Network Working Group H. Schulzrinne
Request for Comments: 3550 Columbia University
Obsoletes: 1889 S. Casner
Category: Standards Track Packet Design
Blue Coat Systems Inc.
July 2003 RTP: A Transport Protocol for Real-Time Applications
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2003). All Rights Reserved.
This memorandum describes RTP, the real-time transport protocol. RTP
provides end-to-end network transport functions suitable for
applications transmitting real-time data, such as audio, video or
simulation data, over multicast or unicast network services. RTP
does not address resource reservation and does not guarantee
quality-of-service for real-time services. The data transport is
augmented by a control protocol (RTCP) to allow monitoring of the
data delivery in a manner scalable to large multicast networks, and
to provide minimal control and identification functionality. RTP and
RTCP are designed to be independent of the underlying transport and
network layers. The protocol supports the use of RTP-level
translators and mixers.
Most of the text in this memorandum is identical to RFC 1889 which it
obsoletes. There are no changes in the packet formats on the wire,
only changes to the rules and algorithms governing how the protocol
is used. The biggest change is an enhancement to the scalable timer
algorithm for calculating when to send RTCP packets in order to
minimize transmission in excess of the intended rate when many
participants join a session simultaneously.
This memorandum specifies the real-time transport protocol (RTP),
which provides end-to-end delivery services for data with real-time
characteristics, such as interactive audio and video. Those services
include payload type identification, sequence numbering, timestamping
and delivery monitoring. Applications typically run RTP on top of
UDP to make use of its multiplexing and checksum services; both
protocols contribute parts of the transport protocol functionality.
However, RTP may be used with other suitable underlying network or
transport protocols (see Section 11). RTP supports data transfer to
multiple destinations using multicast distribution if provided by the
Note that RTP itself does not provide any mechanism to ensure timely
delivery or provide other quality-of-service guarantees, but relies
on lower-layer services to do so. It does not guarantee delivery or
prevent out-of-order delivery, nor does it assume that the underlying
network is reliable and delivers packets in sequence. The sequence
numbers included in RTP allow the receiver to reconstruct the
sender's packet sequence, but sequence numbers might also be used to
determine the proper location of a packet, for example in video
decoding, without necessarily decoding packets in sequence.
While RTP is primarily designed to satisfy the needs of multi-
participant multimedia conferences, it is not limited to that
particular application. Storage of continuous data, interactive
distributed simulation, active badge, and control and measurement
applications may also find RTP applicable.
This document defines RTP, consisting of two closely-linked parts:
o the real-time transport protocol (RTP), to carry data that has
o the RTP control protocol (RTCP), to monitor the quality of service
and to convey information about the participants in an on-going
session. The latter aspect of RTCP may be sufficient for "loosely
controlled" sessions, i.e., where there is no explicit membership
control and set-up, but it is not necessarily intended to support
all of an application's control communication requirements. This
functionality may be fully or partially subsumed by a separate
session control protocol, which is beyond the scope of this
RTP represents a new style of protocol following the principles of
application level framing and integrated layer processing proposed by
Clark and Tennenhouse . That is, RTP is intended to be malleable
to provide the information required by a particular application and
will often be integrated into the application processing rather than
being implemented as a separate layer. RTP is a protocol framework
that is deliberately not complete. This document specifies those
functions expected to be common across all the applications for which
RTP would be appropriate. Unlike conventional protocols in which
additional functions might be accommodated by making the protocol
more general or by adding an option mechanism that would require
parsing, RTP is intended to be tailored through modifications and/or
additions to the headers as needed. Examples are given in Sections
5.3 and 6.4.3.
Therefore, in addition to this document, a complete specification of
RTP for a particular application will require one or more companion
documents (see Section 13):
o a profile specification document, which defines a set of payload
type codes and their mapping to payload formats (e.g., media
encodings). A profile may also define extensions or modifications
to RTP that are specific to a particular class of applications.
Typically an application will operate under only one profile. A
profile for audio and video data may be found in the companion RFC
o payload format specification documents, which define how a
particular payload, such as an audio or video encoding, is to be
carried in RTP.
A discussion of real-time services and algorithms for their
implementation as well as background discussion on some of the RTP
design decisions can be found in .
