Communication Networks 2018

© Google

Professor: Laurent Vanbever ()


  •   Head

Research group: Networked Systems

Lecture: Monday 10 am–12 pm in ETF C 1

Exercice sessions: Thursday 10 am–12 pm in IFW A 36



Feb 18 Materials for the first lecture are now online. Looking forward to see you tomorrow!
Feb 8 Materials for the first lecture will be uploaded on Sunday (Feb 18).
Feb 8 Website for 2018 goes live!


Learn how the Internet works and how to operate it

It is hard to think of a technology that has more changed the way we live than the Internet. From the very way we communicate, access and exchange information, shop, pay, move, entertain, maintain friendship. At the same time, the Internet is inexorably growing, at an always faster pace: from 3 billion of connected hosts in 2015 to an estimated 4 billion in 2019.

At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. understand how the Internet works: from your laptop to Google's datacenter at the other end of planet;
  2. build and operate an Internet-like network infrastructure;
  3. identify the right set of metrics to evaluate the performance or the adequacy of a network and propose ways to improve it (if any).

The course is an introductory one, meaning no prior networking background is needed. The course will include some programming assignments (in Python) for which the material covered in Technische Informatik 1 (227-0013-00L) and Technische Informatik 2 (227-0014-00L) will be useful.

Grading and organization

The class will be graded 80% based on the final exam and 20% based on the practical assignments (see details). The final exam is a written open book exam. You will not be tested on material we didn't cover during the lesson. All written material (books, notes, lab exercises etc.) is allowed; all electronic devices are prohibited, except for (non-connected) calculators. The exam will be in English.

I'll use the textbook Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach (6th Edition) by Kurose and Ross as a reference and as a source of examples. Older versions of the book are fine too but sections number won't necessarily match.

Exercises and projects

In addition to the lectures, there will be a set of exercises (every Thursday) along with two projects to be done in groups of maximum 3 students (the composition of which will be decided by the students themselves at the beginning of the first project):

  1. Internet Routing (week 8 to 11): You'll build and operate your own network! We'll then interconnect networks together and form a mini-Internet. We'll test out your Internet during a large class-wide Internet Hackathon.
  2. Reliable Communication (week 12 to 15): You'll implement a simple transport protocol that can ensure reliable transmission.

Each project will be available online and will be introduced in class along with instructions on the report and on the specific grading scheme.

You should submit your work on an assignment (by email, according to the assignment instructions) before its due time. All assignments are due by 11:59pm on their selected days. If you submit your work late, we will give you credit for it according to this scale:

  • 80% for work submitted up to 1 day late;
  • 70% for work submitted up to 2 days late;
  • 60% for work submitted up to 3 days late;
  • 50% for work submitted up to 7 days late;
  • 0% for work submitted more than 7 days late.

Important If you don't have a laptop, please the professor at the beginning of the course.

Part 1
Week 1
Feb 19 Lecture 1 Introduction (Part 1)
  1. What is a network made of?
  2. How is it shared?
  3. How is it organized?
  4. Brief historical overview
  • Take a look at what the Internet looks like!
  • Check out SWITCH (ETH's provider) connectivity and traffic
  • Use the traceroute command (tracert on Windows) to observe some Internet paths taken from your your personal computer to some Internet destination. What do you observe?
  • Sections 1.1 (The Internet), 1.2 (The Network Edge) and 1.3 (The Network Core)
Optional read Optional watch
Exercises start in week 2
Week 2
Feb 26 Lecture 2 Introduction (Part 2)
  1. How does network communication happen?
  2. How do we characterize a network?
Mar 1 Exercise 1
Part 2
Conceptual Foundations
Week 3
Mar 5 Lecture 3 Routing
Mar 8 Exercise 2
Week 4
Mar 12 Lecture 4 Reliable Transport
Mar 15 Exercise 3
Part 3
Today's Internet
Week 5
Mar 19 Lecture 5 Ethernet & Switching
Mar 22 Exercise 4
Week 6
Mar 26 Lecture 6 Internet Protocol (IP) & Forwarding
Mar 29 Exercise 5
Week 7
Apr 2 no class Easter Monday
Apr 5 no exercise Easter Holiday
Week 8
Apr 9 Lecture 7 Internet Routing
Apr 12 Exercise 6
Internet Routing project starts
Week 9
Apr 16 Lecture 8 Routing Policies
Apr 19 Exercise 7
Week 10
Apr 23 Lecture 9 UDP and TCP
Apr 26 Exercise 8
Week 11
Apr 30 Lecture 10 TCP Congestion Control
May 3 Exercise 9
Internet Routing project ends
Week 12
May 7 Lecture 11 Applications: DNS, HTTP
May 10 no exercise Ascension Day
Reliable Transport project starts
Week 13
May 14 Lecture 12 Applications: Video Streaming, E-mail
May 17 Exercise 10
Week 14
May 21 no class Whitsuntide
May 24 Lecture 13 Programmable Networks (during exercise session)
Week 15
May 28 Lecture 14 Course Recap, Feedback and Briefing on the exam
May 31 Exercise 11
Reliable Transport project ends


The final exam is a written open book exam. You will not be tested on material we didn't cover during the lesson. All written material (books, notes, lab exercises etc.) is allowed; all electronic devices are prohibited, except for (non-connected) calculators. The exam will be in English.

Previous exams

We provide the previous exams (without solutions):