Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) C. Perkins
Request for Comments: 9119
Category: Informational M. McBride
ISSN: 2070-1721 Futurewei
Multicast Considerations over IEEE 802 Wireless Media
Well-known issues with multicast have prevented the deployment of
multicast in 802.11 (Wi-Fi) and other local-area wireless
environments. This document describes the known limitations of
wireless (primarily 802.11) Layer 2 multicast. Also described are
certain multicast enhancement features that have been specified by
the IETF and by IEEE 802 for wireless media, as well as some
operational choices that can be made to improve the performance of
the network. Finally, some recommendations are provided about the
usage and combination of these features and operational choices.
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for informational purposes.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Not all documents
approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9119
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Table of Contents 1.
Identified Multicast Issues 3.1.
Issues at Layer 2 and Below 3.1.1.
Multicast Reliability 3.1.2.
Lower and Variable Data Rate 3.1.3.
Capacity and Impact on Interference 3.1.4.
Power-Save Effects on Multicast 3.2.
Issues at Layer 3 and Above 3.2.1.
IPv4 Issues 3.2.2.
IPv6 Issues 3.2.3.
MLD Issues 3.2.4.
Spurious Neighbor Discovery 4.
Multicast Protocol Optimizations 4.1.
Proxy ARP in 802.11-2012 4.2.
IPv6 Address Registration and Proxy Neighbor Discovery 4.3.
Buffering to Improve Battery Life 4.4.
Limiting Multicast Buffer Hardware Queue Depth 4.5.
IPv6 Support in 802.11-2012 4.6.
Using Unicast Instead of Multicast 4.6.1.
Layer 2 Conversion to Unicast 4.6.3.
Directed Multicast Service (DMS) 4.6.4.
Automatic Multicast Tunneling (AMT) 4.7.
GroupCast with Retries (GCR) 5.
Operational Optimizations 5.1.
Mitigating Problems from Spurious Neighbor Discovery 5.2.
Mitigating Spurious Service Discovery Messages 6.
Multicast Considerations for Other Wireless Media 7.
Ongoing Discussion Items 9.
Security Considerations 10.
IANA Considerations 11.
Well-known issues with multicast have prevented the deployment of
multicast in 802.11 [dot11] and other local-area wireless
environments, as described in [mc-props] and [mc-prob-stmt].
Performance issues have been observed when multicast packet
transmissions of IETF protocols are used over IEEE 802 wireless
media. Even though enhancements for multicast transmissions have
been designed at both IETF and IEEE 802, incompatibilities still
exist between specifications, implementations, and configuration
Many IETF protocols depend on multicast/broadcast for delivery of
control messages to multiple receivers. Multicast allows data to be
sent to multiple interested recipients without the source needing to
send duplicate data to each recipient. With broadcast traffic, data
is sent to every device regardless of their expressed interest in the
data. Multicast is used for various purposes such as Neighbor
Discovery, network flooding, and address resolution, as well as
minimizing media occupancy for the transmission of data that is
intended for multiple receivers. In addition to protocol use of
broadcast/multicast for control messages, more applications, such as
Push To Talk in hospitals or video in enterprises, universities, and
homes, are sending multicast IP to end-user devices, which are
increasingly using Wi-Fi for their connectivity.
IETF protocols typically rely on network protocol layering in order
to reduce or eliminate any dependence of higher-level protocols on
the specific nature of the MAC-layer protocols or the physical media.
In the case of multicast transmissions, higher-level protocols have
traditionally been designed as if transmitting a packet to an IP
address had the same cost in interference and network media access,
regardless of whether the destination IP address is a unicast address
or a multicast or broadcast address. This model was reasonable for
networks where the physical medium was wired, like Ethernet.
Unfortunately, for many wireless media, the costs to access the
medium can be quite different. Multicast over Wi-Fi has often been
plagued by such poor performance that it is disallowed. Some
enhancements have been designed in IETF protocols that are assumed to
work primarily over wireless media. However, these enhancements are
usually implemented in limited deployments and are not widespread on
most wireless networks.
IEEE 802 wireless protocols have been designed with certain features
to support multicast traffic. For instance, lower modulations are
used to transmit multicast frames so that these can be received by
all stations in the cell, regardless of the distance or path
attenuation from the base station or Access Point (AP). However,
these lower modulation transmissions occupy the medium longer; they
hamper efficient transmission of traffic using higher-order
modulations to nearby stations. For these and other reasons, IEEE
802 Working Groups such as 802.11 have designed features to improve
the performance of multicast transmissions at Layer 2 [ietf_802-11].
In addition to protocol design features, certain operational and
configuration enhancements can ameliorate the network performance
issues created by multicast traffic, as described in Section 5
There seems to be general agreement that these problems will not be
fixed anytime soon, primarily because it's expensive to do so and
because of the unreliability of multicast. Compared to unicast over
Wi-Fi, multicast is often treated as somewhat of a second-class
citizen even though there are many protocols using multicast.
Something needs to be provided in order to make them more reliable.
