IPv6 Address Types & Format Explained with Examples

This tutorial explains IPv6 address terminology such as node, router, host, link and network including types of IPv6 address such as anycast address, multicast address, unicast address, link local address, site local address, loopback address, IPv4 compatible address in detail.

IPv6 Address Terminology


Any device that runs an implementation of IPv6. This includes routers and hosts.


A node that can forward IPv6 packets not explicitly addressed to itself. On an IPv6 network, a router also typically advertises its presence and host configuration information.


A node that cannot forward IPv6 packets not explicitly addressed to itself (a non router). A host is typically the source and a destination of IPv6 traffic, and it silently discards traffic received that is not explicitly addressed to itself.

Upper-layer protocol

A protocol above IPv6 that uses IPv6 as its transport. Examples include Internet layer protocols such as ICMPv6 and Transport layer protocols such as TCP and UDP (but not Application layer protocols such as FTP and DNS, which use TCP and UDP as their transport).


The set of network interfaces that are bounded by routers and that use the same 64-bit IPv6 unicast address prefix. Other terms for “link” are subnet and network segment.


Two or more subnets connected by routers. Another term for network is internetworks.


Nodes connected to the same link. Neighbors in IPv6 have special significance because of IPv6 Neighbor Discovery, which has facilities to resolve neighbor link layer addresses and detect and monitor neighbor reach ability.


The representation of a physical or logical attachment of a node to a link. An example of a physical interface is a network adapter. An example of a logical interface is a “tunnel” interface that is used to send IPv6 packets across an IPv4 network by encapsulating the IPv6 packet inside an IPv4 header.


An identifier that can be used as the source or destination of IPv6 packets that is assigned at the IPv6 layer to an interface or set of interfaces.


The protocol data unit (PDU) that exists at the IPv6 layer and is composed of an IPv6 header and payload.


MTU The maximum transmission unit (MTU)—the number of bytes in the largest IPv6 packet—that can be sent on a link. Because the maximum frame size includes the link-layer medium headers and trailers, the link MTU is not the same as the maximum frame size of the link. The link MTU is the same as the maximum payload size of the link-layer technology. For example, for Ethernet using Ethernet II encapsulation, the maximum Ethernet frame payload size is 1500 bytes. Therefore, the link MTU is 1500. For a link with multiple link-layer technologies (for example, a bridged link), the link MTU is the smallest link MTU of all the link-layer technologies present on the link.


MTU The maximum-sized IPv6 packet that can be sent without performing host fragmentation between a source and destination over a path in an IPv6 network. The path MTU is typically the smallest link MTU of all the links in the path.

IPv6 Address Format

Whereas IPv4 addresses use a dotted-decimal format, where each byte ranges from 0 to 255.
IPv6 addresses use eight sets of four hexadecimal addresses (16 bits in each set), separated by a colon (:),
like this: xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx (x would be a hexadecimal value). This notation is commonly called string notation.

Hexadecimal values can be displayed in either lower- or upper-case for the numbers A–F.

A leading zero in a set of numbers can be omitted;
for example, you could either enter 0012 or 12 in one of the eight fields—both are correct.

If you have successive fields of zeroes in an IPv6 address, you can represent them as two colons (::). For example, 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:5 could be represented as ::5; and ABC:567:0:0:8888:9999:1111:0 could be represented as ABC:567::8888:9999:1111:0. However, you can only do this once in the address: ABC::567::891::00 would be invalid since :: appears more than once in the address. The reason for this limitation is that if you had two or more repetitions, you wouldn’t know how many sets of zeroes were being omitted from each part.

An unspecified address is represented as ::, since it contains all zeroes.

Types of IPv6 Addresses


An anycast address identifies one or more interfaces. Notice that the term device isn’t used since a device can have more than one interface. Sometimes people use the term node to designate an interface on a device. Basically, an anycast is a hybrid of a unicast and multicast address.

  • With a unicast, one packet is sent to one destination;
  • With a multicast, one packet is sent to all members of the multicast group;
  • With an anycast, a packet is sent to any one member of a group of devices that are configured with the anycast address. By default, packets sent to an anycast address are forwarded to the closet interface (node), which is based on the routing process employed to get the packet to the destination. Given this process, anycast addresses are commonly referred to as one-to-the-nearest address.
  • Represent a group of interfaces interested in seeing the same traffic.
  • The first 8 bits are set to FF.
  • The next 4 bits are the lifetime of the address: 0 is permanent and 1 is temporary.
  • The next 4 bits indicate the scope of the multicast address (how far the packet can travel):
    1 is for a node, 2 is for a link, 5 is for the site, 8 is for the organization,
    and E is global (the Internet).

For example, a multicast address that begins with FF02::/16 is a permanent link address, whereas an address of FF15::/16 is a temporary address for a site.