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14, RFC 2119 
and indicate requirement levels for compliant RTP implementations.
2. RTP Use Scenarios
The following sections describe some aspects of the use of RTP. The
examples were chosen to illustrate the basic operation of
applications using RTP, not to limit what RTP may be used for. In
these examples, RTP is carried on top of IP and UDP, and follows the
conventions established by the profile for audio and video specified
in the companion RFC 3551.
2.1 Simple Multicast Audio Conference
A working group of the IETF meets to discuss the latest protocol
document, using the IP multicast services of the Internet for voice
communications. Through some allocation mechanism the working group
chair obtains a multicast group address and pair of ports. One port
is used for audio data, and the other is used for control (RTCP)
packets. This address and port information is distributed to the
intended participants. If privacy is desired, the data and control
packets may be encrypted as specified in Section 9.1, in which case
an encryption key must also be generated and distributed. The exact
details of these allocation and distribution mechanisms are beyond
the scope of RTP.
The audio conferencing application used by each conference
participant sends audio data in small chunks of, say, 20 ms duration.
Each chunk of audio data is preceded by an RTP header; RTP header and
data are in turn contained in a UDP packet. The RTP header indicates
what type of audio encoding (such as PCM, ADPCM or LPC) is contained
in each packet so that senders can change the encoding during a
conference, for example, to accommodate a new participant that is
connected through a low-bandwidth link or react to indications of
The Internet, like other packet networks, occasionally loses and
reorders packets and delays them by variable amounts of time. To
cope with these impairments, the RTP header contains timing
information and a sequence number that allow the receivers to
reconstruct the timing produced by the source, so that in this
example, chunks of audio are contiguously played out the speaker
every 20 ms. This timing reconstruction is performed separately for
each source of RTP packets in the conference. The sequence number
can also be used by the receiver to estimate how many packets are
Since members of the working group join and leave during the
conference, it is useful to know who is participating at any moment
and how well they are receiving the audio data. For that purpose,
each instance of the audio application in the conference periodically
multicasts a reception report plus the name of its user on the RTCP
(control) port. The reception report indicates how well the current
speaker is being received and may be used to control adaptive
encodings. In addition to the user name, other identifying
information may also be included subject to control bandwidth limits.
A site sends the RTCP BYE packet (Section 6.6) when it leaves the
2.2 Audio and Video Conference
If both audio and video media are used in a conference, they are
transmitted as separate RTP sessions. That is, separate RTP and RTCP
packets are transmitted for each medium using two different UDP port
pairs and/or multicast addresses. There is no direct coupling at the
RTP level between the audio and video sessions, except that a user
participating in both sessions should use the same distinguished
(canonical) name in the RTCP packets for both so that the sessions
can be associated.
One motivation for this separation is to allow some participants in
the conference to receive only one medium if they choose. Further
explanation is given in Section 5.2. Despite the separation,
synchronized playback of a source's audio and video can be achieved
using timing information carried in the RTCP packets for both
2.3 Mixers and Translators
So far, we have assumed that all sites want to receive media data in
the same format. However, this may not always be appropriate.
Consider the case where participants in one area are connected
through a low-speed link to the majority of the conference
participants who enjoy high-speed network access. Instead of forcing
everyone to use a lower-bandwidth, reduced-quality audio encoding, an
RTP-level relay called a mixer may be placed near the low-bandwidth
area. This mixer resynchronizes incoming audio packets to
reconstruct the constant 20 ms spacing generated by the sender, mixes
these reconstructed audio streams into a single stream, translates
the audio encoding to a lower-bandwidth one and forwards the lower-
bandwidth packet stream across the low-speed link. These packets
might be unicast to a single recipient or multicast on a different
address to multiple recipients. The RTP header includes a means for
mixers to identify the sources that contributed to a mixed packet so
that correct talker indication can be provided at the receivers.
Some of the intended participants in the audio conference may be
connected with high bandwidth links but might not be directly
reachable via IP multicast. For example, they might be behind an
application-level firewall that will not let any IP packets pass.
For these sites, mixing may not be necessary, in which case another
type of RTP-level relay called a translator may be used. Two
translators are installed, one on either side of the firewall, with
the outside one funneling all multicast packets received through a
secure connection to the translator inside the firewall. The
translator inside the firewall sends them again as multicast packets
to a multicast group restricted to the site's internal network.
