RFC 3261 (SIP) [RFC3261] is extended by RFC 3515 [RFC3515] with a
REFER method that allows a user agent (UA) to request a second UA to
send a SIP request to a third party. For example, if Alice is in a
call with Bob, and decides Bob needs to talk to Carol, Alice can
instruct her SIP UA to send a REFER request to Bob's UA providing
Carol's SIP Contact information. Assuming Bob has given it
permission, Bob's UA will attempt to call Carol using that contact.
That is, it will send an INVITE request to that contact.
A number of applications need to request this second UA to initiate
transactions towards a set of destinations. In one example, the
moderator of a conference may want the conference server to send BYE
requests to a group of participants. In another example, the same
moderator may want the conference server to INVITE a set of new
We define an extension to the REFER method so that REFER requests can
be used to refer other user agents (such as conference servers) to
multiple destinations. In addition, this mechanism uses the
suppression of the REFER method implicit subscription specified in
RFC 4488 [RFC4488].
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
[RFC2119] and indicate requirement levels for compliant
This document reuses the following terminology defined in RFC 3261
o User Agent (UA)
o User Agent Client (UAC)
o User Agent Server (UAS)
This document defines the following new terms:
REFER-Issuer: a user agent issuing a REFER request.
REFER-Recipient: an entity receiving a REFER request and forwarding
a SIP request to a number of REFER-Targets. The REFER-Recipient
is typically a network entity, such as a URI-list server, that
acts as a UAS for REFER requests and as a UAC for other SIP
REFER-Target: a UA of the intended final recipient of a SIP request
generated by the REFER-Recipient.
3. Overview of Operation
This document describes an application of URI-list services [RFC5363]
that allows a URI-list service to receive a SIP REFER request
containing a list of targets. The URI-list service invokes the
requested SIP method to each of the targets contained in the list.
This type of URI-list service is referred to as a REFER-Recipient
throughout this document.
This document defines an extension to the SIP REFER method specified
in RFC 3515 [RFC3515] that allows a SIP UAC to include a URI list as
specified in RFC 4826 [RFC4826] of REFER-Targets in a REFER request
and send it to a REFER-Recipient. The REFER-Recipient creates a new
SIP request for each entry in the URI list and sends it to each
The URI list that contains the list of targets is used in conjunction
with RFC 5364 [RFC5364] to allow the sender indicate the role (e.g.,
'to', 'cc', or anonymous) in which the REFER-Target is involved in
We represent multiple targets of a REFER request using a URI list as
specified in RFC 4826 [RFC4826]. A REFER-Issuer that wants to refer
a REFER-Recipient to a set of destinations creates a SIP REFER
request. The Refer-To header contains a pointer to a URI list, which
is included in a body part, and an option-tag in the Require header
field: "multiple-refer". This option-tag indicates the requirement
to support the functionality described in this specification.
When the REFER-Recipient receives such a request, it creates a new
request per REFER-Target and sends them, one to each REFER-Target.
This document does not provide any mechanism for REFER-Issuers to
find out about the results of a REFER request containing multiple
REFER-Targets. Furthermore, it does not provide support for the
implicit subscription mechanism that is part of the SIP REFER method.
The way REFER-Issuers are kept informed about the results of a REFER
is service specific. For example, a REFER-Issuer sending a REFER
request to invite a set of participants to a conference can discover
which participants were successfully brought into the conference by
subscribing to the conference state event package specified in RFC
4. The multiple-refer SIP Option-Tag
We define a new SIP option-tag for the Require and Supported header
A user agent including the "multiple-refer" option-tag in a Supported
header field indicates compliance with this specification.
A user agent generating a REFER with a pointer to a URI list in its
Refer-To header field MUST include the "multiple-refer" option-tag in
the Require header field of the REFER.
