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Internet Control Message Protocol (RFC0792) Disclosure Number: IPCOM000003841D
Original Publication Date: 1981-Sep-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2019-Feb-14
Document File: 21 page(s) / 19K

Publishing Venue

Internet Society Requests For Comment (RFCs)

Related People

J. Postel: AUTHOR

Related Documents

10.17487/RFC0792: DOI

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 13% of the total text.

Network Working Group J. Postel Request for Comments: 792 ISI September 1981 Updates: RFCs 777, 760 Updates: IENs 109, 128




The Internet Protocol (IP) [1] is used for host-to-host datagram service in a system of interconnected networks called the Catenet [2]. The network connecting devices are called Gateways. These gateways communicate between themselves for control purposes via a Gateway to Gateway Protocol (GGP) [3,4]. Occasionally a gateway or destination host will communicate with a source host, for example, to report an error in datagram processing. For such purposes this protocol, the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), is used. ICMP, uses the basic support of IP as if it were a higher level protocol, however, ICMP is actually an integral part of IP, and must be implemented by every IP module.

ICMP messages are sent in several situations: for example, when a datagram cannot reach its destination, when the gateway does not have the buffering capacity to forward a datagram, and when the gateway can direct the host to send traffic on a shorter route.

The Internet Protocol is not designed to be absolutely reliable. The purpose of these control messages is to provide feedback about problems in the communication environment, not to make IP reliable. There are still no guarantees that a datagram will be delivered or a control message will be returned. Some datagrams may still be undelivered without any report of their loss. The higher level protocols that use IP must implement their own reliability procedures if reliable communication is required.

The ICMP messages typically report errors in the processing of datagrams. To avoid the infinite regress of messages about messages etc., no ICMP messages are sent about ICMP messages. Also ICMP messages are only sent about errors in handling fragment zero of fragemented datagrams. (Fragment zero has the fragment offeset equal zero).

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September 1981 RFC 792

Message Formats

ICMP messages are sent using the basic IP header. The first octet of the data portion of the datagram is a ICMP type field; the value of this field determines the format of the remaining data. Any field labeled "unused" is reserved for later extensions and must be zero when sent, but receivers should not use these fields (except to include them in the checksum). Unless otherwise noted under the individual format descriptions, the values of the internet header fields are as follows:




Internet header length in 32-bit words.

Type of Service


Total Length

Length of internet header and data in octets.

Identification, Flags, Fragment Offset

Used in fragmentation, see [1].

Time to Live

Time to live in seconds; as this field is decremented at each machine in which the datagram is processed, the value in this field should be at least as great as the number of gateways which this datagram will traverse.


ICMP = 1