ICE Working Group
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) C. Holmberg
Request for Comments: 8863 Ericsson
Updates: 8445 (if approved) 8445, 8838 J. Uberti
Category: Standards Track Google
Expires: October 31, 2020 April 29,
ISSN: 2070-1721 July 2020
Interactive Connectivity Establishment Patiently Awaiting Connectivity
During the process of establishing peer-to-peer connectivity, ICE
Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) agents can encounter
situations where they have no candidate pairs to check, and, as a
result, conclude that ICE processing has failed. However, because
additional candidate pairs can be discovered during ICE processing,
declaring failure at this point may be premature. This document
discusses when these situations can occur and occur.
This document updates
RFC8445 RFCs 8445 and RFC XXXX 8838 by requiring that an ICE
agent wait a minimum amount of time before declaring ICE failure,
even if there are no candidate pairs left to check.
[RFC EDITOR NOTE: Please replace RFC XXXX with the RFC number of
draft-ietf-ice-trickle once it has been published. Please also
indicate that this specification updates RFC XXXX.]
Status of This Memo
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2. Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
3. Relevant Scenarios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
3.1. No Candidates From from Peer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
3.2. All Candidates Discarded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
3.3. Immediate Candidate Pair Failure . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
4. Update to RFC 8445 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
5. Update to RFC XXXX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 8838
6. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
7. IANA considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Considerations
8. Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
9. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
[RFC8445] describes a protocol, Interactive Connectivity
Establishment (ICE), for Network Address Translator (NAT) traversal
for UDP-based communication.
When using ICE, endpoints will typically exchange ICE candidates,
form a list of candidate pairs, and then test each candidate pair to
see if connectivity can be established. If the test for a given pair
fails, it is marked accordingly, and if all pairs have failed, the
overall ICE process typically is considered to have failed.
During the process of connectivity checks, additional candidates may
be created as a result of successful inbound checks from the remote
peer. Such candidates are referred to as peer-reflexive candidates,
once discovered, these candidates will be used to form new candidate pairs
pairs, which will be tested like any other. However, there is an
inherent problem here; if, before learning about any peer-reflexive
candidates, an endpoint runs out of candidate pairs to check, either
because it has
none, none or it considers them all to have failed, it will
prematurely declare failure and terminate ICE processing. This
problem can occur in many common situations.
This specification updates [RFC8445], [RFC8445] and [RFC8838] by simply
requiring that an ICE agent wait a minimum amount of time before
declaring ICE failure, even if there are no candidate pairs to check, check
or if all candidate pairs have failed. This delay provides enough time
for the discovery of peer-reflexive candidates, which may eventually
lead to ICE processing completing successfully.
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and
"OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
capitals, as shown here.
3. Relevant Scenarios
As noted above, the core problem this specification attempts to
address is the situation where even after local gathering and remote
candidate signaling has have completed, the ICE agent immediately ends up
with no valid pairs and no candidate pairs left to check, resulting
in a premature ICE failure. This failure is premature because not
enough time has elapsed to allow for discovery of peer-reflexive
candidates from inbound connectivity checks; if discovered, these
candidates are very likely to result in a valid pair.
In most ICE scenarios, the lengthy timeouts for connectivity check
transactions, typically tens of seconds, will prevent this problem
from occurring. However, there are certain specific cases where this
problem will frequently occur.
3.1. No Candidates From from Peer
Per RFC XXXX, [RFC8838], an ICE agent can provide zero candidates of its own.
If the agent somehow knows that the remote endpoint is directly
reachable, gathering local candidates is unnecessary and will only
cause delays; the peer agent can discover the appropriate local
candidate via connectivity checks.
However, following the procedures from [RFC8445] strictly will result
in immediate ICE failure, since the checklist at the peer agent will
3.2. All Candidates Discarded
Even if the ICE agent provides candidates, they may be discarded by
the peer agent if it does not know what to do with them. For
example, candidates may use an address family that the peer agent
does not support, support (e.g., a host candidate with an IPv6 address in a
NAT64 scenario), scenario) or that may not be usable for some other reason.
In these scenarios, when the candidates are discarded, the checklist
at the peer agent will once again be empty, leading to immediate ICE
3.3. Immediate Candidate Pair Failure
Section 184.108.40.206 of [RFC8445] describes several situations in which a
candidate pair will be considered to have failed, well before the
connectivity check transaction timeout.
As a result, even if the ICE agent provides usable candidates, the
pairs created by the peer agent may fail immediately when checked,
e.g., a check to a non-routable address that receives an immediate
In this situation, the checklist at the peer agent may contain only
failed pairs, resulting in immediate ICE failure.
4. Update to RFC 8445
In order to avoid the problem raised by this document, the ICE agent
needs to wait enough time to allow peer-reflexive candidates to be
discovered. Accordingly, when a full ICE implementation begins its
ICE processing, as described in [RFC8445], Section 6.1, it MUST set a
timer, henceforth known as the PAC timer, "PAC timer" (Patiently Awaiting
Connectivity), to ensure that ICE will run for a minimum amount of
time before determining failure.