IPv6 Neighbor Discovery saturating the Wi-Fi link is only part of the
problem. Wi-Fi traffic classes may help. This document is intended
to help make the determination about what problems should be solved
by the IETF and what problems should be solved by the IEEE (see Section 8
This document details various problems caused by multicast
transmission over wireless networks, including high packet error
rates, no acknowledgements, and low data rate. It also explains some
enhancements that have been designed at the IETF and IEEE 802.11 to
ameliorate the effects of the radio medium on multicast traffic.
Recommendations are also provided to implementors about how to use
and combine these enhancements. Some advice about the operational
choices that can be made is also included. It is likely that this
document will also be considered relevant to designers of future IEEE
This document uses the following definitions:
The 802.11 Layer 2 acknowledgement.
AES-Counter Mode CBC-MAC Protocol
IEEE 802.11 Access Point.
The slowest rate of all the connected devices at which multicast
and broadcast traffic is generally transmitted.
Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld
Digital Video Broadcasting - Internet Protocol Datacasting
Delivery Traffic Indication Map; an information element that
advertises whether or not any associated stations have buffered
multicast or broadcast frames.
Modulation and Coding Scheme.
Network Operations Center.
Packet Error Rate.
802.11 station (e.g., handheld device).
Traffic Indication Map; an information element that advertises
whether or not any associated stations have buffered unicast
Temporal Key Integrity Protocol
Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access
Wi-Fi Protected Access
3. Identified Multicast Issues
3.1. Issues at Layer 2 and Below
In this section, some of the issues related to the use of multicast
transmissions over IEEE 802 wireless technologies are described.
3.1.1. Multicast Reliability
Multicast traffic is typically much less reliable than unicast
traffic. Since multicast makes point-to-multipoint communications,
multiple acknowledgements would be needed to guarantee reception at
all recipients. However, since there are no ACKs for multicast
packets, it is not possible for the AP to know whether or not a
retransmission is needed. Even in the wired Internet, this
characteristic often causes undesirably high error rates. This has
contributed to the relatively slow uptake of multicast applications
even though the protocols have long been available. The situation
for wireless links is much worse and is quite sensitive to the
presence of background traffic. Consequently, there can be a high
packet error rate (PER) due to lack of retransmission and because the
sender never backs off. PER is the ratio, in percent, of the number
of packets not successfully received by the device. It is not
uncommon for there to be a packet loss rate of 5% or more, which is
particularly troublesome for video and other environments where high
data rates and high reliability are required.
3.1.2. Lower and Variable Data Rate
Multicast over wired differs from multicast over wireless because
transmission over wired links often occurs at a fixed rate. Wi-Fi,
on the other hand, has a transmission rate that varies depending upon
the STA's proximity to the AP. The throughput of video flows and the
capacity of the broader Wi-Fi network will change with device
movement. This impacts the ability for QoS solutions to effectively
reserve bandwidth and provide admission control.
For wireless stations authenticated and linked with an AP, the power
necessary for good reception can vary from station to station. For
unicast, the goal is to minimize power requirements while maximizing
the data rate to the destination. For multicast, the goal is simply
to maximize the number of receivers that will correctly receive the
multicast packet; generally, the AP has to use a much lower data rate
at a power level high enough for even the farthest station to receive
the packet, for example, as briefly mentioned in Section 4
]. Consequently, the data rate of a video stream, for
instance, would be constrained by the environmental considerations of
the least-reliable receiver associated with the AP.
Because more robust modulation and coding schemes (MCSs) have a
longer range but also a lower data rate, multicast/broadcast traffic
is generally transmitted at the slowest rate of all the connected
devices. This is also known as the basic rate. The amount of
additional interference depends on the specific wireless technology.
In fact, backward compatibility and multi-stream implementations mean
that the maximum unicast rates are currently up to a few Gbps, so
there can be more than 3 orders of magnitude difference in the
transmission rate between multicast/broadcast versus optimal unicast
forwarding. Some techniques employed to increase spectral
efficiency, such as spatial multiplexing in Multiple Input Multiple
Output (MIMO) systems, are not available with more than one intended
receiver; it is not the case that backwards compatibility is the only
factor responsible for lower multicast transmission rates.
Wired multicast also affects wireless LANs when the AP extends the
wired segment; in that case, multicast/broadcast frames on the wired
LAN side are copied to the Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). Since
broadcast messages are transmitted at the most robust MCS, many large
frames are sent at a slow rate over the air.
3.1.3. Capacity and Impact on Interference
Transmissions at a lower rate require longer occupancy of the
wireless medium and thus take away from the airtime of other
communications and degrade the overall capacity. Furthermore,
transmission at higher power, as is required to reach all multicast
STAs associated with the AP, proportionately increases the area of
interference with other consumers of the radio spectrum.
3.1.4. Power-Save Effects on Multicast
One of the characteristics of multicast transmission over Wi-Fi is
that every station has to be configured to wake up to receive the
multicast frame, even though the received packet may ultimately be
discarded. This process can have a large effect on the power
consumption by the multicast receiver station. For this reason,
there are workarounds, such as Directed Multicast Service (DMS)
described in Section 4
, to prevent unnecessarily waking up stations.
Multicast (and unicast) can work poorly with the power-save
mechanisms defined in IEEE 802.11e for the following reasons.
* Clients may be unable to stay in sleep mode due to multicast
control packets frequently waking them up.
