In computer networking, multicast is the delivery of a message or information to a group of destination computers simultaneously in a single transmission from the source. Copies are automatically created in other network elements, such as routers, but only when the topology of the network requires it.
IP multicast is a technique for one-to-many communication over an IP infrastructure in a network. It scales to a larger receiver population by not requiring prior knowledge of who or how many receivers there are. Multicast uses network infrastructure efficiently by requiring the source to send a packet only once, even if it needs to be delivered to a large number of receivers. The nodes in the network take care of replicating the packet to reach multiple receivers only when necessary.
The most common transport layer protocol to use multicast addressing is User Datagram Protocol (UDP). By its nature, UDP is not reliable—messages may be lost or delivered out of order. Reliable multicast protocols such as Pragmatic General Multicast (PGM) have been developed to add loss detection and retransmission on top of IP multicast.
IP multicast is widely deployed in enterprises, commercial stock exchanges, and multimedia content delivery networks. A common enterprise use of IP multicast is for IPTV applications such as distance learning and televised company meetings.