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3.3.6 Broadcasts

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3.3.6 Broadcasts

3.3.6 Broadcasts

Section defined the four standard IP broadcast address forms:

Limited Broadcast: {-1, -1}
Directed Broadcast: {<Network-number>,-1}
Subnet Directed Broadcast: {<Network-number>,<Subnet-number>,-1}
All-Subnets Directed Broadcast: {<Network-number>,-1,-1}

A host MUST recognize any of these forms in the destination address of an incoming datagram.

There is a class of hosts (4.2BSD Unix and its derivatives, but not 4.3BSD) that use non-standard broadcast address forms, substituting 0 for -1. All hosts SHOULD recognize and accept any of these non-standard broadcast addresses as the destination address of an incoming datagram. A host MAY optionally have a configuration option to choose the 0 or the -1 form of broadcast address, for each physical interface, but this option SHOULD default to the standard (-1) form.

When a host sends a datagram to a link-layer broadcast address, the IP destination address MUST be a legal IP broadcast or IP multicast address.

A host SHOULD silently discard a datagram that is received via a link-layer broadcast (see Section 2.4) but does not specify an IP multicast or broadcast destination address.

Hosts SHOULD use the Limited Broadcast address to broadcast to a connected network.


Using the Limited Broadcast address instead of a Directed Broadcast address may improve system robustness. Problems are often caused by machines that do not understand the plethora of broadcast addresses (see Section, or that may have different ideas about which broadcast addresses are in use. The prime example of the latter is machines that do not understand subnetting but are attached to a subnetted net. Sending a Subnet Broadcast for the connected network will confuse those machines, which will see it as a message to some other host.

There has been discussion on whether a datagram addressed to the Limited Broadcast address ought to be sent from all the interfaces of a multihomed host. This specification takes no stand on the issue.

Next: 3.3.7 IP Multicasting

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