Unicast IPv6 Addresses
The following types of addresses are unicast IPv6 addresses:

  • Global unicast addresses
  • Link-local addresses
  • Site-local addresses
  • Unique local addresses
  • Special addresses
  • Transition addresses
Global Unicast Addresses

IPv6 global addresses are equivalent to public IPv4 addresses. They are globally routable and reachable on the IPv6 Internet. Global unicast addresses are designed to be aggregated or summarized for an efficient routing infrastructure. Unlike the current IPv4-based Internet, which is a mixture of both flat and hierarchical routing, the IPv6-based Internet has been designed from its foundation to support efficient, hierarchical addressing and routing. The scope of a global address is the entire IPv6 Internet. RFC 4291 defines global addresses as all addresses that are not the unspecified, loopback, link-local unicast, or multicast addresses. However, Figure shows the structure of global unicast addresses defined in RFC 3587 that are currently being used on the IPv6 Internet.
The structure of global unicast addresses defined in RFC 3587 The fields in the global unicast address are described in the following list:

  • Fixed portion set to 001 the three high-order bits are set to 001.
  • Global Routing Prefix Indicates the global routing prefix for a specific organization’s site. The combination of the three fixed bits and the 45-bit Global Routing Prefix is used to create a 48-bit site prefix, which is assigned to an individual site of an organization. A site is an autonomously operating IP-based network that is connected to the IPv6 Internet. Network architects and administrators within the site determine the addressing plan and routing policy for the organization network. Once assigned, routers on the IPv6 Internet forward IPv6 traffic matching the 48-bit prefix to the routers of the organization’s site.
  • Subnet ID The Subnet ID is used within an organization’s site to identify subnets within its site. The size of this field is 16 bits. The organization’s site can use these 16 bits within its site to create 65,536 subnets or multiple levels of addressing hierarchy and an efficient routing infrastructure. With 16 bits of subnetting flexibility, a global unicast prefix assigned to an organization site is equivalent to a public IPv4 Class A address prefix (assuming that the last octet is used for identifying nodes on subnets). The routing structure of the organization’s network is not visible to the ISP.
  • Interface ID Indicates the interface on a specific subnet within the site. The size of this field is 64 bits. The interface ID in IPv6 is equivalent to the node ID or host ID in IPv4.
Local-Use Unicast Addresses

Local-use unicast addresses do not have a global scope and can be reused. There are two types of local-use unicast addresses:

  1. Link-local addresses are used between on-link neighbors and for Neighbor Discovery processes.
  2. Site-local addresses are used between nodes communicating with other nodes in the same organization.
Link-Local Addresses FE8:: through FEB::

Link-local addresses are a new concept in IPv6. These kinds of addresses have a smaller scope as to how far they can travel: just the local link (the data link layer link). Routers will process packets destined to a link-local address, but they will not forward them to other links. Their most common use is for a device to acquire unicast site-local or global unicast addressing information, discovering the default gateway, and discovering other layer 2 neighbors on the segment. IPv6 link-local addresses, identified by the initial 10 bits being set to 1111 1110 10 and the next 54 bits set to 0, are used by nodes when communicating with neighboring nodes on the same link. For example, on a single-link IPv6 network with no router, link-local addresses are used to communicate between hosts on the link. IPv6 link-local addresses are similar to IPv4 link-local addresses defined in RFC 3927 that use the prefix. The use of IPv4 link-local addresses is known as Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) in Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP. The scope of a link local address is the local link. A link-local address is required for some Neighbor Discovery processes and is always automatically configured, even in the absence of all other unicast addresses. Link-local addresses always begin with FE80. With the 64-bit interface identifier, the prefix for link-local addresses is always FE80::/64.
An IPv6 router never forwards link-local traffic beyond the link.

Site-Local Addresses FEC:: through FFF::

represent a particular site or company. These addresses can be used within a company without having to waste any public IP addresses—not that this is a concern, given the large number of addresses available in IPv6. However, by using private addresses, you can easily control who is allowed to leave your network and get returning traffic back by setting up address translation policies for IPv6. Site-local addresses, identified by setting the first 10 bits to 1111 1110 11, are equivalent to the IPv4 private address space (,, and For example, private intranets that do not have a direct, routed connection to the IPv6 Internet can use site local addresses without conflicting with global addresses. Site-local addresses are not reachable from other sites, and routers must not forward site-local traffic outside the site. Site-local addresses can be used in addition to global addresses. The scope of a site-local address is the site. Unlike link-local addresses, site-local addresses are not automatically configured and must be assigned either through stateless or stateful address autoconfiguration. The first 10 bits are always fixed for site-local addresses, beginning with FEC0::/10. After the 10 fixed bits is a 54-bit Subnet ID field that provides 54 bits with which you can create subnets within your organization. You can have a flat subnet structure, or you can divide the high order bits of the Subnet ID field to create a hierarchical and summarize able routing infrastructure. After the Subnet ID field is a 64-bit Interface ID field that identifies a specific interface on a subnet. Site-local addresses have been formally deprecated in RFC 3879 for future IPv6 implementations. However, existing implementations of IPv6 can continue to use site-local addresses.

