Tethering offload enables devices to save power and improve performance by offloading the tethering traffic (over USB, Wi-Fi) to the hardware. The tethering traffic is offloaded by providing a direct path between the modem and the peripherals, bypassing the application processor.
Starting in Android 8.1, devices can use tethering offload to offload IPv4, IPv6, or IPv4+IPv6 forwarding to the hardware.
The offload feature does not need to offload all packets. The framework is capable of handling any packet in software. Control packets are typically processed in software. Because IPv4 ports are shared between tethered traffic and device traffic, IPv4 session setup/teardown packets (e.g., SYN/SYN+ACK, FIN) must be processed in software so the kernel can construct the flow state. The framework provides the control plane and state machines. It also provides the hardware with information on upstream and downstream interfaces/prefixes.
For IPv4, the hardware allows IPv4 network address translation (NAT) session
setup packets to reach the CPU. The kernel creates NAT entries, and the HAL
implementation observes the entries from the framework-provided file descriptors
and handles these flows in hardware. This means the HAL implementation does not
CAP_NET_* because the HAL gets opened
from the framework. Periodically, the hardware sends NAT state updates for
currently active flows to the framework, which refreshes the corresponding
kernel connection tracking state entries.
For IPv6, the framework programs a list of IPv6 destination prefixes to which traffic must not be offloaded. All other tethered packets can be offloaded.
For data usage accounting,
NetworkStatsService data usage polls causes the
framework to request traffic stats from hardware. The framework also
communicates data usage limits to the hardware via the HAL.
To implement tethering offload, your hardware must be capable of forwarding IP packets between the modem and Wi-Fi/USB without sending the traffic through the main processor.
To enable the tethering offload feature, you must implement the two following
both a config HAL (
IOffloadConfig) and a control HAL (
HAL starts the tethering offload implementation. The framework provides the HAL
implementation with pre-connected
NF_NETLINK_CONNTRACK sockets that the
implementation can use to observe the IPv4 flows. Only forwarded flows must be
HAL controls the offload implementation. The following methods must be
- Start/stop offload hardware: Use
initOffload/stopOffloadand exempt local IP addresses or other networks from offload with
- Set upstream interface, IPv4 address, and IPv6 gateways: Use
setUpstreamParametersand configure downstream IP address ranges with
- Data usage accounting: Use
Your vendor HAL must also send callbacks via the
interface, which informs the framework of:
- Asynchronous events such as offload being started and stopped (OffloadCallbackEvent)
- NAT timeout updates, which must be sent periodically to indicate that a specific IPv4 flow contains traffic and must not be closed by the kernel
To validate your implementation of tethering offload, use manual or automated testing to verify tethering and Wi-Fi hotspot work as expected. The Vendor Test Suite (VTS) contains tests for the tethering offload HALs.