* A unicast packet is delayed until an STA wakes up and requests it.
Unicast traffic may also be delayed to improve power save and
efficiency and to increase the probability of aggregation.
* Multicast traffic is delayed in a wireless network if any of the
STAs in that network are power savers. All STAs associated with
the AP have to be awake at a known time to receive multicast
* Packets can also be discarded due to buffer limitations in the AP
and non-AP STA.
3.2. Issues at Layer 3 and Above
This section identifies some representative IETF protocols and
describes possible negative effects due to performance degradation
when using multicast transmissions for control messages. Common uses
of multicast include:
* Control plane signaling
* Neighbor Discovery
* Address resolution
* Service Discovery
* Applications (video delivery, stock data, etc.)
* On-demand routing
* Backbone construction
* Other Layer 3 protocols (non-IP)
User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is the most common transport-layer
protocol for multicast applications. By itself, UDP is not reliable
-- messages may be lost or delivered out of order.
The following list contains some representative discovery protocols
that utilize broadcast/multicast and are used with IPv4.
* ARP [RFC0826
* DHCP [RFC2131
* Multicast DNS (mDNS) [RFC6762
* Universal Plug and Play (uPnP) [RFC6970
After initial configuration, ARP (described in more detail later),
DHCP, and uPnP occur much less commonly, but service discovery can
occur at any time. Some widely deployed service discovery protocols
(e.g., for finding a printer) utilize mDNS (i.e., multicast), which
is often dropped by operators. Even if multicast snooping [RFC4541
(which provides the benefit of conserving bandwidth on those segments
of the network where no node has expressed interest in receiving
packets addressed to the group address) is utilized, many devices can
register at once and cause serious network degradation.
IPv6 makes extensive use of multicast, including the following:
* DHCPv6 [RFC8415
* Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) [RFC7761
* IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) [RFC4861
* Multicast DNS (mDNS) [RFC6762
* Router Discovery [RFC4286
IPv6 NDP Neighbor Solicitation (NS) messages used in Duplicate
Address Detection (DAD) and address lookup make use of link-scope
multicast. In contrast to IPv4, an IPv6 node will typically use
multiple addresses and may change them often for privacy reasons.
This intensifies the impact of multicast messages that are associated
with the mobility of a node. Router advertisement (RA) messages are
also periodically multicast over the link.
Neighbors may be considered lost if several consecutive Neighbor
Discovery packets fail.
Multicast Listener Discovery (MLD) [RFC4541
] is used to identify
members of a multicast group that are connected to the ports of a
switch. Forwarding multicast frames into a Wi-Fi-enabled area can
use switch support for hardware forwarding state information.
However, since IPv6 makes heavy use of multicast, each STA with an
IPv6 address will require state on the switch for several and
possibly many solicited-node multicast addresses. A solicited-node
multicast address is an IPv6 multicast address used by NDP to verify
whether an IPv6 address is already used by the local link. Multicast
addresses that do not have forwarding state installed (perhaps due to
hardware memory limitations on the switch) cause frames to be flooded
on all ports of the switch. Some switch vendors do not support MLD
for link-scope multicast due to the increase it can cause in state.
3.2.4. Spurious Neighbor Discovery
On the Internet, there is a "background radiation" of scanning
traffic (people scanning for vulnerable machines) and backscatter
(responses from spoofed traffic, etc.). This means that routers very
often receive packets destined for IPv4 addresses regardless of
whether those IP addresses are in use. In the cases where the IP is
assigned to a host, the router broadcasts an ARP request, receives an
ARP reply, and caches it; then, traffic can be delivered to the host.
When the IP address is not in use, the router broadcasts one (or
more) ARP requests and never gets a reply. This means that it does
not populate the ARP cache, and the next time there is traffic for
that IP address, the router will rebroadcast the ARP requests.
The rate of these ARP requests is proportional to the size of the
subnets, the rate of scanning and backscatter, and how long the
router keeps state on non-responding ARPs. As it turns out, this
rate is inversely proportional to how occupied the subnet is (valid
ARPs end up in a cache, stopping the broadcasting; unused IPs never
respond, and so cause more broadcasts). Depending on the address
space in use, the time of day, how occupied the subnet is, and other
unknown factors, thousands of broadcasts per second have been
observed. Around 2,000 broadcasts per second have been observed at
the IETF NOC during face-to-face meetings.
With Neighbor Discovery for IPv6 [RFC4861
], nodes accomplish address
resolution by multicasting a Neighbor Solicitation that asks the
target node to return its link-layer address. Neighbor Solicitation
messages are multicast to the solicited-node multicast address of the
target address. The target returns its link-layer address in a
unicast Neighbor Advertisement message. A single request-response
pair of packets is sufficient for both the initiator and the target
to resolve each other's link-layer addresses; the initiator includes
its link-layer address in the Neighbor Solicitation.
On a wired network, there is not a huge difference between unicast,
multicast, and broadcast traffic. Due to hardware filtering (see,
e.g., [Deri-2010]), inadvertently flooded traffic (or excessive
Ethernet multicast) on wired networks can be quite a bit less costly
compared to wireless cases where sleeping devices have to wake up to
process packets. Wired Ethernets tend to be switched networks,
further reducing interference from multicast. There is effectively
no collision / scheduling problem except at extremely high port
This is not true in the wireless realm; wireless equipment is often
unable to send high volumes of broadcast and multicast traffic,
causing numerous broadcast and multicast packets to be dropped.
