Multicast PIM Auto RP

Multicast PIM sparse mode requires an RP (Rendezvous Point) as a meeting point in the network for all multicast traffic. In our first PIM sparse mode lesson, we manually configured the RP on all routers.

For a small network, this is no problem. On large multicast networks, it’s not a good idea. First of all, it takes time to manually configure each router, but it’s also prone to errors. When your RP fails, there’s no automatic way to recover from it. You’ll have to configure all routers to use another router as the RP.

Luckily for us, there are two discovery protocols that we can use to automatically find an RP on the network:

  • Auto-RP
  • PIMv2 bootstrap router (BSR)

This lesson is about Auto-RP so we’ll cover BSR in another lesson. Auto-RP is a Cisco proprietary protocol that uses two different roles:

  • Candidate RP
  • Mapping Agent

The candidate RP is a router that announces itself that it wants to be an RP for the network. It does so by sending RP announcement packets to the multicast address.

The mapping agent listens to the RP announcement packets from our RP candidates and makes a list of all possible RPs. It will then elect an RP and informs the rest of the network with RP mapping packets that are sent to multicast address

Let’s look at an example:

Multicast PIM Auto RP example

Above we have a small network with 6 routers. R1 and R5 are advertising themselves as rendezvous points in the network. These two routers will send their RP announcements packets to on all directly connected interfaces where PIM is enabled. One of our routers will become the mapping agent, take a look below:

Multicast PIM Auto RP Mapping Advertised

Above you can see that R3 is the mapping agent in our network. It has received the RP announcement packets from R1 and R5, and has elected R5 as the RP that will be advertised to the network. When two candidate RPs want to become RP for the same group(s) then the mapping agent will prefer the RP with the highest IP address.

R3 will advertise RP mapping packets that contain the RP address of R5 and the groups that it will serve. These are sent on all directly connected interfaces where PIM is enabled.

So far so good, there is one problem though. Above you can see that R3 sends these packets to R1, R4 and R5. These routers have now learned which RP they can use.

What about R2 and R6? Take a look below:

Multicast PIM Auto RP Mapping Sparse Mode

R2 and R6 didn’t receive the RP mapping packets. Why?

Keep in mind we are using PIM sparse mode here, multicast traffic is only forwarded when a router requests it with a PIM join message. This PIM join message is sent to the RP.

  • R1 and R4 are not going to forward multicast packets to to R2 unless R2 requests it.
  • R5 and R4 are not going to forward multicast packets to to R6 unless R6 requests it.

PIM dense mode works the other way around. Multicast traffic is flooded everywhere and then pruned with PIM prune messages.

It’s a classical chicken and egg problem. When R2/R6 want to receive traffic from, they’ll have to send a PIM join to the RP address for However, they have no idea what the RP address is…

How do we solve it? There are two options:

  • PIM Sparse-Dense mode
  • PIM Auto-RP Listener

PIM sparse-dense mode is an extension to PIM sparse mode. It allows our multicast routers to use dense mode for multicast groups that don’t have an RP configured. When your router knows the RP, it will use sparse mode. If it doesn’t know the RP…it will use dense mode. This allows traffic to to be flooded throughout the network so that R2 and R6 can also learn the RP address.

The second option, auto-rp listener is a bit similar. If you enable this then the router will use dense mode only for the and addresses.

In the example above, R2 and R6 were unable to learn the RP address since they didn’t receive the RP mapping packets to The same problem can occur with the mapping agent. Since R3 is directly connected to R1 and R5, it was able to receive the RP announce packets to If R3 was not directly connected to the RPs, then it would not have received these packets.


Let’s take a look at Auto RP in action. To demonstrate this, I will use the following topology:

Multicast Auto RP Topology

Above we have 4 routers. Our goal is that all routers should learn the RP address. R1 is the RP, R2 is the mapping agent. OSPF has been pre-configured so that all networks are reachable.

Multicast PIM sparse mode requires an RP (Rendezvous Point) as a meeting point in the network for all multicast traffic. In our first PIM sparse mode lesson, we manually configured the RP on all routers. For a small network, this is no problem. On large multicast networks, it's not a good idea. Firs

First we need to enable multicast routing on all routers:

R1, R2, R3 & R4
(config)#ip multicast-routing

Let’s enable PIM sparse mode on all interfaces:

R1(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/1
R1(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode
R2(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/1
R2(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode 

R2(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/2
R2(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode 
R3(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/1
R3(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode 

R3(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/2
R3(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode 
R4(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/1
R4(config-if)#ip pim sparse-mode

Before we configure the RP and mapping agent, let’s take a look at the multicast routing tables:

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Forum Replies

  1. Hi Rene.
    Thank for great explain, How ever i still confuse. Can you explain what is RP mapping agent ? and why we need it ?

  2. Hello Heng

    In the first version of PIM-SM, all routers were required to be manually configured with the IP address of the RP. This does not scale well for a large complex network.

    After this, Cisco implemented the Auto-RP feature which automates the distribution of group-to-RP mappings in a PIM network. To make Auto-RP work, there must be an RP mapping agent which receives the RP announcement messages from the RPs and arbitrates conflicts. The RP mapping agent then sends the consistent group to RP mappings to all other routers by dense mode flooding. This w

    ... Continue reading in our forum

  3. I have a very basic topology of router on a stick so two VLANS (10 and 20) can communicate. What type of multicasting (SPARSE / DENSE) should I configure on my router (C2900 V15.2) to enable a server in one VLAN (VLAN 10) to send multicast traffic to devices in its own VLAN and devices in the other VLAN (VLAN 20) - that is connected via Router on a stick (sub – interfaces)

  4. Hello Jason

    If your topology only consists of a single router with two VLANs, then DENSE mode would be preferable. Arguably, this is the simplest mechanism as it doesn’t require an RP (since you only have one router). In such a case, dense mode forwards multicast traffic on all interfaces until we are requested to stop forwarding. For more info on dense mode, take a look at the following:

    ... Continue reading in our forum

  5. Hello, is the ip pim autorp listener command only needed in one adj PIM router or Do I needed it everywhere in order to get the RP?

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