Zone IDs for Local-Use Addresses
Unlike global addresses, local-use addresses (link-local and site-local addresses) can be reused. Link-local addresses are reused on each link. Site-local addresses can be reused within each site of an organization. Because of this address reuse capability, link-local and site-local addresses are ambiguous. To specify the link on which the destination is located or the site within which the destination is located, an additional identifier is needed. This additional identifier is a zone identifier (ID), also known as a scope ID, which identifies a connected portion of a network that has a specified scope. The syntax specified in RFC 4007 for identifying the zone associated with a local-use address is Address%zone ID, in which Address is a local-use unicast IPv6 address and zone ID is an integer value representing the zone. The values of the zone ID are defined relative to the sending host. Therefore, different hosts might determine different zone ID values for the same physical zone. For example, Host A might choose 3 to represent the zone of an attached link and Host B might choose 4 to represent the same link.

Unique Local Addresses
Site-local addresses provide a private addressing alternative to global addresses for intranet traffic. However, because the site-local address prefix can be reused to address multiple sites within an organization, a site-local address prefix can be duplicated. The ambiguity of site local addresses in an organization adds complexity and difficulty for applications, routers, and network managers.

To replace site-local addresses with a new type of address that is private to an organization yet unique across all the sites of the organization, RFC 4193 defines unique local IPv6 unicast addresses. The first 7 bits have the fixed binary value of 1111110. All local addresses have the address prefix FC00::/7. The Local (L) flag is set 1 to indicate that the prefix is locally assigned. The L flag value set to 0 is not defined in RFC 3879. Therefore, unique local addresses within an organization with the L flag set to 1 have the address prefix of FD00::/8. The Global ID identifies a specific site within an organization and is set to a randomly derived 40-bit value. By deriving a random value for the Global ID, an organization can have statistically unique 48-bit prefixes assigned to their sites. Additionally, two organizations that use unique local addresses that merge have a low probability of duplicating a 48-bit unique local address prefix, minimizing site renumbering. Unlike the Global Routing Prefix in global addresses, the Global IDs in unique local address prefixes are not designed to be summarized. Unique local addresses have a global scope, but their reach ability is defined by routing topology and filtering policies at Internet boundaries. Organizations will not advertise their unique local address prefixes outside of their organizations or create DNS entries with unique local addresses in the Internet DNS. Organizations can easily create filtering policies at their Internet boundaries to prevent all unique local-addressed traffic from being forwarded. Because they have a global scope, unique local addresses do not need a zone ID. The global address and unique local address share the same structure beyond the first 48 bits of the address. In both addresses, the 16-bit Subnet ID field identifies a subnet within an organization. Because of this, you can create a subnetted routing infrastructure that is used for both local and global addresses. For example, a specific subnet of your organization can be assigned both the global prefix 2001:DB8:4D1C:221A::/64 and the local prefix FD0E:2D:BA9:221A::/64, where the subnet is identified for both types of prefixes by the Subnet ID value of 221A. Although the subnet identifier is the same for both prefixes, routes for both prefixes must still be propagated throughout the routing infrastructure so that addresses based on both prefixes are reachable.

Summary tables of IPv6 Addresses


These are assigned by the IANA and used on public networks. They are equivalent to IPv4 global (sometimes called public) addresses. ISPs summarize these to provide scalability in the Internet.


Reserved addresses are used for specific types of anycast as well as for future use. Currently about 1/256th of the IPv6 address space is reserved.


Like IPv4, IPv6 supports private addressing, which is used by devices that don’t need to access a public network. The first two digits are FE, and the third digit can range from 8 to F.


Like the address in IPv4, 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:1, or ::1, is used for local testing functions; unlike IPv4, which dedicates a complete A class block of addresses for local testing, only one is used in IPv6.

Unspecified:: in IPv4 means “unknown” address. In IPv6, this is represented by 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0, or ::, and is typically used in the source address field of the packet when an interface doesn’t have an address and is trying to acquire one dynamically.

In our next article we will discus about special IPv6 address, IPv4 address and their equivalents IPv6 address. And then we learn how to assign these addresses to host, router and other devices.

The following are the special IPv6 addresses:

Unspecified address

The unspecified address (0:0:0:0:0:0:0:0 or ::) is used only to indicate the absence of an address. It is equivalent to the IPv4 unspecified address of The unspecified address is typically used as a source address when a unique address has not yet been determined. The unspecified address is never assigned to an interface or used as a destination address.

