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Apple found to be using advanced Multipath TCP networking in iOS 7

Source: Olivier Bonaventure

After iOS 7 launched on Wednesday, it was discovered that Apple included a new networking protocol called Multipath TCP in the next-gen operating system, allowing devices like the iPhone to simultaneously use multiple interfaces such as cellular and Wi-Fi to transfer data.

As its name implies, Multipath TCP allows for a connected device, such as an iPhone or iPad, to transmit data over multiple pathways simultaneously. For example, the technology allows for compatible devices to transfer data over both 3G cellular and Wi-Fi networks. The discovery was made by Olivier Bonaventure, a computer science professor at the IP Networking Lab in Belgium, who subsequently posted the findings to his personal blog.

One of Multipath TCP's benefits over traditional TCP extensions is the protocol's ability to push data through the most efficient network, which leads to fewer dropouts. If one channel fails, another will take over.

Bonaventure explains that he made the discovery using an iPad running iOS 7. By monitoring packet traces, he was able to deduce that Multipath TCP was being used to connect to certain compatible Apple servers.

"You won’t see Multipath TCP for regular TCP connections from applications like Safari," Bonaventure writes, "but if you use SIRI, you might see that the connection with one of the apple servers runs uses Multipath TCP."

The technology comes from development rooted in a 2008 initiative funded by the European Commission called the Trilogy Project, though it has yet to see widespread adoption. It is thought that Apple's inclusion of Multipath TCP in iOS 7 is the first consumer product to ship with the technology.

Bonaventure had no guesses as to how Apple plans to implement the advanced protocol beyond its own servers, though it can be speculated that the company is looking for ways to make its iCloud-based services more reliable.