voice over IP, online games and IP-TV, since these often require fixed bit rate and are delay sensitive, and in networks where the capacity is a limited resource, for example in cellular data communication.
A network or protocol that supports QoS may agree on a traffic contract with the application software and reserve capacity in the network nodes, for example during a session establishment phase. During the session it may monitor the achieved level of performance, for example the data rate and delay, and dynamically control scheduling priorities in the network nodes. It may release the reserved capacity during a tear down phase.
A best-effort network or service does not support quality of service. An alternative to complex QoS control mechanisms is to provide high quality communication over a best-effort network by over-provisioning the capacity so that it is sufficient for the expected peak traffic load. The resulting absence of network congestion eliminates the need for QoS mechanisms.
In the field of telephony, quality of service was defined in the ITU standard X.902 as "A set of quality requirements on the collective behavior of one or more objects". Quality of service comprises requirements on all the aspects of a connection, such as service response time, loss, signal-to-noise ratio, cross-talk, echo, interrupts, frequency response, loudness levels, and so on. A subset of telephony QoS is Grade of Service (GOS) requirements, which comprises aspects of a connection relating to capacity and coverage of a network, for example guaranteed maximum blocking probability and outage probability.
QoS is sometimes used as a quality measure, with many alternative definitions, rather than referring to the ability to reserve resources. Quality of service sometimes refers to the level of quality of service, i.e. the guaranteed service quality. High QoS is often confused with a high level of performance or achieved service quality, for example high bit rate, low latency and low bit error probability.
An alternative and disputable definition of QoS, used especially in application layer services such as telephony and streaming video, is requirements on a metric that reflects or predicts the subjectively experienced quality. In this context, QoS is the acceptable cumulative effect on subscriber satisfaction of all imperfections affecting the service. Other terms with similar meaning are the Quality of Experience (QoE) subjective business concept, the required "user perceived performance", the required "degree of satisfaction of the user" or the targeted "number of happy customers". Examples of measures and measurement methods are Mean Opinion Score (MOS), Perceptual Speech Quality Measure (PSQM) and Perceptual Evaluation of Video Quality (PEVQ). See also subjective video quality.
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