Consequently, when a host connects, it is often not able to complete
DHCP, and IPv6 RAs get dropped, leading to users being unable to use
4. Multicast Protocol Optimizations
This section lists some optimizations that have been specified in
IEEE 802 and IETF that are aimed at reducing or eliminating the
issues discussed in Section 3
4.1. Proxy ARP in 802.11-2012
The AP knows the Medium Access Control (MAC) address and IP address
for all associated STAs. In this way, the AP acts as the central
"manager" for all the 802.11 STAs in its Basic Service Set (BSS).
Proxy ARP is easy to implement at the AP and offers the following
* Reduced broadcast traffic (transmitted at low MCS) on the wireless
* STA benefits from extended power save in sleep mode, as ARP
requests for STA's IP address are handled instead by the AP.
* ARP frames are kept off the wireless medium.
* No changes are needed to STA implementation.
Here is the specification language as described in clause 10.23.13 of
| When the AP supports Proxy ARP "[...] the AP shall maintain a
| Hardware Address to Internet Address mapping for each associated
| station, and shall update the mapping when the Internet Address of
| the associated station changes. When the IPv4 address being
| resolved in the ARP request packet is used by a non-AP STA
| currently associated to the BSS, the proxy ARP service shall
| respond on behalf of the STA to an ARP request or an ARP Probe.
4.2. IPv6 Address Registration and Proxy Neighbor Discovery
As used in this section, a Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Network
(6LoWPAN) denotes a Low-Power and Lossy Network (LLN) that supports
6LoWPAN Header Compression (HC) [RFC6282
]. A 6TiSCH network
] is an example of a 6LoWPAN. In order to control the use of
IPv6 multicast over 6LoWPANs, the 6LoWPAN Neighbor Discovery (6LoWPAN
] standard defines an address registration mechanism that
relies on a central registry to assess address uniqueness as a
substitute to the inefficient DAD mechanism found in the mainstream
IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) [RFC4861
The 6lo Working Group has specified an update to [RFC6775
devices can register their address to a Backbone Router [RFC8929
which proxies for the registered addresses with the IPv6 NDP running
on a high-speed aggregating backbone. The update also enables a
proxy registration mechanism on behalf of the Registered Node, e.g.,
by a 6LoWPAN router to which the mobile node is attached.
The general idea behind the Backbone Router concept is that broadcast
and multicast messaging should be tightly controlled in a variety of
WLANs and Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs). Connectivity to a
particular link that provides the subnet should be left to Layer 3.
The model for the Backbone Router operation is represented in
| | Gateway (default) router
| Backbone Link
| | |
+-----+ +-----+ +-----+
| | Backbone | | Backbone | | Backbone
| | router 1 | | router 2 | | router 3
+-----+ +-----+ +-----+
o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o o o o
o o o o o o o
LLN 1 LLN 2 LLN 3
Figure 1: Backbone Link and Backbone Routers
LLN nodes can move freely from an LLN anchored at one IPv6 Backbone
Router to an LLN anchored at another Backbone Router on the same
backbone, keeping any of the IPv6 addresses they have configured.
The Backbone Routers maintain a Binding Table of their Registered
Nodes, which serves as a distributed database of all the LLN nodes.
An extension to the Neighbor Discovery Protocol is introduced to
exchange Binding Table information across the Backbone Link as needed
for the operation of IPv6 Neighbor Discovery.
] and follow-on work [RFC8505
] address the needs of LLNs, and
similar techniques are likely to be valuable on any type of link
where sleeping devices are attached or where the use of broadcast and
multicast operations should be limited.
4.3. Buffering to Improve Battery Life
Methods have been developed to help save battery life; for example, a
device might not wake up when the AP receives a multicast packet.
The AP acts on behalf of STAs in various ways. To enable use of the
power-saving feature for STAs in its BSS, the AP buffers frames for
delivery to the STA at the time when the STA is scheduled for
reception. If an AP, for instance, expresses a Delivery Traffic
Indication Message (DTIM) of 3, then the AP will send a multicast
packet every 3 packets. In fact, when any single wireless STA
associated with an AP has 802.11 power-save mode enabled, the AP
buffers all multicast frames and sends them only after the next DTIM
In practice, most APs will send a multicast every 30 packets. For
unicast, the AP could send a Traffic Indication Message (TIM), but,
for multicast, the AP sends a broadcast to everyone. DTIM does power
management, but STAs can choose whether to wake up and whether to
drop the packet. Unfortunately, without proper administrative
control, such STAs may be unable to determine why their multicast
operations do not work.
4.4. Limiting Multicast Buffer Hardware Queue Depth
The Content after Beacon (CAB) queue is used for beacon-triggered
transmission of buffered multicast frames. If lots of multicast
frames were buffered and this queue fills up, it drowns out all
regular traffic. To limit the damage that buffered traffic can do,
some drivers limit the amount of queued multicast data to a fraction
of the beacon_interval. An example of this is [CAB].
