Unicast vs. Multicast

The two most common data streaming techniques used in recent times are unicast and multicast. Multicast communication exchange occurs between one sender and many receivers, whereas unicast happens between a single sender and a receiver. Unicasting and multicasting have distinct applications.

What is unicasting?

In the data transmission process, unicast is a one-to-one communication between the sender and receiver. Each client receives a unique data stream and only gets it upon request with this data exchange method. As a result, for live streaming or on-demand data streaming, unicast streaming is the ideal mode of information transmission.

Unicast is popular among Over-The-Top (OTT) streaming applications for video on demand (VOD) content. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and other popular streaming applications of similar kind that provide personalized experiences utilize the unicast method.

The streaming quality received with unicast video streaming is dependent on the device and available bandwidth. This means that depending on the received bandwidth, your mobile device may only feed HD streaming, while TV may feed high-quality 4K video.

On unicast broadcasts, you may sometimes experience poor streaming quality due to bandwidth fluctuations. However, unicast streams can modify and adapt to network conditions to deliver the best possible streaming quality.

What Is multicasting?

With multicast, bandwidth can be predicted and managed more effectively. As a result, multicasting is used for teleconferencing and videoconferencing applications.

Multicasting is a one-to-many communication method in which data travels between one sender and multiple receivers. Every client gets the same data stream received after subscribing to a defined multicast IP address. Multicast data transfer is more secure than unicast data transmission since it takes place across private IP networks.

Multicast sends the same data to all receivers. Thus, it makes no adjustments or changes to stream quality based on the viewing device.

This form of data transmission has uniform bandwidth. With multicast, it’s tough to cater to viewers with lesser bandwidth capacity and different viewing devices. It delivers the same stream to all receivers regardless of bandwidth capability or receiving device.

IPTV (an acronym for Internet Protocol Television) is the most well-known example of multicast data transmission.

 What are the key differences?

The major differences between unicast and multicast are shown below.

Differentiating Aspect Unicast Multicast
Data Transmission One sender transfers data to one receiver. One sender transfers data to multiple receivers.
Security Less secure because transmitted over a public network. More secure because data is transmitted over a private network.
Bandwidth and Traffic Bandwidth-intensive; more data travels over the network. Less bandwidth used, minimizing network traffic.
Popular Usage OTT platforms popularly use Unicast. Mostly used for IPTV data transfer.
Sampada Ghimire
Sampada Ghimire is a content marketer for tech startups. She specializes in helping biz owners get their content marketing well-directed, strategic, and profitable by using effective and well-planned content and lead generation strategies. She loves writing about marketing, business, and technology.

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