Loopback address

The loopback address (0:0:0:0:0:0:0:1 or ::1) is assigned to a loopback interface, enabling a node to send packets to itself. It is equivalent to the IPv4 loopback address of Packets addressed to the loopback address must never be sent on a link or forwarded by an IPv6 router.

Transition Addresses

To aid in the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 and the coexistence of both types of hosts, the following addresses are defined:

IPv4-compatible address

The IPv4-compatible address, 0:0:0:0:0:0:w.x.y.z or ::w.x.y.z (where w.x.y.z is the dotted decimal representation of a public IPv4 address), is used by IPv6/IPv4 nodes that are communicating with IPv6 over an IPv4 infrastructure that uses public IPv4 addresses, such as the Internet. IPv4-compatible addresses are deprecated in RFC 4291 and are not supported in IPv6 for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

IPv4-mapped address

The IPv4-mapped address, 0:0:0:0:0:FFFF:w.x.y.z or ::FFFF: w.x.y.z, is used to represent an IPv4 address as a 128-bit IPv6 address.

6 to 4 address

An address of the type 2002:WWXX:YYZZ:Subnet ID:Interface ID, where WWXX:YYZZ is the colon hexadecimal representation of w.x.y.z (a public IPv4 address), is assigned a node for the 6to4 IPv6 transition technology.

ISATAP address

An address of the type 64-bit prefix:0:5EFE:w.x.y.z, where w.x.y.z is a private IPv4 address, is assigned to a node for the Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol (ISATAP) IPv6 transition technology.

Teredo address

A global address that uses the prefix 2001::/32 and is assigned to a node for the Teredo IPv6 transition technology. Beyond the first 32 bits, Teredo addresses are used to encode the IPv4 address of a Teredo server, flags, and an obscured version of a Teredo client’s external address and UDP port number.

IPv4 Addresses and their corresponding IPv6

IPv4 AddressIPv6 Address

Internet address classes

Not applicable in IPv6

Multicast addresses (

IPv6 multicast addresses (FF00::/8)

Broadcast addresses

Not applicable in IPv6

Unspecified address is

Unspecified address is ::

Loopback address is

Loopback address is ::1

Public IP addresses

Aggregatable global unicast addresses

Private IP addresses (,, and

Site-local addresses (FEC0::/48)

APIPA addresses (

Link-local addresses (FE80::/64)

Text representation: Dotted decimal notation

Text representation: Colon hexadecimal format with suppression of leading zeros and zero compression. IPv4-compatible addresses are expressed in dotted decimal notation.

Network bits representation: Subnet mask in dotted decimal notation or prefix length

Network bits representation: Prefix length notation only

Assigning IPv6 address to Devices

IPv6 Addresses for a Host

An IPv4 host with a single network adapter typically has a single IPv4 address assigned to that adapter. An IPv6 host, however, usually has multiple IPv6 addresses assigned to each adapter. The interfaces on a typical IPv6 host are assigned the following unicast addresses:

  • A link-local address for each interface
  • Additional unicast addresses for each interface (which could be one or multiple unique local or global addresses)
  • The loopback address (::1) for the loopback interface Typical IPv6 hosts are always logically multi homed because they always have at least two addresses with which they can receive packets—a link-local address for local link traffic and a routable unique local or global address. Additionally, each interface on an IPv6 host is listening for traffic on the following multicast addresses:
  • The interface-local scope all-nodes multicast address (FF01::1)
  • The link-local scope all-nodes multicast address (FF02::1)
  • The solicited-node address for each unicast address assigned
  • The multicast addresses of joined groups
IPv6 Addresses for a Router

The interfaces on an IPv6 router are assigned the following unicast addresses:

  • A link-local address for each interface
  • Additional unicast addresses for each interface (which could be one or multiple unique local or global addresses)
  • The loopback address (::1) for the loopback interface
  • Additionally, the interfaces of an IPv6 router are assigned the following anycast addresses:
  • A Subnet-Router anycast address for each subnet
  • Additional anycast addresses (optional)
  • Additionally, the interfaces of an IPv6 router are listening for traffic on the following multicast addresses:
  • The interface-local scope all-nodes multicast address (FF01::1)
  • The interface-local scope all-routers multicast address (FF01::2)
  • The link-local scope all-nodes multicast address (FF02::1)
  • The link-local scope all-routers multicast address (FF02::2)
  • The site-local scope all-routers multicast address (FF05::2)
  • The solicited-node address for each unicast address assigned
  • The multicast addresses of joined groups

ComputerNetworkingNotes IP Tutorials IPv6 Address Types & Format Explained with Examples