I found this on Cisco's website:
Internet Protocol (IP) multicast is a bandwidth-conserving technology that reduces traffic by simultaneously delivering a single stream of information to thousands of corporate recipients and homes. Applications that take advantage of multicast include videoconferencing, corporate communications, distance learning, and distribution of software, stock quotes, and news.
IP Multicast delivers source traffic to multiple receivers without adding any additional burden on the source or the receivers while using the least network bandwidth of any competing technology. Multicast packets are replicated in the network by Cisco routers enabled with Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM) and other supporting multicast protocols resulting in the most efficient delivery of data to multiple receivers possible. All alternatives require the source to send more than one copy of the data. Some even require the source to send an individual copy to each receiver. If there are thousands of receivers, even low-bandwidth applications benefit from using Cisco IP Multicast. High-bandwidth applications, such as MPEG video, may require a large portion of the available network bandwidth for a single stream. In these applications, the only way to send to more than one receiver simultaneously is by using IP Multicast. Figure 43-1 demonstrates how data from one source is delivered to several interested recipients using IP multicast.--
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