IP address types

IP addresses are divided into three types, based on their operational characteristics:

1. unicast IP addresses – an address of a single interface. The IP addresses of this type are used for one-to-one communication. Unicast IP addresses are used to direct packets to a specific host. Here is an example:

unicast ip address example

In the picture above you can see that the host wants to communicate with the server. It uses the IP address of the server ( to do so.

2. multicast IP addresses – used for one-to-many communication. Multicast messages are sent to IP multicast group addresses. Routers forward copies of the packet out to every interface that has hosts subscribed to that group address. Only the hosts that need to receive the message will process the packets. All other hosts on the LAN will disard them. Here is an example:

multicast ip address example

R1 has sent a multicast packet destined for This is an RIPv2 packet, and only routers on the network should read it. R2 will receive the packet and read it. All other hosts on the LAN will discard the packet.

3. broadcast IP addresses – used to send data to all possible destinations in the broadcast domain (the one-to-everybody communication). The broadcast address for a network has all host bits on. For example, for the network the broadcast address would be Also, the IP address of all 1’s ( can be used for local broadcast. Here’s an example:

broadcast ip address example

R1 has sent a broadcast packet to the broadcast IP address All hosts in the same broadcast domain will receive and process the packet.

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