5. Suppressing REFER's Implicit Subscription
REFER requests with a single REFER-Target establish implicitly a
subscription to the refer event. The REFER-Issuer is informed about
the result of the transaction towards the REFER-Target through this
implicit subscription. As described in RFC 3515 [RFC3515], NOTIFY
requests sent as a result of an implicit subscription created by a
REFER request contain a body of type "message/sipfrag", RFC 3420
[RFC3420], that describes the status of the transaction initiated by
In the case of a REFER-Issuer that generates a REFER with multiple
REFER-targets, the REFER-Issuer is typically already subscribed to
other event packages that can provide the information about the
result of the transactions towards the REFER-Targets. For example, a
moderator instructing a conference server to send a BYE request to a
set of participants is usually subscribed to the conference state
event package for the conference. Notifications to this event
package will keep the moderator and the rest of the subscribers
informed of the current list of conference participants.
Most of the applications using the multiple REFER technology
described in this memo do not need its implicit subscription.
Consequently, a SIP REFER-Issuer generating a REFER request with
multiple REFER-Targets SHOULD include the "norefersub" option-tag in
a Require header field and SHOULD include a Refer-Sub header field
set to "false" to indicate that no notifications about the requests
should be sent to the REFER-Issuer. The REFER-Recipient SHOULD honor
the suggestion and also include a Refer-Sub header field set to
"false" in the 200 (OK) response. The "norefersub" SIP option-tag
and the Refer-Sub header field are specified in RFC 4488 [RFC4488].
RFC 4488 [RFC4488] indicates that a condition for the REFER-Issuer
to include a Refer-Sub header is that the REFER-Issuer is sure
that the REFER request will not fork.
At the time of writing, there is no extension that allows to report
the status of several transactions over the implicit subscription
associated with a REFER dialog. That is the motivation for this
document to recommend the usage of the "norefersub" option-tag. If
in the future such an extension is defined, REFER-Issuers using it
could refrain from using the "norefersub" option-tag and use the new
6. URI-List Format
As described in RFC 5363 [RFC5363], specifications of individual URI-
list services need to specify a default format for 'recipient-list'
bodies used within the particular service.
The default format for 'recipient-list' bodies for REFER-Issuers and
REFER-Recipients is RFC 4826 [RFC4826] extended with RFC 5364
[RFC5364]. REFER-Recipients handling 'recipient-list' bodies MUST
support both of these formats. Both REFER-Issuers and REFER-
Recipients MAY support other formats.
As described in RFC 5364 [RFC5364], each URI can be tagged with a
'copyControl' attribute set to either "to", "cc", or "bcc",
indicating the role in which the target will get the referred SIP
request. However, depending on the target SIP method, a
'copyControl' attribute lacks sense. For example, while a
'copyControl' attribute can be applied to INVITE requests, it does
not make sense with mid-dialog requests such as BYE requests.
In addition to the 'copyControl' attribute, URIs can be tagged with
the 'anonymize' attribute (also specified in RFC 5364 [RFC5364]) to
prevent that the REFER-Recipient discloses the target URI in a URI
Additionally, RFC 5364 [RFC5364] defines a 'recipient-list-history'
body that contains the list of targets. The default format for
'recipient-list-history' bodies for conference services is also RFC
4826 [RFC4826] extended with RFC 5364 [RFC5364]. REFER-Recipients
supporting this specification MUST support both of these formats;
REFER-Targets MAY support these formats. Both REFER-Recipients and
REFER-Targets MAY support other formats.
Nevertheless, RFC 4826 [RFC4826] provides features, such as
hierarchical lists and the ability to include entries by reference
relative to the XML Configuration Access Protocol (XCAP) root URI,
that are not needed by the multiple REFER service defined in this
Figure 1 shows an example of a flat list that follows the resource
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<entry uri="sip:firstname.lastname@example.org" cp:copyControl="to" />
<entry uri="sip:email@example.com" cp:copyControl="cc" />
<entry uri="sip:firstname.lastname@example.org" cp:copyControl="bcc" />
Figure 1: URI list7. Behavior of SIP REFER-Issuers
As indicated in Sections 4 and 5, a SIP REFER-Issuer that creates a
REFER request with multiple REFER-Targets includes a "multiple-refer"
and "norefersub" option-tags in the Require header field and, if
appropriate, a Refer-Sub header field set to "false". The REFER-
Issuer includes the set of REFER-Targets in a recipient-list body
whose disposition type is 'recipient-list', as defined in RFC 5363
[RFC5363]. The URI-list body is further described in Section 6.
