Internet Area                                               C.E. Perkins
Internet-Draft                                      Blue Meadow Networks
Intended status: Informational                                M. McBride
Expires: 29 January 2022                                       Futurewei
                                                              D. Stanley
                                                               W. Kumari
                                                              JC. Zuniga
                                                            28 July 2021

         Multicast Considerations over IEEE 802 Wireless Media


   Well-known issues with multicast have prevented the deployment of
   multicast in 802.11 (wifi) 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 taken 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 Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 29 January 2022.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
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   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Identified multicast issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.1.  Issues at Layer 2 and Below . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.1.1.  Multicast reliability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       3.1.2.  Lower and Variable Data Rate  . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       3.1.3.  Capacity and Impact on Interference . . . . . . . . .   7
       3.1.4.  Power-save Effects on Multicast . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.2.  Issues at Layer 3 and Above . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       3.2.1.  IPv4 issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       3.2.2.  IPv6 issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       3.2.3.  MLD issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       3.2.4.  Spurious Neighbor Discovery . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  Multicast protocol optimizations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.1.  Proxy ARP in 802.11-2012  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.2.  IPv6 Address Registration and Proxy Neighbor Discovery  .  11
     4.3.  Buffering to Improve Battery Life . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     4.4.  Limiting multicast buffer hardware queue depth  . . . . .  13
     4.5.  IPv6 support in 802.11-2012 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     4.6.  Using Unicast Instead of Multicast  . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.6.1.  Overview  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.6.2.  Layer 2 Conversion to Unicast . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.6.3.  Directed Multicast Service (DMS)  . . . . . . . . . .  14
       4.6.4.  Automatic Multicast Tunneling (AMT) . . . . . . . . .  15
     4.7.  GroupCast with Retries (GCR)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   5.  Operational optimizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     5.1.  Mitigating Problems from Spurious Neighbor Discovery  . .  16
     5.2.  Mitigating Spurious Service Discovery Messages  . . . . .  18
   6.  Multicast Considerations for Other Wireless Media . . . . . .  18
   7.  Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
   8.  On-going Discussion Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19
   9.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20

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   10. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
   11. Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   12. Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25

1.  Introduction

   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], [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 sending
   data 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, address resolution, as well 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 not widespread on most
   wireless networks.

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   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.  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 due
   to multicast being unreliable.  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 taken is also included.  It is likely that this
   document will also be considered relevant to designers of future IEEE
   wireless specifications.

2.  Terminology

   This document uses the following definitions:

      The 802.11 layer 2 acknowledgement

      IEEE 802.11 Access Point

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   basic rate
      The slowest rate of all the connected devices, at which multicast
      and broadcast traffic is generally transmitted

      Delivery Traffic Indication Map (DTIM): 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 (TIM): An information element that
      advertises whether or not any associated stations have buffered
      unicast frames

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.  And since there are no ACKs for multicast packets,
   it is not possible for the Access Point (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

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   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 Access Point,
   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 Access Point
   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 2 of [RFC5757].  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 Access Point.

   Because more robust modulation and coding schemes (MCSs) have longer
   range but also 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 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.

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   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 to 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 wifi 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,
      efficiency and increase 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 to the
      AP have to be awake at a known time to receive multicast traffic.
   *  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

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   *  Address Resolution
   *  Service Discovery
   *  Applications (video delivery, stock data, etc.)
   *  On-demand routing
   *  Backbone construction
   *  Other L3 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.

3.2.1.  IPv4 issues

   The following list contains some representative discovery protocols,
   which utilize broadcast/multicast, that are used with IPv4.

   *  ARP [RFC0826]
   *  DHCP [RFC2131]
   *  mDNS [RFC6762]
   *  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.

3.2.2.  IPv6 issues

   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
   to the mobility of a node.  Router advertisement (RA) messages are
   also periodically multicasted over the Link.

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   Neighbors may be considered lost if several consecutive Neighbor
   Discovery packets fail.

3.2.3.  MLD issues

   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 multicast solicited-node 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, gets back 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

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   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
   the network.

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 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 advantages:

   *  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

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      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 non-AP STA".

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 lossy network (LLN) that supports
   6LoWPAN Header Compression (HC) [RFC6282].  A 6TiSCH network
   [I-D.ietf-6tisch-architecture] is an example of a 6LowPAN.  In order
   to control the use of IPv6 multicast over 6LoWPANs, the 6LoWPAN
   Neighbor Discovery (6LoWPAN ND) [RFC6775] 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)

   The 6lo Working Group has specified an update [RFC8505] to RFC6775.
   Wireless devices can register their address to a Backbone Router
   [I-D.ietf-6lo-backbone-router], 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
   Figure 1.

