The User Datagram Protocol (UDP) is one of the core members of the Internet Protocol Suite, the set of network protocols used for the Internet. With UDP, computer applications can send messages, in this case referred to as datagrams, to other hosts on an Internet Protocol (IP) network without requiring prior communications to set up special transmission channels or data paths. The protocol was designed by David P. Reed in 1980 and formally defined in RFC 768

UDP uses a simple transmission model without implicit hand-shaking dialogues for providing reliability, ordering, or data integrity. Thus, UDP provides an unreliable service and datagrams may arrive out of order, appear duplicated, or go missing without notice. UDP assumes that error checking and correction is either not necessary or performed in the application, avoiding the overhead of such processing at the network interface level. Time-sensitive applications often use UDP because dropping packets is preferable to waiting for delayed packets, which may not be an option in a real-time system.If error correction facilities are needed at the network interface level, an application may use the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) which are designed for this purpose.

UDP's stateless nature is also useful for servers answering small queries from huge numbers of clients. Unlike TCP, UDP is compatible with packet broadcast (sending to all on local network) and multicasting (send to all subscribers).

Common network applications that use UDP include: the Domain Name System (DNS), streaming media applications such as IPTV, Voice over IP (VoIP), Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) and many online games.

Packet structure

UDP is a minimal message-oriented Transport Layer protocol that is documented in IETF RFC 768

UDP provides no guarantees to the upper layer protocol for message delivery and the UDP protocol layer retains no state of UDP messages once sent. For this reason, UDP is sometimes referred to as Unreliable Datagram Protocol.[citation needed]

UDP provides application multiplexing (via port numbers) and integrity verification (via checksum) of the header and payload.If transmission reliability is desired, it must be implemented in the user's application.

bits 0 – 15 16 – 31
0 Source Port Number Destination Port Number
32 Length Checksum


The UDP header consists of 4 fields, all of which are 2 bytes (16 bits).The use of two of those is optional in IPv4 (pink background in table). In IPv6 only the source port is optional (see below).

Source port number

This field identifies the sender's port when meaningful and should be assumed to be the port to reply to if needed. If not used, then it should be zero. If the source host is the client, the port number is likely to be an ephemeral port number. If the source host is the server, the port number is likely to be a well-known port number.

Destination port number

This field identifies the receiver's port and is required. Similar to source port number, if the client is the destination host then the port number will likely be an ephemeral port number and if the destination host is the server then the port number will likely be a well-known port number.


A field that specifies the length in bytes of the entire datagram: header and data. The minimum length is 8 bytes since that's the length of the header. The field size sets a theoretical limit of 65,535 bytes (8 byte header + 65,527 bytes of data) for a UDP datagram. The practical limit for the data length which is imposed by the underlying IPv4 protocol is 65,507 bytes (65,535 − 8 byte UDP header − 20 byte IP header).


The checksum field is used for error-checking of the header and data. If the checksum is omitted in IPv4, the field uses the value all-zeros. This field is not optional for IPv6.