4.5. IPv6 Support in 802.11-2012
IPv6 uses NDP instead of ARP. Every IPv6 node subscribes to a
special multicast address for this purpose.
Here is the specification language from clause 10.23.13 of
| When an IPv6 address is being resolved, the Proxy Neighbor
| Discovery service shall respond with a Neighbor Advertisement
| message [...] on behalf of an associated STA to an [ICMPv6]
| Neighbor Solicitation message [...]. When MAC address mappings
| change, the AP may send unsolicited Neighbor Advertisement
| Messages on behalf of a STA.
NDP may be used to request additional information using the following
methods, among others:
* Maximum Transmission Unit
* Router Solicitation
* Router Advertisement
NDP messages are sent as group-addressed (broadcast) frames in
802.11. Using the proxy operation helps to keep NDP messages off the
4.6. Using Unicast Instead of Multicast
It is often possible to transmit multicast control and data messages
by using unicast transmissions to each station individually.
In many situations, it's a good choice to use unicast instead of
multicast over the Wi-Fi link. This avoids most of the problems
specific to multicast over Wi-Fi, since the individual frames are
then acknowledged and buffered for power-save clients in the way that
unicast traffic normally operates.
This approach comes with the trade-off of sometimes sending the same
packet multiple times over the Wi-Fi link. However, in many cases,
such as video into a residential home network, this can be a good
trade-off since the Wi-Fi link may have enough capacity for the
unicast traffic to be transmitted to each subscribed STA, even though
multicast addressing may have been necessary for the upstream access
Several technologies exist that can be used to arrange unicast
transport over the Wi-Fi link, outlined in the subsections below.
4.6.2. Layer 2 Conversion to Unicast
It is often possible to transmit multicast control and data messages
by using unicast transmissions to each station individually.
Although there is not yet a standardized method of conversion, at
least one widely available implementation exists in the Linux
bridging code [bridge-mc-2-uc]. Other proprietary implementations
are available from various vendors. In general, these
implementations perform a straightforward mapping for groups or
channels, discovered by IGMP or MLD snooping, to the corresponding
unicast MAC addresses.
4.6.3. Directed Multicast Service (DMS)
DMS enables an STA to request that the AP transmit multicast group-
addressed frames destined to the requesting STAs as individually
addressed frames (i.e., convert multicast to unicast). Here are some
characteristics of DMS:
* Requires 802.11n Aggregate MAC Service Data Units (A-MSDUs).
* Individually addressed frames are acknowledged and are buffered
for power-save STAs.
* The requesting STA may specify traffic characteristics for DMS
* DMS was defined in IEEE Std 802.11v-2011 [v2011].
* DMS requires changes to both AP and STA implementation.
DMS is not currently implemented in products. See [Tramarin2017] and
[Oliva2013] for more information.
4.6.4. Automatic Multicast Tunneling (AMT)
] provides a method to tunnel multicast IP packets inside
unicast IP packets over network links that only support unicast.
When an operating system or application running on an STA has an AMT
gateway capability integrated, it's possible to use unicast to
traverse the Wi-Fi link by deploying an AMT relay in the non-Wi-Fi
portion of the network connected to the AP.
It is recommended that multicast-enabled networks deploying AMT
relays for this purpose make the relays locally discoverable with the
following methods, as described in [RFC8777
* DNS-based Service Discovery (DNS-SD) [RFC6763
* The well-known IP addresses from Section 7
An AMT gateway that implements multiple standard discovery methods is
more likely to discover the local multicast-capable network instead
of forming a connection to a nonlocal AMT relay further upstream.
4.7. GroupCast with Retries (GCR)
GCR (defined in [dot11aa]) provides greater reliability by using
either unsolicited retries or a block acknowledgement mechanism. GCR
increases the probability of broadcast frame reception success but
still does not guarantee success.
For the block acknowledgement mechanism, the AP transmits each group-
addressed frame as a conventional group-addressed transmission.
Retransmissions are group addressed but hidden from non-11aa STAs. A
directed block acknowledgement scheme is used to harvest reception
status from receivers; retransmissions are based upon these
GCR is suitable for all group sizes including medium to large groups.
As the number of devices in the group increases, GCR can send block
acknowledgement requests to only a small subset of the group. GCR
does require changes to both AP and STA implementations.
GCR may introduce unacceptable latency. After sending a group of
data frames to the group, the AP has to do the following:
* Unicast a Block Ack Request (BAR) to a subset of members.
* Wait for the corresponding Block Ack (BA).
* Retransmit any missed frames.
* Resume other operations that may have been delayed.
This latency may not be acceptable for some traffic.
There are ongoing extensions in 802.11 to improve GCR performance.
* BAR is sent using downlink Multi-User MIMO.
* BA is sent using uplink MU-MIMO (uplink MU-MIMO is an IEEE
* Latency may also be reduced by simultaneously receiving BA
information from multiple STAs.