The Refer-To header field of a REFER request with multiple REFER-
Targets MUST contain a pointer (i.e., a Content-ID Uniform Resource
Locator (URL) as per RFC 2392 [RFC2392]) that points to the body part
that carries the URI list. The REFER-Issuer SHOULD NOT include any
particular URI more than once in the URI list.
RFC 4826 [RFC4826] provides features, such as hierarchical lists and
the ability to include entries by reference relative to the XCAP root
URI. However, these features are not needed by the multiple REFER
service defined in this document. Therefore, when using the default
resource list document, SIP REFER-Issuers generating REFER requests
with multiple REFER-Targets SHOULD use flat lists (i.e., no
hierarchical lists) and SHOULD NOT use <entry-ref> elements.
8. Behavior of REFER-Recipients
The REFER-Recipient follows the rules in Section 2.4.2 of RFC 3515
[RFC3515] to determine the status code of the response to the REFER.
The REFER-Recipient SHOULD not create an implicit subscription, and
SHOULD add a Refer-Sub header field set to "false" in the 200 OK
The incoming REFER request typically contains a URI-list document or
reference with the actual list of targets. If this URI list includes
resources tagged with the 'copyControl' attribute set to a value of
"to" or "cc", and if the request is appropriate for the service,
e.g., it is not received mid-dialog, the REFER-Recipient SHOULD
include a URI list in each of the outgoing requests. This list
SHOULD be formatted according to RFC 4826 [RFC4826] and RFC 5364
[RFC5364]. The REFER-Recipient MUST follow the procedures specified
in RFC 4826 [RFC4826] with respect to handling of the 'anonymize',
'count', and 'copyControl' attributes.
Section 4 of RFC 5363 [RFC5363] discusses cases when duplicated URIs
are found in a URI list. In order to avoid duplicated requests,
REFER-Recipients MUST take those actions specified in RFC 5363
[RFC5363] into account to avoid sending a duplicated request to the
If the REFER-Recipient includes a URI list in an outgoing request, it
MUST include a Content-Disposition header field, specified in RFC
2183 [RFC2183], with the value set to 'recipient-list-history' and a
'handling' parameter, specified in RFC 3204 [RFC3204], set to
Since the multiple REFER service does not use hierarchical lists nor
lists that include entries by reference to the XCAP root URI, a
REFER-Recipient receiving a URI list with more information than what
has been described in Section 6 MAY discard all the extra
The REFER-Recipient follows the rules in RFC 3515 [RFC3515] to
generate the necessary requests towards the REFER-Targets, acting as
if it had received a regular (no URI list) REFER per each URI in the
Figure 2 shows an example flow where a REFER-Issuer sends a multiple-
REFER request to the focus of a conference, which acts as the REFER-
Recipient. The REFER-Recipient generates a BYE request per REFER-
Target. Details for using REFER request to remove participants from
a conference are specified in RFC 4579 [RFC4579].
+--------+ +---------+ +--------+ +--------+ +--------+
| REFER | | REFER | | REFER | | REFER | | REFER |
| issuer | |recipient| |target 1| |target 2| |target 3|
| | | | | | | | | |
| Carol | | (focus) | | Bill | | Joe | | Ted |
+--------+ +---------+ +--------+ +--------+ +--------+
| 1. REFER | | | |
| ---------------->| | | |
| 2. 202 Accepted | | | |
|<---------------- | 3. BYE | | |
| | ----------->| | |
| | 4. BYE | | |
| | ----------------------->| |
| | 5. BYE | | |
| | ----------------------------------->|
| | 6. 200 OK | | |
| |<----------- | | |
| | 7. 200 OK | | |
| |<----------------------- | |
| | 8. 200 OK | | |
| |<----------------------------------- |
| | | | |
| | | | |
| | | | |
Figure 2: Example flow of a REFER request containing
The REFER request (1) contains a Refer-To header field that includes
a pointer to the message body, which carries a list with the URIs of
the REFER-Targets. In this example, the URI list does not contain
the 'copyControl' attribute extension. The REFER's Require header
field carries the "multiple-refer" and "norefersub" option-tags. The
Request-URI is set to a Globally Routable User Agent URI (GRUU)
[SIP-GRUU] (as a guarantee that the REFER request will not fork).
