1. RFC 4961
Network Working Group                                            D. Wing
Request for Comments:  4961                                Cisco Systems
BCP:  131                                                      July 2007
Category:  Best Current Practice

              Symmetric RTP / RTP Control Protocol (RTCP)

Status of This Memo

   This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
   Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).


   This document recommends using one UDP port pair for both
   communication directions of bidirectional RTP and RTP Control
   Protocol (RTCP) sessions, commonly called "symmetric RTP" and
   "symmetric RTCP".

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   2.  Conventions Used in this Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   3.  Definition of Symmetric RTP and Symmetric RTCP  . . . . . . . . 3
   4.  Recommended Usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   6.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

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1.  Introduction

   TCP [RFC0793], which is inherently bidirectional, transmits and
   receives data using the same local port.  That is, when a TCP
   connection is established from host A with source TCP port "a" to a
   remote host, the remote host sends packets back to host A's source
   TCP port "a".

   However, UDP is not inherently bidirectional and UDP does not require
   using the same port for sending and receiving bidirectional traffic.
   Rather, some UDP applications use a single UDP port to transmit and
   receive (e.g., DNS [RFC1035]), some applications use different UDP
   ports to transmit and receive with explicit signaling (e.g., Trivial
   File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) [RFC1350]), and other applications
   don't specify the choice of transmit and receive ports (RTP

   Because RTP and RTCP are not inherently bidirectional protocols, and
   UDP is not a bidirectional protocol, the usefulness of using the same
   UDP port for transmitting and receiving has been generally ignored
   for RTP and RTCP.  Many firewalls, Network Address Translators (NATs)
   [RFC3022], and RTP implementations expect symmetric RTP, and do not
   work in the presence of asymmetric RTP.  However, this term has never
   been defined.  This document defines "symmetric RTP" and "symmetric

   The UDP port number to receive media, and the UDP port to transmit
   media are both selected by the device that receives that media and
   transmits that media.  For unicast flows, the receive port is
   communicated to the remote peer (e.g., Session Description Protocol
   (SDP) [RFC4566] carried in SIP [RFC3261], Session Announcement
   Protocol (SAP) [RFC2974], or Megaco/H.248 [RFC3525]).

   There is no correspondence between the local RTP (or RTCP) port and
   the remote RTP (or RTCP) port.  That is, device "A" might choose its
   local transmit and receive port to be 1234.  Its peer, device "B", is
   not constrained to also use port 1234 for its port.  In fact, such a
   constraint is impossible to meet because device "B" might already be
   using that port for another application.

   The benefits of using one UDP port pair is described below in
   Section 4.

2.  Conventions Used in this Document

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

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3.  Definition of Symmetric RTP and Symmetric RTCP

   A device supports symmetric RTP if it selects, communicates, and uses
   IP addresses and port numbers such that, when receiving a
   bidirectional RTP media stream on UDP port "A" and IP address "a", it
   also transmits RTP media for that stream from the same source UDP
   port "A" and IP address "a".  That is, it uses the same UDP port to
   transmit and receive one RTP stream.

   A device that doesn't support symmetric RTP would transmit RTP from a
   different port, or from a different IP address, than the port and IP
   address used to receive RTP for that bidirectional media steam.

   A device supports symmetric RTCP if it selects, communicates, and
   uses IP addresses and port numbers such that, when receiving RTCP
   packets for a media stream on UDP port "B" and IP address "b", it
   also transmits RTCP packets for that stream from the same source UDP
   port "B" and IP address "b".  That is, it uses the same UDP port to
   transmit and receive one RTCP stream.

   A device that doesn't support symmetric RTCP would transmit RTCP from
   a different port, or from a different IP address, than the port and
   IP address used to receive RTCP.

4.  Recommended Usage

   There are two specific instances where symmetric RTP and symmetric

   The first instance is NATs that lack integrated Application Layer
   Gateway (ALG) functionality.  Such NATs require that endpoints use
   symmetric UDP ports to establish bidirectional traffic.  This
   requirement exists for all types of NATs described in Section 4 of
   [RFC4787].  ALGs are defined in Section 4.4 of [RFC3022].

