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Networking Protocols for Audio Streaming

real time http rtp

Definition: Networking protocols for audio streaming are used to provide uninterrupted audio transmission over networks, such as the Internet.

Unlike elastic traffic such as email or file transfer, which are not severely affected by delays or irregularities in transmission speed, continuous multimedia data such as audio and videoare inelastic. These media have a “natural” flow and are not very flexible. Interruptions in audio while streaming it is undesirable. Therefore, it creates a major problem for the end user because it distorts its real-time nature. It should be pointed out that delay is not always detrimental for audio, as long as the flow is continuous. For example, consider a presentational application where the audio is played back to the user with limited interaction capabilities such as play/pause/open/close. In such a scenario, if the entire audio is delayed by a few seconds, the user’s perception of it is not affected due to lack of a reference point, as long as there are no interruptions. However, for a conversational application such as audio conferencing, where users interact with each other, audio delay must not violate certain thresholds because of the interaction and the existence of reference points between the users.

Due to the above requirements, the transport protocol used for audio streaming must be able to handle the real-time nature of it. One of the most commonly-used real-time protocols for audio streaming is the Real-time Transport protocol (RTP), which is typically used with the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) for exchanging commands between the player and media server, and sometimes used with the Real -time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) for Quality of Service (QoS) monitoring and other things. As an easier to implement alternative to RTP, HTTP streaming is sometimes used in cases where users have high speed and high bandwidth connection to the network. In HTTP streaming, the player simply requests the audio from the web server over HTTP, and plays it as the audio data comes in from the Web server. The disadvantages of this approach are the lack of RTP/RTCP features such as faster handling of the audio by the receiver and QoS reporting, and the fact that HTTP uses TCP which is not considered a real time protocol, especially under less-than ideal network conditions. As such, there can be more interruptions and delay associated with HTTP streaming compared to RTP streaming.

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