Network traffic includes a lot of extra bytes for network headers etc. etc. Does this get measured as part of data usage by ISPs?

  • 2
    As far as an ISP is concerned, headers are data. They have to relay them and carry them the same as data. – David Schwartz Apr 3 '12 at 9:19
  • Yes...Of course they are counted considering they are required. They are not "extra" bytes, they are required bytes, I assume you mean TCP packets. – Ramhound Apr 3 '12 at 11:29
  • I guess measurement of data depends on which level of the OSI model you talk about. As a consumer who knows nothing about networking, you look at the amount of data you download or upload. I think Daniel's answer puts it a bit more in perspective (~1%), but the truth is, Khaled makes the best point in his answer: One would have to ask the ISP whether or not they actually do take that into account. – mydoghasworms Apr 4 '12 at 6:22
  • IP is 20 bytes and TCP 20 bytes on top of that. TCP Connection takes 3 packets ( 120 bytes), close takes 4 (160 bytes). Every data TCP packet also has 40 byte header and 40 byte ACK packet. Correct me if I'm wrong. (Wikipedia TCP) – Antti Rytsölä Apr 10 '14 at 8:08

Generally yes, but it also depends on the ISP. I did not hear about ISP that excludes headers from data usage.

Excluding headers may not be an easy task to do. Also, what headers should be excluded if they want to do so (IP/TCP/UDP headers). This requires more inspection on all flowing traffic which will be expensive in terms of processing for a gateway to do it unless they really need it.

...a lot of extra bytes...

In practice it adds up to at maximum ~1% of TCP usage (look at the specifications of header length and data length in a packet), or "more or less unnoticeable" (10MB per 1GB). You also have resent packages and the like from collisions, ACK packets and other things. It is nothing to be concerned over.

And as was said: headers and everything mentioned above is also data. If you have a bad cable at home so that many packets have to be resent, why should the ISP give this data "for free"? You are charged for data, not "effective data" as per some unclear standard.

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