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               |     | 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.

   RFC6775 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 DTIM (Delivery
   Traffic Indication Message) of 3 then the AP will send a multicast
   packet every 3 packets.  In fact, when any single wireless STA
   associated with an access point has 802.11 power-save mode enabled,

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   the access point buffers all multicast frames and sends them only
   after the next DTIM beacon.

   In practice, most AP's will send a multicast every 30 packets.  For
   unicast the AP could send a TIM (Traffic Indication Message), but for
   multicast the AP sends a broadcast to everyone.  DTIM does power
   management but STAs can choose whether or not to wake up and whether
   or not 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 CAB (Content after Beacon) 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

   *  Maximum Transmission Unit
   *  Router Solicitation
   *  Router Advertisement, etc.

   NDP messages are sent as group addressed (broadcast) frames in
   802.11.  Using the proxy operation helps to keep NDP messages off the
   wireless medium.

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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.

4.6.1.  Overview

   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 tradeoff 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
   tradeoff, 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)

   There are situations where more is needed than simply converting
   multicast to unicast.  For these purposes, 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 A-MSDUs

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   *  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
   *  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)

   AMT[RFC7450] 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

   *  DNS-SD [RFC6763]
   *  the well-known IP addresses from Section 7 of [RFC7450]

   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 non-local 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 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 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

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   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 MU-MIMO (note that downlink MU-MIMO is
      already specified in 802.11-REVmc 4.3).
   *  BA is sent using uplink MU-MIMO (which is a .11ax feature).
   *  Additional 802.11ax extensions are under consideration; see
   *  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

   ARP Sponges
         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; but, 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 IXP) and
         so are not optimized for this purpose.  One daemon is needed

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         per subnet, the tuning is tricky (the scanning rate versus the
         population rate versus retires, etc.) and sometimes daemons
         just stop, requiring a restart of the daemon which causes
   Router mitigations
         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
         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 coordination.
   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 simple "just disable ARP or filter it outbound" seems
         like a really simple (and obvious) solution, but
         implementations / architectural issues make this difficult or
         awkward in practice.

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         Broadcasts can often be caused by outside wifi 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
         blanket fashion.
   Stateful firewalls
         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 some
   additional discussion, and a proposal for a task group to resolve
   similar issues, in which the multicast problems might be considered
   for mitigation.

   Similar considerations hold for most other wireless media.  A brief
   introduction is provided in [RFC5757] for the following:

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   *  802.16 WIMAX
   *  3GPP/3GPP2
   *  DVB-H / DVB-IPDC
   *  TV Broadcast and Satellite Networks

7.  Recommendations

   This section provides some recommendations about the usage and
   combinations of some of the multicast enhancements described in
   Section 4 and Section 5.

   Future protocol documents utilizing multicast signaling should be
   carefully scrutinized if the protocol is likely to be used over
   wireless media.

   The use of proxy methods should be encouraged to conserve network
   bandwidth and power utilization by low-power devices.  The device can
   use 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
   compatible with low duty-cycle operation.

8.  On-going 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 ( 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 wifi 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.
   IEEE 802.1, 802.11, and 802.15 should be encouraged to revisit L2
   multicast issues and provide workable solutions.

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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]specifies 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 tradeoff, 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.  When WPA (TKIP) or WPA2
   (AES-CCMP) encryption is in use, AP to client (From DS) 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 From DS 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 which 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 does not request any IANA actions.

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11.  Acknowledgements

   This document has benefitted from discussions with the following
   people, in alphabetical order: Mikael Abrahamsson, Bill Atwood,
   Stuart Cheshire, Donald Eastlake, Toerless Eckert, Jake Holland, Joel
   Jaeggli, Jan Komissar, David Lamparter, Morten Pedersen, Pascal
   Thubert, Jeffrey (Zhaohui) Zhang

12.  Informative References

              Wessel, M. and N. Sijm, "Effects of IPv4 and IPv6 address
              resolution on AMS-IX and the ARP Sponge", July 2009,

              Fietkau, F., "bridge: multicast to unicast", January 2017,

   [CAB]      Fietkau, F., "Limit multicast buffer hardware queue
              depth", 2013,

              Deri, L. and J. Gasparakis, "10 Gbit Hardware Packet
              Filtering Using Commodity Network Adapters", RIPE 61,
              2010, <