Mixers and translators may be designed for a variety of purposes. An
example is a video mixer that scales the images of individual people
in separate video streams and composites them into one video stream
to simulate a group scene. Other examples of translation include the
connection of a group of hosts speaking only IP/UDP to a group of
hosts that understand only ST-II, or the packet-by-packet encoding
translation of video streams from individual sources without
resynchronization or mixing. Details of the operation of mixers and
translators are given in Section 7.
2.4 Layered Encodings
Multimedia applications should be able to adjust the transmission
rate to match the capacity of the receiver or to adapt to network
congestion. Many implementations place the responsibility of rate-
adaptivity at the source. This does not work well with multicast
transmission because of the conflicting bandwidth requirements of
heterogeneous receivers. The result is often a least-common
denominator scenario, where the smallest pipe in the network mesh
dictates the quality and fidelity of the overall live multimedia
Instead, responsibility for rate-adaptation can be placed at the
receivers by combining a layered encoding with a layered transmission
system. In the context of RTP over IP multicast, the source can
stripe the progressive layers of a hierarchically represented signal
across multiple RTP sessions each carried on its own multicast group.
Receivers can then adapt to network heterogeneity and control their
reception bandwidth by joining only the appropriate subset of the
Details of the use of RTP with layered encodings are given in
Sections 6.3.9, 8.3 and 11.
RTP payload: The data transported by RTP in a packet, for
example audio samples or compressed video data. The payload
format and interpretation are beyond the scope of this document.
RTP packet: A data packet consisting of the fixed RTP header, a
possibly empty list of contributing sources (see below), and the
payload data. Some underlying protocols may require an
encapsulation of the RTP packet to be defined. Typically one
packet of the underlying protocol contains a single RTP packet,
but several RTP packets MAY be contained if permitted by the
encapsulation method (see Section 11).
RTCP packet: A control packet consisting of a fixed header part
similar to that of RTP data packets, followed by structured
elements that vary depending upon the RTCP packet type. The
formats are defined in Section 6. Typically, multiple RTCP
packets are sent together as a compound RTCP packet in a single
packet of the underlying protocol; this is enabled by the length
field in the fixed header of each RTCP packet.
Port: The "abstraction that transport protocols use to
distinguish among multiple destinations within a given host
computer. TCP/IP protocols identify ports using small positive
integers."  The transport selectors (TSEL) used by the OSI
transport layer are equivalent to ports. RTP depends upon the
lower-layer protocol to provide some mechanism such as ports to
multiplex the RTP and RTCP packets of a session.
Transport address: The combination of a network address and port
that identifies a transport-level endpoint, for example an IP
address and a UDP port. Packets are transmitted from a source
transport address to a destination transport address.
RTP media type: An RTP media type is the collection of payload
types which can be carried within a single RTP session. The RTP
Profile assigns RTP media types to RTP payload types.
Multimedia session: A set of concurrent RTP sessions among a
common group of participants. For example, a videoconference
(which is a multimedia session) may contain an audio RTP session
and a video RTP session.
RTP session: An association among a set of participants
communicating with RTP. A participant may be involved in multiple
RTP sessions at the same time. In a multimedia session, each
medium is typically carried in a separate RTP session with its own
RTCP packets unless the the encoding itself multiplexes multiple
media into a single data stream. A participant distinguishes
multiple RTP sessions by reception of different sessions using
different pairs of destination transport addresses, where a pair
of transport addresses comprises one network address plus a pair
of ports for RTP and RTCP. All participants in an RTP session may
share a common destination transport address pair, as in the case
of IP multicast, or the pairs may be different for each
participant, as in the case of individual unicast network
addresses and port pairs. In the unicast case, a participant may
receive from all other participants in the session using the same
pair of ports, or may use a distinct pair of ports for each.
The distinguishing feature of an RTP session is that each
maintains a full, separate space of SSRC identifiers (defined
next). The set of participants included in one RTP session
consists of those that can receive an SSRC identifier transmitted
by any one of the participants either in RTP as the SSRC or a CSRC
(also defined below) or in RTCP. For example, consider a three-
party conference implemented using unicast UDP with each
participant receiving from the other two on separate port pairs.
