SCTP Protocols vs. TCP Protocol

What's the Difference?

SCTP (Stream Control Transmission Protocol) and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) are both transport layer protocols used for reliable data transmission over IP networks. However, there are some key differences between them. TCP is connection-oriented, meaning it establishes a connection between the sender and receiver before data transmission. On the other hand, SCTP is connection-oriented as well as message-oriented, allowing multiple streams of messages to be transmitted simultaneously. This makes SCTP more suitable for applications that require multi-streaming and multi-homing capabilities. Additionally, SCTP provides built-in support for congestion control, error detection, and recovery mechanisms, making it more resilient to network failures compared to TCP. However, TCP is more widely adopted and supported by most network devices and operating systems.


AttributeSCTP ProtocolsTCP Protocol
ReliabilityProvides reliable data transferProvides reliable data transfer
Connection-OrientedConnection-oriented protocolConnection-oriented protocol
Message-OrientedSupports message-oriented communicationSupports stream-oriented communication
Multi-homingSupports multi-homing for increased resilienceDoes not support multi-homing
Ordered DeliverySupports ordered delivery of messagesSupports ordered delivery of bytes
Flow ControlProvides built-in flow control mechanismsProvides built-in flow control mechanisms
Congestion ControlProvides built-in congestion control mechanismsProvides built-in congestion control mechanisms
ChecksumUses CRC32c checksum for error detectionUses TCP checksum for error detection
Port NumbersUses 16-bit port numbersUses 16-bit port numbers
Header SizeVariable header sizeFixed header size

Further Detail


When it comes to reliable data transmission over the internet, two protocols stand out: Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Both protocols are widely used in various applications, but they have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different scenarios. In this article, we will compare the attributes of SCTP and TCP protocols, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.


One of the primary goals of both SCTP and TCP is to provide reliable data transmission. However, they achieve this goal in different ways. TCP ensures reliability through its acknowledgment mechanism, where the receiver acknowledges the successful receipt of each packet. In case of packet loss, TCP retransmits the lost packets, ensuring that all data is eventually delivered. On the other hand, SCTP introduces the concept of multi-homing and multi-streaming, which allows for parallel transmission of data across multiple paths. This redundancy enhances reliability by reducing the impact of packet loss or network failures.

Connection-Oriented vs. Connectionless

TCP is a connection-oriented protocol, meaning that it establishes a connection between the sender and receiver before data transmission begins. This connection setup involves a three-way handshake, where both parties exchange control messages to establish the connection. Once the connection is established, data can be transmitted bidirectionally. In contrast, SCTP is a connectionless protocol that supports both connection-oriented and connectionless modes. In connection-oriented mode, SCTP establishes a connection similar to TCP, while in connectionless mode, it can send data without prior connection setup. This flexibility makes SCTP suitable for applications that require both reliable and unreliable data transmission.

Message-Oriented vs. Stream-Oriented

TCP is a stream-oriented protocol, treating data as a continuous stream of bytes. It does not preserve message boundaries, meaning that the receiver may receive data in different chunks than what the sender originally sent. This characteristic is suitable for applications that require a continuous flow of data, such as streaming media. On the other hand, SCTP is a message-oriented protocol that preserves message boundaries. It ensures that the receiver receives each message as a whole, without any fragmentation. This attribute is beneficial for applications that require discrete messages, such as telephony or signaling protocols.

Flow Control and Congestion Control

Both SCTP and TCP employ flow control and congestion control mechanisms to ensure efficient data transmission. TCP uses a sliding window mechanism to control the amount of data sent by the sender based on the receiver's buffer capacity. It also adjusts the window size dynamically to adapt to network conditions and prevent congestion. SCTP, on the other hand, introduces the concept of per-stream flow control, where each stream has its own flow control mechanism. This allows for independent control of data flow for different streams, enhancing performance and fairness in multi-stream scenarios.

Scalability and Multi-Homing

Scalability is an important aspect of any protocol, especially in modern networks with diverse requirements. TCP is limited to a single path between the sender and receiver, which can become a bottleneck in high-bandwidth or high-latency networks. In contrast, SCTP supports multi-homing, allowing for the simultaneous use of multiple network interfaces or IP addresses. This feature improves scalability by utilizing the available network resources more efficiently and providing fault tolerance in case of network failures.

Applications and Adoption

TCP is the most widely used transport protocol on the internet, powering applications such as web browsing, email, file transfer, and many others. Its widespread adoption and compatibility make it a reliable choice for most applications. On the other hand, SCTP is less commonly used but finds its niche in specific applications. It is particularly suitable for real-time communication applications, such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and telephony, where message-oriented and multi-stream capabilities are crucial.


In conclusion, both SCTP and TCP protocols have their unique attributes that make them suitable for different scenarios. TCP excels in reliability, connection-oriented communication, and streaming applications. On the other hand, SCTP offers enhanced reliability through multi-homing and multi-streaming, supports both connection-oriented and connectionless modes, preserves message boundaries, and provides per-stream flow control. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each protocol is essential for selecting the appropriate one for a given application or network environment.

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