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Multimedia streams consume a significant chunk of the consumer Internet traffic exchanged and will continue to do so due to the ever-increasing connection among people, businesses, and industries. To cope with the deviation of the Internet's intended use, unreliable underlying infrastructure, and best effort protocols while leveraging existing technologies, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Adaptive Streaming is utilized by numerous multimedia services. Performance of HAS-based streaming services is limited by the growing control overhead generated by the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) stack as the stream length, multimedia fidelity, and network conditions vary. In this paper, a novel cross-layer steganographic-enabled signaling scheme is proposed to reduce service provider costs while improving multimedia session performance and maintaining expected Quality-of-Service (QoS). The proposed scheme is designed to encode control stream messages from any TCP/IP layer within payload messages to reduce the total amount of overhead exchanged, thereby decreasing resource utilization within source and intermediate nodes. Furthermore, the encoding scheme probes network conditions and session statistics for adaptive decision-making to enable real-time pliability of the proposed process. A utility function is developed to find the optimal cost savings where simulations are conducted to verify the designs. The proposed solution is then implemented using VideoLan Media Player transceivers residing in linux containers virtual machines, where a multimedia file is exchanged in the popular Advanced Video Coding (H.264) format. The results show a decrease in bandwidth and average queue waiting time costs of 4.71% and 29.61%, respectively, with a throughput increase of 5.77%.
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