5. Operational Optimizations
This section lists some operational optimizations that can be
implemented when deploying wireless IEEE 802 networks to mitigate
some of the issues discussed in Section 3
5.1. Mitigating Problems from Spurious Neighbor Discovery
An ARP Sponge sits on a network and learns which IP addresses
are actually in use. It also listens for ARP requests, and, if
it sees an ARP for an IP address that it believes is not used,
it will reply with its own MAC address. This means that the
router now has an IP-to-MAC mapping, which it caches. If that
IP is later assigned to a machine (e.g., using DHCP), the ARP
Sponge will see this and will stop replying for that address.
Gratuitous ARPs (or the machine ARPing for its gateway) will
replace the sponged address in the router ARP table. This
technique is quite effective; unfortunately, the ARP Sponge
daemons were not really designed for this use (one of the most
widely deployed ARP Sponges [arpsponge] was designed to deal
with the disappearance of participants from an Internet
Exchange Point (IXP)) and so are not optimized for this
purpose. One daemon is needed per subnet; the tuning is tricky
(the scanning rate versus the population rate versus retries,
etc.), and sometimes daemons just stop, requiring a restart of
the daemon that causes disruption.
Some routers (often those based on Linux) implement a "negative
ARP cache" daemon. If the router does not see a reply to an
ARP, it can be configured to cache this information for some
interval. Unfortunately, the core routers in use often do not
support this. Instead, when a host connects to a network and
gets an IP address, it will ARP for its default gateway (the
router). The router will update its cache with the IP to host
MAC mapping learned from the request (passive ARP learning).
Firewall unused space
The distribution of users on wireless networks / subnets may
change in various use cases, such as conference venues (e.g.,
Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs) are renamed, some SSIDs lose
favor, etc.). This makes utilization for particular SSIDs
difficult to predict ahead of time, but usage can be monitored
as attendees use the different networks. Configuring multiple
DHCP pools per subnet and enabling them sequentially can create
a large subnet from which only addresses in the lower portions
are assigned. Therefore, input IP access lists can be applied,
which deny traffic to the upper, unused portions. Then the
router does not attempt to forward packets to the unused
portions of the subnets and so does not ARP for it. This
method has proven to be very effective but is somewhat of a
blunt axe, is fairly labor intensive, and requires
Disabling/Filtering ARP requests
In general, the router does not need to ARP for hosts; when a
host connects, the router can learn the IP-to-MAC mapping from
the ARP request sent by that host. Consequently, it should be
possible to disable and/or filter ARP requests from the router.
Unfortunately, ARP is a very low-level/fundamental part of the
IP stack and is often offloaded from the normal control plane.
While many routers can filter Layer 2 traffic, this is usually
implemented as an input filter and/or has limited ability to
filter output broadcast traffic. This means that the seemingly
simple and obvious solution to "just disable ARP or filter it
outbound" is made difficult or awkward in practice by
implementations and/or architectural issues.
Broadcasts can often be caused by outside Wi-Fi scanning /
backscatter traffic. In order to reduce the impact of
broadcasts, NAT can be used on the entire (or a large portion)
of a network. This would eliminate NAT translation entries for
unused addresses, and the router would never ARP for them.
There are, however, many reasons to avoid using NAT in such a
Another obvious solution would be to put a stateful firewall
between the wireless network and the Internet. This firewall
would block incoming traffic not associated with an outbound
request. But this conflicts with the need and desire of some
organizations to have the network as open as possible and to
honor the end-to-end principle. An attendee on a meeting
network should be an Internet host and should be able to
receive unsolicited requests. Unfortunately, keeping the
network working and stable is the first priority, and a
stateful firewall may be required in order to achieve this.
5.2. Mitigating Spurious Service Discovery Messages
In networks that must support hundreds of STAs, operators have
observed network degradation due to many devices simultaneously
registering with mDNS. In a network with many clients, it is
recommended to ensure that mDNS packets designed to discover services
in smaller home networks be constrained to avoid disrupting other
6. Multicast Considerations for Other Wireless Media
Many of the causes of performance degradation described in earlier
sections are also observable for wireless media other than 802.11.
For instance, problems with power save, excess media occupancy, and
poor reliability will also affect 802.15.3 and 802.15.4.
Unfortunately, 802.15 media specifications do not yet include
mechanisms similar to those developed for 802.11. In fact, the
design philosophy for 802.15 is oriented towards minimality, with the
result that many such functions are relegated to operation within
higher-layer protocols. This leads to a patchwork of non-
interoperable and vendor-specific solutions. See [uli] for
additional discussion and a proposal for a task group to resolve
similar issues, in which the multicast problems might be considered
Similar considerations hold for most other wireless media. A brief
introduction is provided in [RFC5757
] for the following:
* 802.16 WiMAX
* TV Broadcast and Satellite Networks
This section provides some recommendations about the usage and
combinations of some of the multicast enhancements described in
Future protocol documents utilizing multicast signaling should be
carefully scrutinized if the protocol is likely to be used over
The use of proxy methods should be encouraged to conserve network
bandwidth and power utilization by low-power devices. The device can
send a unicast message to its proxy, and then the proxy can take care
of any needed multicast operations.
Multicast signaling for wireless devices should be done in a way that
is compatible with low duty-cycle operation.
8. Ongoing Discussion Items
This section suggests two discussion items for further resolution.
