RFC3153: PPP Multiplexing

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Network Working Group                                      R. Pazhyannur
Request for Comments: 3153                                        I. Ali
Category: Standards Track                                       Motorola
                                                                  C. Fox
                                                           Cisco Systems
                                                             August 2001

                           PPP Multiplexing

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document describes a method to reduce the PPP (Point-to-Point
   Protocol) framing overhead used to transport small packets over slow

1. Description

   The method, PPP Multiplexing, sends multiple PPP encapsulated packets
   in a single PPP frame.  As a result, the PPP overhead per packet is
   reduced.  PPP encapsulation (for example with PPP in HDLC framing)
   adds several bytes of overhead: a HDLC flag (at least one to separate
   adjacent packets), the Address (0xFF) and Control (0x03) field bytes,
   a two byte PPP Protocol ID, and the two byte CRC field.  Even with
   the Address and Control Fields negotiated off and the PPP Protocol ID
   compressed, each PPP encapsulated frame will include four bytes of
   overhead.  When PPP frames are tunneled, as in L2TP [1], the L2TP
   overhead per PPP frame is significant.

   The key idea is to concatenate multiple PPP encapsulated frames into
   a single PPP multiplexed frame by inserting a delimiter before the
   beginning of each frame.  The description of the delimiters is
   provided in Subsection 1.1.  The delimiters are used by the
   demultiplexor to separate the PPP frames within the multiplexed
   frame.  Each PPP encapsulated frame within the multiplexed frame is
   called a PPP subframe.

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RFC 3153                    PPP Multiplexing                 August 2001

   During the NCP negotiation phase of PPP, a receiver can offer to
   receive multiplexed frames using the PPP Mux Control Protocol
   (PPPMuxCP), as described in Section 2.  Once PPPMuxCP has been
   negotiated, the transmitter may choose which PPP frames to multiplex.
   Frames should not be re-ordered by either the transmitter or receiver
   regardless of whether they arrive as part of the PPP multiplexed
   frame or by themselves.

   The scheme proposed is similar to the concatenated framing option
   [2].  The key differences are that PPP multiplexing is more efficient
   and that it allows concatenation of variable sized frames.  This is
   unlike concatenated framing which restricts all frames to be of fixed

   As with any concatenation scheme, the implementer has to consider the
   tradeoff between increased delay for multiplexing/demultiplexing and
   reduced packet overhead as the length of the multiplexed frame

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [7].

1.1. Payload Format

   The format of the complete PPP frame along with multiple subframes
   for PPP in HDLC-like framing [3] is shown in Figure 1.  Note that
   regardless of the order in which individual bits are transmitted,
   i.e., LSB first or MSB first, the PFF bit will be seen to be the MSB
   of a byte that contains both the PFF and the subframe length field.

   +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+   +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
   |       +P|L|     +       +     +   +P|L|     +       +     +     |
   |  PPP/ +F|X|Len1 +  PPP  +     +   +F|X|LenN +  PPP  +     +     |
   |  HDLC +F|T|     + Prot. +Info1+ ~ +F|T|     + Prot. +InfoN+ CRC |
   | Header+ | |     + Field1+     +   + | |     +FieldN +     +     |
   | (2-5) +  (1-2 ) + (0-2) +     +   +  (1-2)  + (0-2) +     + (2) |
   +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+   +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

             Figure 1. Multiplexing subframes in a PPP frame.

   PPP Header:
        The PPP header contains the PPP Protocol Field for a PPP
        Multiplexed Frame (0x0059).  The PPP header compression
        options (ACFC and PFC) may be negotiated during LCP and
        could thus affect the format of this header.

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   Length Field:

     The length field consists of three subfields:

      1. Protocol Field Flag (PFF):

         The PFF refers to the most significant bit of the first byte of
         each subframe.  This one bit field indicates whether the PPP
         Protocol ID of the subframe follows the subframe length field.
         For the first subframe, the PFF bit could be set to zero if the
         PPP protocol ID of the first subframe is equal to the default
         PID value negotiated in PPPMuxCP.  PFF = 1 indicates that the
         protocol field is present (and follows the length field) for
         this subframe.  PFF = 0 indicates that the protocol field is
         absent for this subframe.  If PFF = 0 then the PPP Protocol ID
         is the same as that of the preceding subframe with PFF = 1, or
         it is equal to default PID value of the PPPMuxCP Option for the
         first subframe.  The transmitter is not obligated to remove the
         PPP Protocol ID for any subframe.

      2. Length Extension (LXT)

         This one bit field indicates whether the length field is one
         byte or two bytes long.  If the LXT bit is set, then the length
         field is two bytes long (a PFF bit, a length extension bit, and
         14 bits of sub-frame length).  If the LXT bit is cleared, then
         the length field is one byte long (a PFF bit, a length
         extension bit, and 6 bits of sub-frame length).