If each participant sends RTCP feedback about data received from
one other participant only back to that participant, then the
conference is composed of three separate point-to-point RTP
sessions. If each participant provides RTCP feedback about its
reception of one other participant to both of the other
participants, then the conference is composed of one multi-party
RTP session. The latter case simulates the behavior that would
occur with IP multicast communication among the three
The RTP framework allows the variations defined here, but a
particular control protocol or application design will usually
impose constraints on these variations.
Synchronization source (SSRC): The source of a stream of RTP
packets, identified by a 32-bit numeric SSRC identifier carried in
the RTP header so as not to be dependent upon the network address.
All packets from a synchronization source form part of the same
timing and sequence number space, so a receiver groups packets by
synchronization source for playback. Examples of synchronization
sources include the sender of a stream of packets derived from a
signal source such as a microphone or a camera, or an RTP mixer
(see below). A synchronization source may change its data format,
e.g., audio encoding, over time. The SSRC identifier is a
randomly chosen value meant to be globally unique within a
particular RTP session (see Section 8). A participant need not
use the same SSRC identifier for all the RTP sessions in a
multimedia session; the binding of the SSRC identifiers is
provided through RTCP (see Section 6.5.1). If a participant
generates multiple streams in one RTP session, for example from
separate video cameras, each MUST be identified as a different
Contributing source (CSRC): A source of a stream of RTP packets
that has contributed to the combined stream produced by an RTP
mixer (see below). The mixer inserts a list of the SSRC
identifiers of the sources that contributed to the generation of a
particular packet into the RTP header of that packet. This list
is called the CSRC list. An example application is audio
conferencing where a mixer indicates all the talkers whose speech
was combined to produce the outgoing packet, allowing the receiver
to indicate the current talker, even though all the audio packets
contain the same SSRC identifier (that of the mixer).
End system: An application that generates the content to be sent
in RTP packets and/or consumes the content of received RTP
packets. An end system can act as one or more synchronization
sources in a particular RTP session, but typically only one.
Mixer: An intermediate system that receives RTP packets from one
or more sources, possibly changes the data format, combines the
packets in some manner and then forwards a new RTP packet. Since
the timing among multiple input sources will not generally be
synchronized, the mixer will make timing adjustments among the
streams and generate its own timing for the combined stream.
Thus, all data packets originating from a mixer will be identified
as having the mixer as their synchronization source.
Translator: An intermediate system that forwards RTP packets
with their synchronization source identifier intact. Examples of
translators include devices that convert encodings without mixing,
replicators from multicast to unicast, and application-level
filters in firewalls.
Monitor: An application that receives RTCP packets sent by
participants in an RTP session, in particular the reception
reports, and estimates the current quality of service for
distribution monitoring, fault diagnosis and long-term statistics.
The monitor function is likely to be built into the application(s)
participating in the session, but may also be a separate
application that does not otherwise participate and does not send
or receive the RTP data packets (since they are on a separate
port). These are called third-party monitors. It is also
acceptable for a third-party monitor to receive the RTP data
packets but not send RTCP packets or otherwise be counted in the
Non-RTP means: Protocols and mechanisms that may be needed in
addition to RTP to provide a usable service. In particular, for
multimedia conferences, a control protocol may distribute
multicast addresses and keys for encryption, negotiate the
encryption algorithm to be used, and define dynamic mappings
between RTP payload type values and the payload formats they
represent for formats that do not have a predefined payload type
value. Examples of such protocols include the Session Initiation
Protocol (SIP) (RFC 3261 ), ITU Recommendation H.323  and
applications using SDP (RFC 2327 ), such as RTSP (RFC 2326
). For simple
applications, electronic mail or a conference database may also be
used. The specification of such protocols and mechanisms is
outside the scope of this document.
4. Byte Order, Alignment, and Time Format
All integer fields are carried in network byte order, that is, most
significant byte (octet) first. This byte order is commonly known as
big-endian. The transmission order is described in detail in .
Unless otherwise noted, numeric constants are in decimal (base 10).
