Notes and Study Materials

Go-Back-N Automatic Repeat Request (ARQ) Protocol

To improve the efficiency of transmission (filling the pipe), multiple frames must be in transition while waiting for acknowledgment. In Go-Back-N Automatic Repeat Request, we can send several frames before receiving acknowledgments; we keep a copy of these frames until the acknowledgments arrive.

Sequence Numbers



Frames from a sending station are numbered sequentially. If the header of the frame allows m bits for the sequence number, the sequence numbers range from 0 to 2m- 1. For example, if m is 4, the only sequence numbers are 0 through 15 inclusive. However, we can repeat the sequence. So the sequence numbers are
0, 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7,8,9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,0, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, 11, ...

In other words, the sequence numbers are modulo-2 m.

Sliding Window

In this protocol (and the next), the sliding window is an abstract concept that defines the range of sequence numbers that is the concern of the sender and receiver. In other words, the sender and receiver need to deal with only part of the possible sequence numbers. The range which is the concern of the sender is called the send sliding window; the range that is the concern of the receiver is called the receiver sliding window.


You May Also Like:

Framing and Framing Protocols
Simplest Protocol
Stop-and- Wait Protocol
Stop and Wait With ARQ Protocol


The send window is an imaginary box covering the sequence numbers of the data frames which can be in transit. In each window position, some of these sequence numbers define the frames that have been sent; others define those that can be sent. The maximum size of the window is 2m – 1. The size can be fixed and set to the maximum value. The following figure shows a sliding window of size 15 (m =4).


gobackn automatic repeat request


The window at any time divides the possible sequence numbers into four regions. The first region, from the far left to the left wall of the window, defines the sequence numbers belonging to frames that are already acknowledged. The sender does not worry about these frames and keeps no copies of them.

The second region, colored in the above figure- a, defines the range of sequence numbers belonging to the frames that are sent and have an unknown status. The sender needs to wait to find out if these frames have been received or were lost. We call these outstanding frames. The third range, white in the figure, defines the range of sequence numbers for frames that can be sent; however, the corresponding data packets have not yet been received from the network layer. Finally, the fourth region defines sequence numbers that cannot be used until the window slides, as we see next.

The window itself is an abstraction; three variables define its size and location at any time. We call these variables Sf(send window, the first outstanding frame), Sn (send window, the next frame to be sent), and Ssize (send window, size). The variable Sf defines the sequence number of the first (oldest) outstanding frame. The variable Sn holds the sequence number that will be assigned to the next frame to be sent. Finally, the variable Ssize defines the size of the window, which is fixed in our protocol.

The Figure-b shows how a send window can slide one or more slots to the right when an acknowledgment arrives from the other end. The acknowledgments in this protocol are cumulative, meaning that more than one frame can be acknowledged by an ACK frame. In in the figure-b, frames 0, 1, and 2 are acknowledged, so the window has slid to the right three slots.  Note that the value of Sf is 3 because frame 3 is now the first outstanding frame.



The receive window makes sure that the correct data frames are received and that the correct acknowledgments are sent. The size of the receive window is always I. The receiver is always looking for the arrival of a specific frame. Any frame arriving out of order is discarded and needs to be resent. The following figure shows the receive window.


gobackn automatic repeat request_receiving window


Note that we need only one variable Rn (receive window, next frame expected) to define this abstraction. The sequence numbers to the left of the window belong to the frames already received and acknowledged; the sequence numbers to the right of this window define the frames that cannot be received. Any received frame with a sequence number in these two regions is discarded. Only a frame with a sequence number matching the value of Rn is accepted and acknowledged. The receive window also slides, but only one slot at a time. When a correct frame is received (and a frame is received only one at a time), the window slides.


Although there can be a timer for each frame that is sent, in this protocol we use only one. The reason is that the timer for the first outstanding frame always expires first; we send all outstanding frames when this timer expires.


The receiver sends a positive acknowledgment if a frame has arrived safe and sound and in order. If a frame is damaged or is received out of order, the receiver is silent and will discard all subsequent frames until it receives the one it is expecting. The silence of the receiver causes the timer of the unacknowledged frame at the sender site to expire.

This, in turn, causes the sender to go back and resend all frames, beginning with the one with the expired timer. The receiver does not have to acknowledge each frame received. It can send one cumulative acknowledgment for several frames.

Resending a Frame:

When the timer expires, the sender resends all outstanding frames. For example, suppose the sender has already sent frame 6, but the timer for frame 3 expires. This means that frame 3 has not been acknowledged; the sender goes back and sends frames 3, 4, 5, and 6 again. That is why the protocol is called Go-Back-N ARQ.


The following figure shows the design for this protocol. As we can see, multiple frames can be in transit in the forward direction, and multiple acknowledgments in the reverse direction. The idea is similar to Stop-and-Wait ARQ; the difference is that the send window allows us to have as many frames in transition as there are slots in the send window.


gobackn automatic repeat request_Design


Send Window Size:

We can now show why the size of the send window must be less than 2m. As an example, we choose m =2, which means the size of the window can be 2m - 1, or 3. The following figure compares a window size of 3 against a window size of 4. If the size of the window is 3 (less than 22) and all three acknowledgments are lost, the frame timer expires and all three frames are resent. The receiver is now expecting frame 3, not frame 0, so the duplicate frame is correctly discarded. On the other hand, if the size of the window is 4 (equal to 22) and all acknowledgments are lost, the sender will send a duplicate of frame 0. However, this time the window of the receiver expects to receive frame 0, so it accepts frame 0, not as a duplicate, but as the first frame in the next cycle. This is an error.

 gobackn automatic repeat request_send window


You May Also Like:

Selective Repeat ARQ Protocol
Piggybacking Protocol
HDLC Configurations,Transfer Modes and Different Types of Frames
Control Fields of HDLC Frames
Back to DCN Questions and Answers