      3. Sub-frame Length (LEN):

         This is the length of the subframe in bytes not including the
         length field.  However, it does include the PPP Protocol ID if
         present (i.e., if PFF = 1).  If the length of the subframe is
         less than 64 bytes (less than or equal to 63 bytes), LXT is set
         to zero and the last six bits of the length field is the
         subframe length.  If the length of the subframe is greater than
         63 bytes, LXT is set to one and the last 14 bits of the length
         field is the length of the subframe.  The maximum length of a
         subframe is 16,383 bytes.  PPP packets larger than 16,383 bytes
         will need to be sent in their own PPP frame.  A transmitter is
         not required to multiplex all frames smaller than 16,383 bytes.
         It may chose to only multiplex frames smaller than a
         configurable size into a PPP multiplexed frame.

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   Protocol Field:

      This field contains the Protocol Field value for the subframe.
      This field is optional.  If PFF = 1 for a subframe, the protocol
      field is present in the subframe, otherwise it is inferred at the

      The receiver MUST support Protocol-Field-Compression (PFC) one or
      two bytes long.  The transmitter SHOULD compress PPP Protocol IDs
      in this field that have an upper byte of zero (i.e., Protocol IDs
      from 0x21 thru 0xFD).  This Protocol Field Compression in each PPP
      subframe is not related to the negotiation of PFC during LCP
      negotiation which affects the length of PPP Multiplexed Frame
      Protocol ID.

   Information Field:

      This field contains the actual packet being encapsulated. Any
      frame may be included here with the exception of LCP Configure
      Request, ACK, NAK and Reject frames and PPP Multiplexed frames.
      If LCP is renegotiated then PPP Multiplexing MUST be disabled
      until the PPP Mux Control Protocol is negotiated.

1.2 Transmitter procedure

   A simple implementation of the transmitter is provided.  During the
   transmission of a multiplexed PPP frame, the transmitter has a state
   variable, Last_PID, which is used to hold the most recent value of
   protocol field in a subframe with PFF=1.  At the start of the
   multiplexing process, Last_PID is set equal to the default PID value
   negotiated in PPPMuxCP.  Also, a user configurable parameter, maximum
   subframe length (MAX_SF_LEN), is used to determine the maximum size
   of a PPP frame which can be multiplexed.  The value of MAX_SF_LEN
   should be less or equal to the minimum of MRU-2(maximum size of
   length field) and 16,383 (14 bits).

   After transmitting a PPP frame (multiplexed or not) on the channel,
   the PPP multiplexing logic looks at the buffers that hold the PPP
   frames to be transmitted.  In case there are multiple frames, the PPP
   multiplexing logic checks if the length of the first frame in the
   buffer is less than or equal to MAX_SF_LEN bytes.  If so, the
   transmitter starts compiling a multiplexed PPP frame with the
   protocol field value corresponding to PPP Multiplexed Frame (0x59).
   For each subframe, the test for deciding to prepend the protocol
   field to a subframe is to compare the protocol field value of the
   subframe to Last_PID.  If they are equal, PFF is set to 0 and the
   protocol field is deleted.  If not, PFF is set to 1, the protocol
   field is included, after PFC, in the subframe and Last_PID is set to

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   the protocol field value of the current subframe.  The stopping
   criteria in the concatenation process are (i) when the length of the
   next subframe is greater than MAX_SF_LEN bytes or (ii) the length of
   the entire PPP frame by including the new subframe exceeds the
   maximum receive unit (MRU) parameter negotiated during LCP [4], or
   (iii) there are no more subframes to concatenate.

   Implementers may choose additionally to implement using timers.  In
   such a case a timeout in addition to the conditions stated above is
   used as a stopping criteria of the multiplexing process.  Moreover,
   it may be desirable to limit the maximum size of a multiplexed packet
   to be considerably smaller than MRU for reasons of multiplexing
   latency and packet error considerations.

1.3 Receiver procedure

   If a multiplexed frame, i.e., a frame with Protocol field value equal
   to PPP Multiplexed Frame (0x0059), is received, the frame is
   demultiplexed in order using the following input demultiplexing
   logic.  Similar to a transmitter, the receiver has a state variable
   called Last_rcvd_PID, which is the value of the protocol field in the
   most recently demultiplexed subframe with PFF=1.  Last_rcvd_PID is
   initialized to default PID value negotiated by PPPMuxCP.  If PFF=0
   for a subframe, Last_rcvd_PID is appended to the beginning of the
   subframe before handing the subframe, as determined by the length
   field, to the PPP logic.  If PFF=1 for a subframe, Last_rcvd_PID is
   set to this value and the subframe, as determined by the length
   field, is passed to PPP logic.  The remainder of the frame is
   returned to the demultiplexor.  Each succeeding subframe is processed
   similarly.  This processing is complete when the remainder of the
   frame is empty, or when the size field of a subframe exceeds the
   amount of data remaining in a packet.  In the latter case, there is
   an error either in the length field of the last subframe or in the
   length field of one of the previous subframes.  In either case the
   last subframe must be dropped by the demultiplexing logic.