First, standards (and private) organizations should develop
guidelines to help clarify when multicast packets would be better
served by being sent wired rather than wireless. For example,
802.1ak [IEEE802.1ak] works on both Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and
organizations could help with deployment decision making by
developing guidelines for multicast over Wi-Fi, including options for
when traffic should be sent wired.
Second, reliable registration to Layer 2 multicast groups and a
reliable multicast operation at Layer 2 might provide a good
multicast over Wi-Fi solution. There shouldn't be a need to support
2^24 groups to get solicited node multicast working: it is possible
to simply select a number of bits that make sense for a given network
size to limit the number of unwanted deliveries to reasonable levels.
The IEEE 802.1, 802.11, and 802.15 Working Groups should be
encouraged to revisit Layer 2 multicast issues and provide workable
9. Security Considerations
This document does not introduce or modify any security mechanisms.
Multicast deployed on wired or wireless networks as discussed in this
document can be made more secure in a variety of ways. [RFC4601
for instance, specifies the use of IPsec to ensure authentication of
the link-local messages in the Protocol Independent Multicast -
Sparse Mode (PIM-SM) routing protocol. [RFC5796
mechanisms to authenticate the PIM-SM link-local messages using the
IP security (IPsec) Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) or
(optionally) the Authentication Header (AH).
When using mechanisms that convert multicast traffic to unicast
traffic for traversing radio links, the AP (or other entity) is
forced to explicitly track which subscribers care about certain
multicast traffic. This is generally a reasonable trade-off but does
result in another entity that is tracking what entities subscribe to
which multicast traffic. While such information is already (by
necessity) tracked elsewhere, this does present an expansion of the
attack surface for that potentially privacy-sensitive information.
As noted in [group_key], the unreliable nature of multicast
transmission over wireless media can cause subtle problems with
multicast group key management and updates. [group_key] states that
when TKIP (WPA, now deprecated) or AES-CCMP (WPA2/WPA3) encryption is
in use, AP-to-client (FromDS) multicasts have to be encrypted with a
separate encryption key that is known to all of the clients (this is
called the Group Key). Quoting further from that website, "... most
clients are able to get connected and surf the web, check email, etc.
even when FromDS multicasts are broken. So a lot of people don't
realize they have multicast problems on their network..."
This document encourages the use of proxy methods to conserve network
bandwidth and power utilization by low-power devices. Such proxy
methods in general have security considerations that require the
proxy to be trusted to not misbehave. One such proxy method listed
is an ARP Sponge that listens for ARP requests, and, if it sees an
ARP for an IP address that it believes is not used, it will reply
with its own MAC address. ARP poisoning and false advertising could
potentially undermine (e.g., DoS) this and other proxy approaches.
10. IANA Considerations
This document has no IANA actions.
11. Informative References
Wessel, M. and N. Sijm, "Effects of IPv4 and IPv6 address
resolution on AMS-IX and the ARP Sponge", July 2009,
"bridge: multicast to unicast", commit 6db6f0e, January
[CAB] "limit multicast buffer hardware queue depth", commit
2687951, June 2013,
Deri, L. and J. Gasparakis, "10 Gbit Hardware Packet
Filtering Using Commodity Network Adapters", RIPE 61,
November 2010, <http://ripe61.ripe.net/
[dot11] IEEE, "Information Technology--Telecommunications and
Information Exchange between Systems - Local and
Metropolitan Area Networks--Specific Requirements - Part 11:
Wireless LAN Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical
Layer (PHY) Specifications (includes 802.11v amendment)",
DOI 10.1109/IEEESTD.2021.9363693, IEEE Std 802.11-2020,
Hiertz, G., Mestanov, F., and B. Hart, "Proxy ARP in
802.11ax", September 2015,
[dot11aa] IEEE, "Information technology--Telecommunications and
information exchange between systems Local and
metropolitan area networks--Specific requirements Part 11:
Wireless LAN Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical
Layer (PHY) Specifications Amendment 2: MAC Enhancements
for Robust Audio Video Streaming",
DOI 10.1109/IEEESTD.2012.6204193, IEEE Std 802.11aa-2012,
"Subject: Why do some WiFi routers block multicast packets
going from wired to wireless?", message to the Super User
Q & A community, January 2017,
IEEE, "Local and Metropolitan Area Networks Virtual
Bridged Local Area Networks - Amendment 07: Multiple
Registration Protocol", DOI 10.1109/IEEESTD.2007.380667,
IEEE Std 802.1ak-2007, June 2007,
Stanley, D., "IEEE 802.11 multicast capabilities",
November 2015, <https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/
Abrahamsson, M. and A. Stephens, "Multicast on 802.11",
[mc-props] Stephens, A., "IEEE 802.11 multicast properties",
September 2015, <https://mentor.ieee.org/802.11/
de la Oliva, A., Serrano, P., Salvador, P., and A. Banchs,
