Programming Interfaces Guide

Broadcasting and Determining Network Configuration

Broadcasting is not supported in IPv6. Broadcasting is supported only in IPv4.

Messages sent by datagram sockets can be broadcast to reach all of the hosts on an attached network. The network must support broadcast because the system provides no simulation of broadcast in software. Broadcast messages can place a high load on a network because broadcast messages force every host on the network to service the broadcast messages. Broadcasting is usually used for either of two reasons:

To send a broadcast message, create an Internet datagram socket:

s = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_DGRAM, 0);

Bind a port number to the socket:

sin.sin_family = AF_INET;
sin.sin_addr.s_addr = htonl(INADDR_ANY);
sin.sin_port = htons(MYPORT);
bind(s, (struct sockaddr *) &sin, sizeof sin);

The datagram can be broadcast on only one network by sending to the network's broadcast address. A datagram can also be broadcast on all attached networks by sending to the special address INADDR_BROADCAST, which is defined in netinet/in.h.

The system provides a mechanism to determine a number of pieces of information about the network interfaces on the system. This information includes the IP address and broadcast address. The SIOCGIFCONF ioctl(2) call returns the interface configuration of a host in a single ifconf structure. This structure contains an array of ifreq structures. Every address family supported by every network interface to which the host is connected has its own ifreq structure.

The following example shows the ifreq structures defined in net/if.h.

Example 8–14 net/if.h Header File

struct ifreq {
    #define IFNAMSIZ 16
    char ifr_name[IFNAMSIZ]; /* if name, e.g., "en0" */
    union {
        struct sockaddr ifru_addr;
        struct sockaddr ifru_dstaddr;
        char ifru_oname[IFNAMSIZ]; /* other if name */
        struct sockaddr ifru_broadaddr;
        short ifru_flags;
        int ifru_metric;
        char ifru_data[1]; /* interface dependent data */
        char ifru_enaddr[6];
    } ifr_ifru;
    #define ifr_addr ifr_ifru.ifru_addr
    #define ifr_dstaddr ifr_ifru.ifru_dstaddr
    #define ifr_oname ifr_ifru.ifru_oname
    #define ifr_broadaddr ifr_ifru.ifru_broadaddr
    #define ifr_flags ifr_ifru.ifru_flags
    #define ifr_metric ifr_ifru.ifru_metric
    #define ifr_data ifr_ifru.ifru_data
    #define ifr_enaddr ifr_ifru.ifru_enaddr

The call that obtains the interface configuration is:

 * Do SIOCGIFNUM ioctl to find the number of interfaces
 * Allocate space for number of interfaces found
 * Do SIOCGIFCONF with allocated buffer
if (ioctl(s, SIOCGIFNUM, (char *)&numifs) == -1) {
    numifs = MAXIFS;
bufsize = numifs * sizeof(struct ifreq);
reqbuf = (struct ifreq *)malloc(bufsize);
if (reqbuf == NULL) {
    fprintf(stderr, "out of memory\n");
ifc.ifc_buf = (caddr_t)&reqbuf[0];
ifc.ifc_len = bufsize;
if (ioctl(s, SIOCGIFCONF, (char *)&ifc) == -1) {

After this call, buf contains an array of ifreq structures. Every network to which the host connects has an associated ifreq structure. The sort order these structures appear in is:

The value of ifc.ifc_len is set to the number of bytes used by the ifreq structures.

Each structure has a set of interface flags that indicate whether the corresponding network is up or down, point-to-point or broadcast, and so on. The following example shows ioctl(2) returning the SIOCGIFFLAGS flags for an interface specified by an ifreq structure.

Example 8–15 Obtaining Interface Flags

struct ifreq *ifr;
ifr = ifc.ifc_req;
for (n = ifc.ifc_len/sizeof (struct ifreq); --n >= 0; ifr++) {
     * Be careful not to use an interface devoted to an address
     * family other than those intended.
    if (ifr->ifr_addr.sa_family != AF_INET)
    if (ioctl(s, SIOCGIFFLAGS, (char *) ifr) < 0) {
    /* Skip boring cases */
    if ((ifr->ifr_flags & IFF_UP) == 0 ||
            (ifr->ifr_flags & IFF_LOOPBACK) ||
            (ifr->ifr_flags & (IFF_BROADCAST | IFF_POINTOPOINT)) == 0)

The following example uses the SIOGGIFBRDADDR ioctl(2) command to obtain the broadcast address of an interface.

Example 8–16 Broadcast Address of an Interface

if (ioctl(s, SIOCGIFBRDADDR, (char *) ifr) < 0) {
memcpy((char *) &dst, (char *) &ifr->ifr_broadaddr,
    sizeof ifr->ifr_broadaddr);

You can also use SIOGGIFBRDADDR ioctl(2) to get the destination address of a point-to-point interface.

After the interface broadcast address is obtained, transmit the broadcast datagram with sendto(3SOCKET):

sendto(s, buf, buflen, 0, (struct sockaddr *)&dst, sizeof dst);

Use one sendto(3SOCKET) for each interface to which the host is connected, if that interface supports the broadcast or point-to-point addressing.