A working group of the IETF meets to discuss the latest protocol draft, using the IP multicast services of the Internet for voice communications. Through some allocation mechanism the working group chair obtains a multicast group address and pair of ports. One port is used for audio data, and the other is used for control (RTCP) packets. This address and port information is distributed to the intended participants. If privacy is desired, the data and control packets may be encrypted as specified in Section 9.1, in which case an encryption key must also be generated and distributed. The exact details of these allocation and distribution mechanisms are beyond the scope of RTP.
The audio conferencing application used by each conference participant sends audio data in small chunks of, say, 20 ms duration. Each chunk of audio data is preceded by an RTP header; RTP header and data are in turn contained in a UDP packet. The RTP header indicates what type of audio encoding (such as PCM, ADPCM or LPC) is contained in each packet so that senders can change the encoding during a conference, for example, to accommodate a new participant that is connected through a low-bandwidth link or react to indications of network congestion.
The Internet, like other packet networks, occasionally loses and reorders packets and delays them by variable amounts of time. To cope with these impairments, the RTP header contains timing information and a sequence number that allow the receivers to reconstruct the timing produced by the source, so that in this example, chunks of audio are contiguously played out the speaker every 20 ms. This timing reconstruction is performed separately for each source of RTP packets in the conference. The sequence number can also be used by the receiver to estimate how many packets are being lost.
Since members of the working group join and leave during the conference, it is useful to know who is participating at any moment and how well they are receiving the audio data. For that purpose, each instance of the audio application in the conference periodically multicasts a reception report plus the name of its user on the RTCP (control) port. The reception report indicates how well the current speaker is being received and may be used to control adaptive encodings. In addition to the user name, other identifying information may also be included subject to control bandwidth limits. A site sends the RTCP BYE packet (Section 6.5) when it leaves the conference.