All header data is aligned to its natural length, i.e., 16-bit fields
are aligned on even offsets, 32-bit fields are aligned at offsets
divisible by four, etc. Octets designated as padding have the value
Wallclock time (absolute date and time) is represented using the
timestamp format of the Network Time Protocol (NTP), which is in
seconds relative to 0h UTC on 1 January 1900 . The full
resolution NTP timestamp is a 64-bit unsigned fixed-point number with
the integer part in the first 32 bits and the fractional part in the
last 32 bits. In some fields where a more compact representation is
appropriate, only the middle 32 bits are used; that is, the low 16
bits of the integer part and the high 16 bits of the fractional part.
The high 16 bits of the integer part must be determined
An implementation is not required to run the Network Time Protocol in
order to use RTP. Other time sources, or none at all, may be used
(see the description of the NTP timestamp field in Section 6.4.1).
However, running NTP may be useful for synchronizing streams
transmitted from separate hosts.
The NTP timestamp will wrap around to zero some time in the year
2036, but for RTP purposes, only differences between pairs of NTP
timestamps are used. So long as the pairs of timestamps can be
assumed to be within 68 years of each other, using modular arithmetic
for subtractions and comparisons makes the wraparound irrelevant.
5. RTP Data Transfer Protocol
5.1 RTP Fixed Header Fields
The RTP header has the following format:
0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
|V=2|P|X| CC |M| PT | sequence number |
| timestamp |
| synchronization source (SSRC) identifier |
| contributing source (CSRC) identifiers |
| .... |
The first twelve octets are present in every RTP packet, while the
list of CSRC identifiers is present only when inserted by a mixer.
The fields have the following meaning:
version (V): 2 bits
This field identifies the version of RTP. The version defined by
this specification is two (2). (The value 1 is used by the first
draft version of RTP and the value 0 is used by the protocol
initially implemented in the "vat" audio tool.)
padding (P): 1 bit
If the padding bit is set, the packet contains one or more
additional padding octets at the end which are not part of the
payload. The last octet of the padding contains a count of how
many padding octets should be ignored, including itself. Padding
may be needed by some encryption algorithms with fixed block sizes
or for carrying several RTP packets in a lower-layer protocol data
extension (X): 1 bit
If the extension bit is set, the fixed header MUST be followed by
exactly one header extension, with a format defined in Section
CSRC count (CC): 4 bits
The CSRC count contains the number of CSRC identifiers that follow
the fixed header.
marker (M): 1 bit
The interpretation of the marker is defined by a profile. It is
intended to allow significant events such as frame boundaries to
be marked in the packet stream. A profile MAY define additional
marker bits or specify that there is no marker bit by changing the
number of bits in the payload type field (see Section 5.3).
payload type (PT): 7 bits
This field identifies the format of the RTP payload and determines
its interpretation by the application. A profile MAY specify a
default static mapping of payload type codes to payload formats.
Additional payload type codes MAY be defined dynamically through
non-RTP means (see Section 3). A set of default mappings for
audio and video is specified in the companion RFC 3551 . An
RTP source MAY change the payload type during a session, but this
field SHOULD NOT be used for multiplexing separate media streams
(see Section 5.2).
A receiver MUST ignore packets with payload types that it does not
sequence number: 16 bits
The sequence number increments by one for each RTP data packet
sent, and may be used by the receiver to detect packet loss and to
restore packet sequence. The initial value of the sequence number
SHOULD be random (unpredictable) to make known-plaintext attacks
on encryption more difficult, even if the source itself does not
encrypt according to the method in Section 9.1, because the
packets may flow through a translator that does. Techniques for
choosing unpredictable numbers are discussed in .
timestamp: 32 bits
The timestamp reflects the sampling instant of the first octet in
the RTP data packet. The sampling instant MUST be derived from a
clock that increments monotonically and linearly in time to allow
synchronization and jitter calculations (see Section 6.4.1). The
resolution of the clock MUST be sufficient for the desired
synchronization accuracy and for measuring packet arrival jitter
(one tick per video frame is typically not sufficient). The clock
frequency is dependent on the format of data carried as payload
and is specified statically in the profile or payload format
specification that defines the format, or MAY be specified
dynamically for payload formats defined through non-RTP means. If
RTP packets are generated periodically, the nominal sampling
instant as determined from the sampling clock is to be used, not a
reading of the system clock. As an example, for fixed-rate audio
the timestamp clock would likely increment by one for each
sampling period. If an audio application reads blocks covering
160 sampling periods from the input device, the timestamp would be
increased by 160 for each such block, regardless of whether the
block is transmitted in a packet or dropped as silent.