The Refer-Sub header field is set to "false" to request the
suppression of the implicit subscription. Figure 3 shows an example
of this REFER request. The resource list document contains the list
of REFER-Target URIs along with the method of the SIP request that
the REFER-Recipient generates.
10. Security Considerations
RFC 5363 [RFC5363] discusses issues related to SIP URI-list services.
Given that a REFER-Recipient accepting REFER requests with multiple
REFER-targets acts as a URI-list service, implementations of this
type of server MUST follow the security-related rules in RFC 5363
[RFC5363]. These rules include opt-in lists and mandatory
authentication and authorization of clients.
Additionally, REFER-Recipients SHOULD only accept REFER requests
within the context of an application that the REFER-Recipient
understands (e.g., a conferencing application). This implies that
REFER-Recipients MUST NOT accept REFER requests for methods they do
not understand. The idea behind these two rules is that REFER-
Recipients are not used as dumb servers whose only function is to
fan-out random messages they do not understand.
11. IANA Considerations
This document defines a new SIP option-tag: "multiple-refer". This
option-tag has been registered in the SIP Parameters registry.
The following row has been added to the "Option Tags" section of the
SIP Parameter Registry:
| Name | Description | Reference |
| multiple-refer | This option tag indicates support | [RFC5368] |
| | for REFER requests that contain a | |
| | resource list document describing | |
| | multiple REFER targets. | |
Table 1: Registration of the 'multiple-refer' option-tag in SIP12. References
12.1. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
[RFC2183] Troost, R., Dorner, S., and K. Moore, "Communicating
Presentation Information in Internet Messages: The
Content-Disposition Header Field", RFC 2183, August 1997.
[RFC2392] Levinson, E., "Content-ID and Message-ID Uniform Resource
Locators", RFC 2392, August 1998.
[RFC3204] Zimmerer, E., Peterson, J., Vemuri, A., Ong, L., Audet,
F., Watson, M., and M. Zonoun, "MIME media types for ISUP
and QSIG Objects", RFC 3204, December 2001.
[RFC3261] Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, G., Johnston,
A., Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M., and E.
Schooler, "SIP: Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261,
[RFC3420] Sparks, R., "Internet Media Type message/sipfrag",
RFC 3420, November 2002.
[RFC3515] Sparks, R., "The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Refer
Method", RFC 3515, April 2003.
[RFC4488] Levin, O., "Suppression of Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP) REFER Method Implicit Subscription", RFC 4488,
[RFC4826] Rosenberg, J., "Extensible Markup Language (XML) Formats
for Representing Resource Lists", RFC 4826, May 2007.
[RFC5363] Camarillo, G. and A.B. Roach, "Framework and Security
Considerations for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) URI-
List Services", RFC 5363, October 2008.
[RFC5364] Garcia-Martin, M. and G. Camarillo, "Extensible Markup
Language (XML) Format Extension for Representing Copy
Control Attributes in Resource Lists", RFC 5364,
12.2. Informative References
[RFC4575] Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., and O. Levin, "A Session
Initiation Protocol (SIP) Event Package for Conference
State", RFC 4575, August 2006.
[RFC4579] Johnston, A. and O. Levin, "Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP) Call Control - Conferencing for User Agents",
BCP 119, RFC 4579, August 2006.
[SIP-GRUU] Rosenberg, J., "Obtaining and Using Globally Routable
User Agent (UA) URIs (GRUU) in the Session Initiation
Protocol (SIP)", Work in Progress, October 2007.
P.O. Box 321
NOKIA GROUP, FIN 00045
P.O. Box 100
NOKIA GROUP, FIN 00045
Miguel A. Garcia-Martin
Via de los Poblados 13
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