On multicast-capable links and point-to-point links, each router periodically sends to the multicast group a router advertisement packet that announces its availability. A system receives router advertisements from all routers, building a list of default routers. Routers generate router advertisements frequently enough so that systems learn of their presence within a few minutes. However, routers do not advertise frequently enough to rely on an absence of advertisements to detect router failure. A separate detection algorithm that determines neighbor unreachability provides failure detection.
Router advertisements contain a list of subnet prefixes that is used to determine if a system is on the same link (on-link) as the router. The list of prefixes is also used for autonomous address configuration. Flags that are associated with the prefixes specify the intended uses of a particular prefix. Systems use the advertised on-link prefixes to build and maintain a list that is used to decide when a packet's destination is on-link or beyond a router. A destination can be on-link even though the destination is not covered by any advertised on-link prefix. In such instances, a router can send a redirect. The redirect informs the sender that the destination is a neighbor.
Router advertisements, and per-prefix flags, enable routers to inform systems how to perform stateless address autoconfiguration.
Router advertisement messages also contain Internet parameters, such as the hop limit, that systems should use in outgoing packets. Optionally, router advertisement messages also contain link parameters, such as the link MTU. This feature enables the centralized administration of critical parameters. The parameters can be set on routers and automatically propagated to all systems that are attached.
Nodes accomplish address resolution by sending to the multicast group a neighbor solicitation that asks the target node to return its link-layer address. Multicast neighbor solicitation messages are sent to the solicited-node multicast address of the target address. The target node returns its link-layer address in a unicast neighbor advertisement message. A single request-response pair of packets is sufficient for both the initiator and the target nodes to resolve each other's link-layer addresses. The initiator includes its link-layer address in the neighbor solicitation.