The initial value of the timestamp SHOULD be random, as for the
sequence number. Several consecutive RTP packets will have equal
timestamps if they are (logically) generated at once, e.g., belong
to the same video frame. Consecutive RTP packets MAY contain
timestamps that are not monotonic if the data is not transmitted
in the order it was sampled, as in the case of MPEG interpolated
video frames. (The sequence numbers of the packets as transmitted
will still be monotonic.)
RTP timestamps from different media streams may advance at
different rates and usually have independent, random offsets.
Therefore, although these timestamps are sufficient to reconstruct
the timing of a single stream, directly comparing RTP timestamps
from different media is not effective for synchronization.
Instead, for each medium the RTP timestamp is related to the
sampling instant by pairing it with a timestamp from a reference
clock (wallclock) that represents the time when the data
corresponding to the RTP timestamp was sampled. The reference
clock is shared by all media to be synchronized. The timestamp
pairs are not transmitted in every data packet, but at a lower
rate in RTCP SR packets as described in Section 6.4.
The sampling instant is chosen as the point of reference for the
RTP timestamp because it is known to the transmitting endpoint and
has a common definition for all media, independent of encoding
delays or other processing. The purpose is to allow synchronized
presentation of all media sampled at the same time.
Applications transmitting stored data rather than data sampled in
real time typically use a virtual presentation timeline derived
from wallclock time to determine when the next frame or other unit
of each medium in the stored data should be presented. In this
case, the RTP timestamp would reflect the presentation time for
each unit. That is, the RTP timestamp for each unit would be
related to the wallclock time at which the unit becomes current on
the virtual presentation timeline. Actual presentation occurs
some time later as determined by the receiver.
An example describing live audio narration of prerecorded video
illustrates the significance of choosing the sampling instant as
the reference point. In this scenario, the video would be
presented locally for the narrator to view and would be
simultaneously transmitted using RTP. The "sampling instant" of a
video frame transmitted in RTP would be established by referencing
its timestamp to the wallclock time when that video frame was
presented to the narrator. The sampling instant for the audio RTP
packets containing the narrator's speech would be established by
referencing the same wallclock time when the audio was sampled.
The audio and video may even be transmitted by different hosts if
the reference clocks on the two hosts are synchronized by some
means such as NTP. A receiver can then synchronize presentation
of the audio and video packets by relating their RTP timestamps
using the timestamp pairs in RTCP SR packets.
SSRC: 32 bits
The SSRC field identifies the synchronization source. This
identifier SHOULD be chosen randomly, with the intent that no two
synchronization sources within the same RTP session will have the
same SSRC identifier. An example algorithm for generating a
random identifier is presented in Appendix A.6. Although the
probability of multiple sources choosing the same identifier is
low, all RTP implementations must be prepared to detect and
resolve collisions. Section 8 describes the probability of
collision along with a mechanism for resolving collisions and
detecting RTP-level forwarding loops based on the uniqueness of
the SSRC identifier. If a source changes its source transport
address, it must also choose a new SSRC identifier to avoid being
interpreted as a looped source (see Section 8.2).
CSRC list: 0 to 15 items, 32 bits each
The CSRC list identifies the contributing sources for the payload
contained in this packet. The number of identifiers is given by
the CC field. If there are more than 15 contributing sources,
only 15 can be identified. CSRC identifiers are inserted by
mixers (see Section 7.1), using the SSRC identifiers of
contributing sources. For example, for audio packets the SSRC
identifiers of all sources that were mixed together to create a
packet are listed, allowing correct talker indication at the
5.2 Multiplexing RTP Sessions
For efficient protocol processing, the number of multiplexing points
should be minimized, as described in the integrated layer processing
design principle . In RTP, multiplexing is provided by the
destination transport address (network address and port number) which
is different for each RTP session. For example, in a teleconference
composed of audio and video media encoded separately, each medium
SHOULD be carried in a separate RTP session with its own destination
Separate audio and video streams SHOULD NOT be carried in a single
RTP session and demultiplexed based on the payload type or SSRC
fields. Interleaving packets with different RTP media types but
using the same SSRC would introduce several problems:
1. If, say, two audio streams shared the same RTP session and the
same SSRC value, and one were to change encodings and thus acquire
a different RTP payload type, there would be no general way of
identifying which stream had changed encodings.