"Performance evaluation of the IEEE 802.11aa multicast
mechanisms for video streaming", 2013 IEEE 14th
International Symposium on "A World of Wireless, Mobile
and Multimedia Networks" (WoWMoM), pp. 1-9,
DOI 10.1109/WoWMoM.2013.6583394, June 2013,
] Plummer, D., "An Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol: Or
Converting Network Protocol Addresses to 48.bit Ethernet
Address for Transmission on Ethernet Hardware", STD 37, RFC 826
, DOI 10.17487/RFC0826
, November 1982,
] Droms, R., "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol", RFC 2131
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2131
, March 1997,
] Haberman, B. and J. Martin, "Multicast Router Discovery", RFC 4286
, DOI 10.17487/RFC4286
, December 2005,
] Christensen, M., Kimball, K., and F. Solensky,
"Considerations for Internet Group Management Protocol
(IGMP) and Multicast Listener Discovery (MLD) Snooping
Switches", RFC 4541
, DOI 10.17487/RFC4541
, May 2006,
] Fenner, B., Handley, M., Holbrook, H., and I. Kouvelas,
"Protocol Independent Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM):
Protocol Specification (Revised)", RFC 4601
, August 2006,
] Narten, T., Nordmark, E., Simpson, W., and H. Soliman,
"Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 4861
, September 2007,
] Thomson, S., Narten, T., and T. Jinmei, "IPv6 Stateless
Address Autoconfiguration", RFC 4862
, September 2007,
] Schmidt, T., Waehlisch, M., and G. Fairhurst, "Multicast
Mobility in Mobile IP Version 6 (MIPv6): Problem Statement
and Brief Survey", RFC 5757
, DOI 10.17487/RFC5757
February 2010, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5757
] Atwood, W., Islam, S., and M. Siami, "Authentication and
Confidentiality in Protocol Independent Multicast Sparse
Mode (PIM-SM) Link-Local Messages", RFC 5796
, March 2010,
] Hui, J., Ed. and P. Thubert, "Compression Format for IPv6
Datagrams over IEEE 802.15.4-Based Networks", RFC 6282
, September 2011,
] Cheshire, S. and M. Krochmal, "Multicast DNS", RFC 6762
, February 2013,
] Cheshire, S. and M. Krochmal, "DNS-Based Service
Discovery", RFC 6763
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6763
, February 2013,
] Shelby, Z., Ed., Chakrabarti, S., Nordmark, E., and C.
Bormann, "Neighbor Discovery Optimization for IPv6 over
Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPANs)", RFC 6775
, DOI 10.17487/RFC6775
, November 2012,
] Boucadair, M., Penno, R., and D. Wing, "Universal Plug and
Play (UPnP) Internet Gateway Device - Port Control
Protocol Interworking Function (IGD-PCP IWF)", RFC 6970
, July 2013,
] Bumgardner, G., "Automatic Multicast Tunneling", RFC 7450
, February 2015,
] Fenner, B., Handley, M., Holbrook, H., Kouvelas, I.,
Parekh, R., Zhang, Z., and L. Zheng, "Protocol Independent
Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM): Protocol Specification
(Revised)", STD 83, RFC 7761
, DOI 10.17487/RFC7761
] Mrugalski, T., Siodelski, M., Volz, B., Yourtchenko, A.,
Richardson, M., Jiang, S., Lemon, T., and T. Winters,
"Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol for IPv6 (DHCPv6)", RFC 8415
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8415
, November 2018,
] Thubert, P., Ed., Nordmark, E., Chakrabarti, S., and C.
Perkins, "Registration Extensions for IPv6 over Low-Power
Wireless Personal Area Network (6LoWPAN) Neighbor
Discovery", RFC 8505
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8505
, November 2018,
] Holland, J., "DNS Reverse IP Automatic Multicast Tunneling
(AMT) Discovery", RFC 8777
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8777
] Thubert, P., Ed., Perkins, C.E., and E. Levy-Abegnoli,
"IPv6 Backbone Router", RFC 8929
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8929
November 2020, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8929
] Thubert, P., Ed., "An Architecture for IPv6 over the Time-
Slotted Channel Hopping Mode of IEEE 802.15.4 (6TiSCH)", RFC 9030
, DOI 10.17487/RFC9030
, May 2021,
Tramarin, F., Vitturi, S., and M. Luvisotto, "IEEE 802.11n
for Distributed Measurement Systems", 2017 IEEE
International Instrumentation and Measurement Technology
Conference (I2MTC), pp. 1-6, May 2017.
[uli] Kinney, P., "LLC Proposal for 802.15.4", September 2015,
[v2011] IEEE, "Information technology -- Local and metropolitan
area networks -- Specific requirements -- Part 11:
Wireless LAN Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical
Layer (PHY) specifications Amendment 8: IEEE 802.11
Wireless Network Management",
DOI 10.1109/IEEESTD.2011.5716530, IEEE Std 802.11v-2011,
This document has benefitted from discussions with the following
people, in alphabetical order: Mikael Abrahamsson, Bill Atwood,
Stuart Cheshire, Donald Eastlake 3rd, Toerless Eckert, Jake Holland,
Joel Jaeggli, Jan Komissar, David Lamparter, Morten Pedersen, Pascal
Thubert, and Jeffrey (Zhaohui) Zhang.
Charles E. Perkins
Phone: +1 408 255 9223
Futurewei Technologies Inc.
2330 Central Expressway
Santa Clara, CA 95055
United States of America
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
6280 America Center Dr.
San Jose, CA 95002
United States of America
Phone: +1 630 363 1389
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
United States of America
Juan Carlos Zúñiga