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Using Multicast to Transmit Data or an Event

Multicasting enables one to transmit a single stream of data to many recipients or endpoints. Instead of sending a data stream (data packet) to each recipient, only one data stream is sent from the source and the routers along the path to the destination make a copy of the data and send it on to the endpoints.

How is it different from Unicast?

Unicast is the process of sending a data stream (packet of data) to each endpoint or receiver. Unicast uses substantially more bandwidth than Multicast because the same data stream is being sent from the source to all of the recipients or endpoints.

Benefits of Multicast

Using multicast IP technology, the source organization reduces the amount of bandwidth needed to send the data stream to many recipients or endpoints. For example, if there are 10 endpoints who want to receive a data stream from the source organization, instead of having to send the data stream 10 different times, only one stream has to be sent and it will be copied at each router point until the stream reaches the endpoints.

Merit's backbone network is fully enabled to support multicast transmissions. Individual organizations may need to request that their connection be configured. Merit engineers are available to assist our Members with multicast implementations.

Below are diagrams of how Multicast and Unicast work:

Multicast and Unicast diagrams

Uses of Multicast

Multicasting can allow you to reach many end users while utilizing only one data stream, decreasing the amount of bandwidth and saving you money when compared to unicast.

Example uses of Multicast:
  • Students can go on virtual fieldtrips, using video filmed in one location to reach students in many schools--saving travel time and gasoline.

  • A school broadcasts its commencement over the Internet, reaching relatives, friends and alumni anywhere in the world.

  • Students can experience a live concert without ever leaving their classroom.

  • A college lecture series streamed over the Internet.

  • A live sporting event filmed and delivered via the Web.

Multicast example 1

Multicast example 2

Have questions about Multicasting? Contact a Member Relations Manager at or 734-527-5700.

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