   It is illegal to put a multiplexed frame within a multiplexed frame.

2. PPP Network Control Protocol for PPP Multiplexing (PPPMuxCP)

   A receiver will offer its ability to received multiplexed frames by
   negotiating NCP for PPP multiplexing, PPPMuxCP.  The protocol field
   value for a PPPMuxCP frames is 0x8059.  PPPMuxCP is similar to other
   NCPs such as IPCP [6].  A transmitter may not send a multiplexed
   frame unless the peer has offered to receive multiplexed frames.
   Support of multiplexed frame reception is negotiated in each
   direction independently.  Successful negotiation of PPPMuxCP does not
   obligate a peer to transmit multiplexed frames.

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RFC 3153                    PPP Multiplexing                 August 2001

   As part of the PPPMuxCP negotiation, a 'default PID' option is always
   negotiated.  This enables the transmitter to transmit the first
   subframe of a PPP multiplexed frame without a PID (PFF=0), thus
   resulting in a saving of one or two bytes.  Note that the negotiation
   of default PID does not require the transmitter to send the first
   subframe with PFF=0 even if doing so would optimize the transmission.
   And, as always, the option (and thus the default PID) is negotiated
   by the receiver, i.e., the receiver will interpret a received PPPmux
   packet using the default PID it offered.

   LCP frames MUST NOT be sent in Multiplexed frames. The only option in
   PPPMuxCP is the negotiation of Default PID and is shown below

    0                   1                   2                   3
    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
   |   Type = 1    |   Length = 4  |        Default PID            |

                Figure 2. Default PID option for PPPMuxCP

3. Interaction with PPP Multilink (MP) Protocol

   PPP multiplexed frame option is negotiated by an NCP.  LCP is
   negotiated over each member link of a multilink bundle and not on the
   bundle itself [5].  Thus in case of MP, PPPmux cannot be negotiated
   for individual links, but only for the bundle.

   Hence, on the transmitter side PPP multiplexing always occurs before
   multilink PPP encapsulation.  On a link, an MP header (if present)
   MUST be outside of a PPPmux header (if present).  Multilink frames
   must not be sent in Multiplexed frames.

4. Interaction with CCP and ECP

   PPP multiplexing must be performed below (after) any bundle-level CCP
   and/or ECP, and above (before) MP and any per-link CCP and/or ECP.
   Thus,  to negotiate the hypothetical transmit path sequence CCP ->
   PPPMux -> ECP, the bundle-level version of CCP (80fd) and the per-
   link version of ECP (8055) are negotiated along with the PPPMux

   An implementation that cannot perform PPPMux above CCP or ECP MUST
   issue Protocol-Reject for the per-link forms of CCP and ECP if PPPMux
   has been negotiated.

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5. Security Considerations

   This document does not impose additional security considerations
   beyond those that apply to PPP and header-compression schemes over

6. Acknowledgements

   The authors would like to thank contributors on the PPPext mailing
   list, especially James Carlson, for valuable inputs to this document.

7. References

   [1] Townsley, W., Valencia, A., Rubens, A., Pall, G., Zorn, G. and B.
       Palter, "Layer Two Tunneling Protocol "L2TP"", RFC 2661, August

   [2] Simpson, W., Ed., "PPP LCP extensions", RFC 1570, January, 1994.

   [3] Simpson, W., Ed., "PPP in HDLC-like Framing", STD 51, RFC 1662,
       July 1994.

   [4] Simpson, W., Ed., "The Point-To-Point Protocol (PPP)", STD 51,
       RFC 1661, July 1994.

   [5] Sklower, K., Lloyd, B., McGregor, G., Carr, D., and T. Coradetti,
       "The PPP Multilink Protocol (MP)", RFC 1990, August 1996.

   [6] McGregor, G., "The PPP Internet Protocol Control Protocol
       (IPCP)", RFC 1332, May 1992.

   [7] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
       Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

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8. Author's Addresses

   Rajesh Pazhyannur
   Motorola, Network Solutions Sector
   1501, W. Shure Drive
   Arlington Heights, IL 60004

   Phone: (847) 632-4524
   EMail: pazhynnr@cig.mot.com

   Irfan Ali
   Motorola, Network Solutions Sector
   1501, W. Shure Drive
   Arlington Heights, IL 60004

   Phone: (847) 632-3281
   EMail: fia225@email.mot.com

   Craig Fox
   Cisco Systems
   170 W. Tasman Street
   San Jose, CA 95134

   Phone: (408) 526-6296
   EMail: fox@cisco.com

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