2. An SSRC is defined to identify a single timing and sequence number
space. Interleaving multiple payload types would require
different timing spaces if the media clock rates differ and would
require different sequence number spaces to tell which payload
type suffered packet loss.
3. The RTCP sender and receiver reports (see Section 6.4) can only
describe one timing and sequence number space per SSRC and do not
carry a payload type field.
4. An RTP mixer would not be able to combine interleaved streams of
incompatible media into one stream.
5. Carrying multiple media in one RTP session precludes: the use of
different network paths or network resource allocations if
appropriate; reception of a subset of the media if desired, for
example just audio if video would exceed the available bandwidth;
and receiver implementations that use separate processes for the
different media, whereas using separate RTP sessions permits
either single- or multiple-process implementations.
Using a different SSRC for each medium but sending them in the same
RTP session would avoid the first three problems but not the last
On the other hand, multiplexing multiple related sources of the same
medium in one RTP session using different SSRC values is the norm for
multicast sessions. The problems listed above don't apply: an RTP
mixer can combine multiple audio sources, for example, and the same
treatment is applicable for all of them. It may also be appropriate
to multiplex streams of the same medium using different SSRC values
in other scenarios where the last two problems do not apply.
5.3 Profile-Specific Modifications to the RTP Header
The existing RTP data packet header is believed to be complete for
the set of functions required in common across all the application
classes that RTP might support. However, in keeping with the ALF
design principle, the header MAY be tailored through modifications or
additions defined in a profile specification while still allowing
profile-independent monitoring and recording tools to function.
o The marker bit and payload type field carry profile-specific
information, but they are allocated in the fixed header since many
applications are expected to need them and might otherwise have to
add another 32-bit word just to hold them. The octet containing
these fields MAY be redefined by a profile to suit different
requirements, for example with more or fewer marker bits. If
there are any marker bits, one SHOULD be located in the most
significant bit of the octet since profile-independent monitors
may be able to observe a correlation between packet loss patterns
and the marker bit.
o Additional information that is required for a particular payload
format, such as a video encoding, SHOULD be carried in the payload
section of the packet. This might be in a header that is always
present at the start of the payload section, or might be indicated
by a reserved value in the data pattern.
o If a particular class of applications needs additional
functionality independent of payload format, the profile under
which those applications operate SHOULD define additional fixed
fields to follow immediately after the SSRC field of the existing
fixed header. Those applications will be able to quickly and
directly access the additional fields while profile-independent
monitors or recorders can still process the RTP packets by
interpreting only the first twelve octets.
If it turns out that additional functionality is needed in common
across all profiles, then a new version of RTP should be defined to
make a permanent change to the fixed header.
5.3.1 RTP Header Extension
An extension mechanism is provided to allow individual
implementations to experiment with new payload-format-independent
functions that require additional information to be carried in the
RTP data packet header. This mechanism is designed so that the
header extension may be ignored by other interoperating
implementations that have not been extended.
Note that this header extension is intended only for limited use.
Most potential uses of this mechanism would be better done another
way, using the methods described in the previous section. For
example, a profile-specific extension to the fixed header is less
expensive to process because it is not conditional nor in a variable
location. Additional information required for a particular payload
format SHOULD NOT use this header extension, but SHOULD be carried in
the payload section of the packet.
0 1 2 3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
| defined by profile | length |
| header extension |
| .... |
If the X bit in the RTP header is one, a variable-length header
extension MUST be appended to the RTP header, following the CSRC list
if present. The header extension contains a 16-bit length field that
counts the number of 32-bit words in the extension, excluding the
four-octet extension header (therefore zero is a valid length). Only
a single extension can be appended to the RTP data header. To allow
multiple interoperating implementations to each experiment
independently with different header extensions, or to allow a
particular implementation to experiment with more than one type of
header extension, the first 16 bits of the header extension are left
open for distinguishing identifiers or parameters. The format of
these 16 bits is to be defined by the profile specification under
which the implementations are operating. This RTP specification does
not define any header extensions itself.