   [dot11]    "IEEE 802 Wireless", "802.11-2016 - IEEE Standard for
              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)
              Specification (includes 802.11v amendment)", March 2016,

              Hiertz, G. R., Mestanov, F., and B. Hart, "Proxy ARP in
              802.11ax", September 2015,

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   [dot11aa]  "IEEE 802 Wireless", "Part 11: Wireless LAN Medium Access
              Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Specifications
              Amendment 2: MAC Enhancements for Robust Audio Video
              Streaming", March 2012,

              Spiff, "Why do some WiFi routers block multicast packets
              going from wired to wireless?", January 2017,

              Thubert, P., Perkins, C. E., and E. Levy-Abegnoli, "IPv6
              Backbone Router", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-6lo-backbone-router-20, 23 March 2020,

              Thubert, P., "An Architecture for IPv6 over the Time-
              Slotted Channel Hopping Mode of IEEE 802.15.4 (6TiSCH)",
              Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-6tisch-
              architecture-30, 26 November 2020,

              Holland, J., "DNS Reverse IP Automatic Multicast Tunneling
              (AMT) Discovery", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-mboned-driad-amt-discovery-13, 20 December 2019,

              Stanley, D., "IEEE 802.11 multicast capabilities",
              November 2015, <

              Tanaka, Y., Sakai, E., Morioka, Y., Mori, M., Hiertz, G.,
              and S. Coffey, "Multiplexing of Acknowledgements for
              Multicast Transmission", July 2015,

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              Abrahamsson, M. and A. Stephens, "Multicast on 802.11",
              March 2015, <

   [mc-props] Stephens, A., "IEEE 802.11 multicast properties", March
              2015, <

              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, June 2013.

   [RFC0826]  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,

   [RFC2131]  Droms, R., "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol",
              RFC 2131, DOI 10.17487/RFC2131, March 1997,

   [RFC4286]  Haberman, B. and J. Martin, "Multicast Router Discovery",
              RFC 4286, DOI 10.17487/RFC4286, December 2005,

   [RFC4541]  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,

   [RFC4601]  Fenner, B., Handley, M., Holbrook, H., and I. Kouvelas,
              "Protocol Independent Multicast - Sparse Mode (PIM-SM):
              Protocol Specification (Revised)", RFC 4601,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4601, August 2006,

   [RFC4861]  Narten, T., Nordmark, E., Simpson, W., and H. Soliman,
              "Neighbor Discovery for IP version 6 (IPv6)", RFC 4861,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4861, September 2007,

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   [RFC4862]  Thomson, S., Narten, T., and T. Jinmei, "IPv6 Stateless
              Address Autoconfiguration", RFC 4862,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4862, September 2007,

   [RFC5424]  Gerhards, R., "The Syslog Protocol", RFC 5424,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5424, March 2009,

   [RFC5757]  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, <>.

   [RFC5796]  Atwood, W., Islam, S., and M. Siami, "Authentication and
              Confidentiality in Protocol Independent Multicast Sparse
              Mode (PIM-SM) Link-Local Messages", RFC 5796,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5796, March 2010,

   [RFC6282]  Hui, J., Ed. and P. Thubert, "Compression Format for IPv6
              Datagrams over IEEE 802.15.4-Based Networks", RFC 6282,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6282, September 2011,

   [RFC6762]  Cheshire, S. and M. Krochmal, "Multicast DNS", RFC 6762,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6762, February 2013,

   [RFC6763]  Cheshire, S. and M. Krochmal, "DNS-Based Service
              Discovery", RFC 6763, DOI 10.17487/RFC6763, February 2013,

   [RFC6775]  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,

   [RFC6970]  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,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6970, July 2013,

   [RFC7450]  Bumgardner, G., "Automatic Multicast Tunneling", RFC 7450,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7450, February 2015,

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   [RFC7761]  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, March
              2016, <>.

   [RFC8415]  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,

   [RFC8505]  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,

              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", November 2015,

Authors' Addresses

   Charles E. Perkins
   Blue Meadow Networks

   Phone: +1-408-330-4586

   Mike McBride
   Futurewei Technologies Inc.
   2330 Central Expressway
   Santa Clara, CA 95055
   United States of America


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   Dorothy Stanley
   Hewlett Packard Enterprise
   2000 North Naperville Rd.
   Naperville, IL 60566
   United States of America

   Phone: +1 630 979 1572

   Warren Kumari
   1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
   Mountain View, CA 94043
   United States of America


   Juan Carlos Zuniga
   425 rue Jean Rostand
   31670 Labege


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