   The second instance is Session Border Controllers (SBCs) and other
   forms of RTP and RTCP relays (e.g., [TURN]).  Media relays are
   necessary to establish bidirectional UDP communication across a NAT
   that is 'Address-Dependent' or 'Address and Port-Dependent'
   [RFC4787].  However, even with a media relay, symmetric UDP ports are
   still required to traverse such a NAT.

   There are other instances where symmetric RTP and symmetric RTCP are
   helpful, but not required.  For example, if a firewall can expect
   symmetric RTP and symmetric RTCP, then the firewall's dynamic per-
   call port filter list can be more restrictive compared to asymmetric
   RTP and asymmetric RTCP.  Symmetric RTP and symmetric RTCP can also
   ease debugging and troubleshooting.

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   Other UDP-based protocols can also benefit from common local transmit
   and receive ports.

   There are no known cases where symmetric RTP or symmetric RTCP are

   For these reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that symmetric RTP and symmetric
   RTCP always be used for bidirectional RTP media streams.

5.  Security Considerations

   If an attacker learns the source and destination UDP ports of a
   symmetric RTP or symmetric RTCP flow, the attacker can send RTP or
   RTCP packets to that host.  This differs from asymmetric RTP and
   asymmetric RTCP, where an attacker has to learn the UDP source and
   destination ports used for the reverse traffic, before it can send
   packets to that host.  Thus, if a host uses symmetric RTP or
   symmetric RTCP, an attacker need only see one RTP or RTCP packet in
   order to attack either RTP endpoint.  Note that this attack is
   similar to that of other UDP-based protocols that use one UDP port
   pair (e.g., DNS [RFC1035]).

6.  Acknowledgments

   The author thanks Francois Audet, Sunil Bhargo, Lars Eggert, Francois
   Le Faucheur, Cullen Jennings, Benny Rodrig, Robert Sparks, and Joe
   Stone for their assistance with this document.

7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

7.2.  Informative References

   [RFC3550]  Schulzrinne, H., Casner, S., Frederick, R., and V.
              Jacobson, "RTP: A Transport Protocol for Real-Time
              Applications", STD 64, RFC 3550, July 2003.

   [RFC4787]  Audet, F. and C. Jennings, "Network Address Translation
              (NAT) Behavioral Requirements for Unicast UDP", BCP 127,
              RFC 4787, January 2007.

   [RFC0793]  Postel, J., "Transmission Control Protocol", STD 7,
              RFC 793, September 1981.

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   [RFC3022]  Srisuresh, P. and K. Egevang, "Traditional IP Network
              Address Translator (Traditional NAT)", RFC 3022,
              January 2001.

   [RFC4566]  Handley, M., Jacobson, V., and C. Perkins, "SDP: Session
              Description Protocol", RFC 4566, July 2006.

   [RFC1035]  Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - implementation and
              specification", STD 13, RFC 1035, November 1987.

   [RFC1350]  Sollins, K., "The TFTP Protocol (Revision 2)", STD 33,
              RFC 1350, July 1992.

   [TURN]     Rosenberg, J., "Obtaining Relay Addresses from Simple
              Traversal Underneath NAT (STUN)", Work in Progress,
              July 2007.

   [RFC3261]  Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, G., Johnston,
              A., Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M., and E.
              Schooler, "SIP: Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261,
              June 2002.

   [RFC2974]  Handley, M., Perkins, C., and E. Whelan, "Session
              Announcement Protocol", RFC 2974, October 2000.

   [RFC3525]  Groves, C., Pantaleo, M., Anderson, T., and T. Taylor,
              "Gateway Control Protocol Version 1", RFC 3525, June 2003.

Author's Address

   Dan Wing
   Cisco Systems
   170 West Tasman Drive
   San Jose, CA  95134

   EMail:  dwing@cisco.com

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   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).

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  1. RFC 4961