Specifically, the ICE agent will start its timer once it believes ICE
connectivity checks are starting. This occurs when the agent has
sent the values needed to perform connectivity checks (e.g., the
Username Fragment and Password denoted in [RFC8445], Section 5.3) and
has received some indication that the remote side is ready to start
connectivity checks, typically via receipt of the values mentioned
above. Note that the agent will start the timer even if it has not
sent or received any ICE candidates.
The RECOMMENDED duration for the PAC timer is equal to the agent's
connectivity check transaction timeout, including all
retransmissions. When using default values for RTO retransmission
timeout (RTO) and Rc, this amounts to 39.5 seconds, as explained in
[RFC5389], Section 7.2.1. This timeout value is chosen to roughly
coincide with the maximum possible duration of ICE connectivity
checks from the remote peer, which, if successful, could create peer-reflexive peer-
reflexive candidates. Because the ICE agent doesn't know the exact
number of candidate pairs and pacing interval in use by the remote
side, this timeout value is simply a guess, albeit an educated one.
Regardless, for this particular problem, the desired benefits will be
realized as long as the agent waits some reasonable amount of time,
and, as usual, the application is in the best position to determine
what is reasonable for its scenario.
While the timer is still running, the ICE agent MUST NOT update a
checklist state from Running to Failed, even if there are no pairs
left in the checklist to check. As a result, the ICE agent will not
remove any data streams or set the state of the ICE session to Failed
as long as the timer is running.
When the timer period eventually elapses, the ICE agent MUST resume
typical ICE processing, including setting the state of any checklists
to Failed if they have no pairs left to check, check and handling any
consequences as indicated in [RFC8445], Section 8.1.2. Naturally, if
there are no such checklists, no action is necessary.
One consequence of this behavior is that in cases where ICE should
fail, e.g., where both sides provide candidates with unsupported
address families, ICE will no longer fail immediately, and immediately -- it will only
fail when the PAC timer expires. However, because most ICE scenarios
require an extended period of time to determine failure, the fact
that some specific scenarios no longer fail fast quickly should have
minimal application impact, if any.
Note also that the PAC timer is potentially relevant to the ICE
nomination procedure described in [RFC8445], Section 8.1.1. That
specification does not define a minimum duration for ICE processing
prior to nomination of a candidate pair, but in order to select the
best candidate pair, ICE needs to run for enough time in order to
allow peer-reflexive candidates to be discovered and checked, as
noted above. Accordingly, the controlling ICE agent SHOULD wait a
sufficient amount of time before nominating candidate pairs, and it
MAY use the PAC timer to do so. As always, the controlling ICE agent
retains full discretion, discretion and MAY decide, based on its own criteria, to
nominate pairs prior to the PAC timer period elapsing.
5. Update to RFC XXXX
[RFC EDITOR NOTE: Please replace RFC XXXX with the RFC number of
draft-ietf-ice-trickle once it has been published.] 8838
Trickle ICE [I-D.ietf-ice-trickle] [RFC8838] considers a similar problem, namely whether an
ICE agent should allow a checklist to enter the Failed state if more
candidates might still be provided by the remote peer. The solution,
specified in [I-D.ietf-ice-trickle], [RFC8838], Section 8, is to wait until an end-of-candidates end-of-
candidates indication has been received before determining ICE
However, for the same reasons described above, the ICE agent may
discover peer-reflexive candidates after it has received the end-of-
candidates indication, and so the solution proposed by this document
MUST still be used even when the ICE agent is using Trickle ICE.
Note also that sending an end-of-candidates indication is only a
SHOULD-strength requirement, which means that ICE agents will need to
implement a backup mechanism to decide when all candidates have been
received, typically a timer. Accordingly, ICE agents MAY use the PAC
timer to also serve as an end-of-candidates fallback.
6. Security Considerations
The security considerations for ICE are defined in [RFC8445]. This
specification only recommends that ICE agents wait for a certain time
period of time before they declare ICE failure, and failure; it does not introduce
new security considerations.
7. IANA considerations Considerations
This specification makes document has no requests to IANA. IANA actions.
Roman Shpount, Nils Ohlmeier and Peter Thatcher provided lots of
useful input and comments.
9. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997, <https://www.rfc-
[RFC5389] Rosenberg, J., Mahy, R., Matthews, P., and D. Wing,
"Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN)", RFC 5389,
DOI 10.17487/RFC5389, October 2008, <https://www.rfc-
[RFC8174] Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174>.
[RFC8445] Keranen, A., Holmberg, C., and J. Rosenberg, "Interactive
Connectivity Establishment (ICE): A Protocol for Network
Address Translator (NAT) Traversal", RFC 8445,
DOI 10.17487/RFC8445, July 2018, <https://www.rfc-
[RFC8838] Ivov, E., Rescorla, E., Uberti, J., and P. Saint-Andre, "Trickle ICE:
Incremental Provisioning of Candidates for the Interactive
Connectivity Establishment (ICE) Protocol", draft-ietf-ice-trickle-21 (work in progress),
April 2018. RFC 8838,
DOI 10.17487/RFC8838, July 2020,
Roman Shpount, Nils Ohlmeier, and Peter Thatcher provided lots of
useful input and comments.
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