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Table of contents
1.
Introduction
2.
What is Unicast Transmission?
3.
What is Broadcast Transmission?
3.1.
1. Directed Broadcast
3.2.
2. Limited Broadcast
4.
What is Multicast Transmission?
5.
Difference Between Unicast, Broadcast, and Multicast in Computer Network
6.
Frequently Asked Questions
6.1.
What is the Simplex mode?
6.2.
What is Half-duplex and Full-duplex mode?
6.3.
Is Netflix multicast or unicast?
6.4.
What is unicast vs multicast vs broadcast vs Anycast?
7.
Conclusion
Last Updated: May 23, 2024

Difference between Unicast, Broadcast and Multicast

Author Anant Dhakad
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Introduction

This blog will discuss the different types of IP routing, i.e., unicast, broadcast, and multicast. 

Difference between Unicast, Broadcast and Multicast

Casting in Computer Networks means transmitting data(stream of packets) from the client(s) to the recipient(s) over a communication channel known as a network. There are three different types of casting in computer networks, which are:

  1. Unicast transmission
  2. Broadcast transmission
  3. Multicast transmission

The key difference is in data delivery: Unicast sends data to a single recipient, Broadcast sends data to all devices in a network, and Multicast sends data to a specific group of subscribed devices.

Also See, Internal and External Fragmentation

What is Unicast Transmission?

In Unicast transmission, data is transmitted from a single client(or a single source host) to a single recipient(or a single destination host). It is a one-to-one kind of transmission.

Fig: Unicast (source)

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What is Broadcast Transmission?

In Broadcast transmission, data is transmitted from a single client(or a single source host) to multiple recipients(or multiple destination hosts) within the same network or other networks. It is a one-to-many kind of transmission. 

Fig: Broadcast (source)

Broadcast transmission can be divided into two categories:

  1. Directed Broadcast
  2. Limited Broadcast

1. Directed Broadcast

In directed-broadcast, data is transmitted from one source client to multiple recipients that reside in some other network

2. Limited Broadcast

In limited-broadcast, data is transmitted from one source client to multiple recipients that reside in the same network

Also see,  Personal Area Network

What is Multicast Transmission?

In Multicast transmission, data is transmitted from multiple clients(or multiple source hosts) to various recipients(or multiple destination hosts) within the same network or other networks. It is a many-to-many kind of transmission.

Fig: Multicast (source)

For IP multicast to work, it needs support from other protocols like Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) and Multicast Routing.

Also see, Message Switching in Computer Networks.

Difference Between Unicast, Broadcast, and Multicast in Computer Network

Here is the comparison table of Unicast, Broadcast and Multicast:

ParametersUnicastBroadcastMulticast
DefinitionData is sent to a single specific recipient.Data is sent to all devices in the network.Data is sent to a specific group of devices.
RecipientOne specific device.All devices in the network.A defined group of devices.
UsageOne-to-one communication.One-to-all communication.One-to-many communication.
EfficiencyHigh efficiency for targeted communication.Less efficient due to unnecessary data delivery to all devices.Efficient for group communication, reducing bandwidth usage.
Common ProtocolsTCP, UDPARP, DHCPIGMP, PIM
ScalabilityScales with each additional recipient.Not scalable, as all devices must process the broadcast.Scales well with multiple recipients within the group.


You can also read about the network models in computer network, Memory hierarchy in computer network.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Simplex mode?

The communication is unidirectional in Simplex mode. Only one of the devices on a link can be a sender, and the other can only receive.

What is Half-duplex and Full-duplex mode?

Both the devices can act as a sender or receiver in half-duplex mode. But at a time only one device can transmit data over the link. Full-duplex mode is bi-directional, i.e. both devices can send or receive data at the same time.

Is Netflix multicast or unicast?

Netflix uses unicast for its streaming services. Each user's device establishes a unique connection to Netflix servers, ensuring personalized streams tailored to individual preferences and viewing habits, resulting in a one-to-one communication model.

What is unicast vs multicast vs broadcast vs Anycast?

Unicast is a one-to-one communication method where data is sent from one source to one specific destination. Multicast is a one-to-many communication method where data is sent from one source to multiple specified recipients within a network. Broadcast sends data from one source to all devices in a network, resulting in one-to-all communication. Anycast allows data to be sent from one source to the nearest or most optimal node in a group of potential receivers, optimizing for latency and redundancy.

Conclusion

In this article, we discussed the difference between Unicast, Broadcast, and Multicast. Understanding the differences between unicast, broadcast, and multicast is essential for designing and optimizing network communication strategies. Unicast offers efficient one-to-one communication, suitable for personalized services like video streaming. Broadcast enables one-to-all communication, useful in scenarios where data must reach every device in a network, but it can be inefficient due to unnecessary data delivery. Multicast strikes a balance by sending data to a specific group of recipients, making it ideal for applications like live video conferencing and IPTV.

To study more about computer networks, refer to disadvantages of computer network.

Recommended Readings:

 

Yet learning never stops, and there is a lot more to learn. So head over to our practice platform Code360 to practice top problems, attempt mock tests, read interview experiences, and much more. Till then, Happy Learning!!

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