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IP Subnetting Tutorial

IP Address Subnetting Tutorial

  • Introduction
  • IP Addressing
  • Subnetting
  • More Restrictive Subnet Masks
  • An Example
  • CIDR
  • Allowed Class A Subnets
  • Allowed Class B Subnets
  • Allowed Class C Subnets
  • Logical Operations
  • Internet Sources and References


This talk will cover the basics of IP addressing and subnetting. Topics covered will include:
  • What is an IP Address?
  • What are Classes?
  • What is a Network Address?
  • What are Subnet Masks and Subnet Addresses?
  • How are Subnet Masks defined and used?
  • How can all this be applied?
  • What is CIDR?
  • How can I get more information?

IP Addressing

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique identifier for a node or host connection on an IP network. An IP address is a 32 bit binary number usually represented as 4 decimal values, each representing 8 bits, in the range 0 to 255 (known as octets) separated by decimal points. This is known as "dotted decimal" notation.


It is sometimes useful to view the values in their binary form.

140     .179     .220     .200

Every IP address consists of two parts, one identifying the network and one identifying the node. The Class of the address and the subnet mask determine which part belongs to the network address and which part belongs to the node address.

Address Classes

There are 5 different address classes. You can determine which class any IP address is in by examining the first 4 bits of the IP address.
  • Class A addresses begin with 0xxx, or 1 to 126 decimal.
  • Class B addresses begin with 10xx, or 128 to 191 decimal.
  • Class C addresses begin with 110x, or 192 to 223 decimal.
  • Class D addresses begin with 1110, or 224 to 239 decimal.
  • Class E addresses begin with 1111, or 240 to 254 decimal.

Addresses beginning with 01111111, or 127 decimal, are reserved for loopback and for internal testing on a local machine. [You can test this: you should always be able to ping, which points to yourself] Class D addresses are reserved for multicasting. Class E addresses are reserved for future use. They should not be used for host addresses.

Now we can see how the Class determines, by default, which part of the IP address belongs to the network (N) and which part belongs to the node (n).

  • Class A -- NNNNNNNN.nnnnnnnn.nnnnnnn.nnnnnnn
  • Class B -- NNNNNNNN.NNNNNNNN.nnnnnnnn.nnnnnnnn

In the example, is a Class B address so by default the Network part of the address (also known as the Network Address) is defined by the first two octets (140.179.x.x) and the node part is defined by the last 2 octets (x.x.220.200).

In order to specify the network address for a given IP address, the node section is set to all "0"s. In our example, specifies the network address for When the node section is set to all "1"s, it specifies a broadcast that is sent to all hosts on the network. specifies the example broadcast address. Note that this is true regardless of the length of the node section.

Private Subnets

There are three IP network addresses reserved for private networks. The addresses are,, and They can be used by anyone setting up internal IP networks, such as a lab or home LAN behind a NAT or proxy server or a router. It is always safe to use these because routers on the Internet will never forward packets coming from these addresses. These addresses are defined in RFC 1918.


Subnetting an IP Network can be done for a variety of reasons, including organization, use of different physical media (such as Ethernet, FDDI, WAN, etc.), preservation of address space, and security. The most common reason is to control network traffic. In an Ethernet network, all nodes on a segment see all the packets transmitted by all the other nodes on that segment. Performance can be adversely affected under heavy traffic loads, due to collisions and the resulting retransmissions. A router is used to connect IP networks to minimize the amount of traffic each segment must receive.

Subnet Masking

Applying a subnet mask to an IP address allows you to identify the network and node parts of the address. Performing a bitwise logical AND operation between the IP address and the subnet mask results in the Network Address or Number.
For example, using our test IP address and the default Class B subnet mask, we get:

10001100.10110011.11110000.11001000   Class B IP Address
11111111.11111111.00000000.00000000   Default Class B Subnet Mask
10001100.10110011.00000000.00000000   Network Address

Default subnet masks:

  • Class A - - 11111111.00000000.00000000.00000000
  • Class B - - 11111111.11111111.00000000.00000000
  • Class C - - 11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000

More Restrictive Subnet Masks

Additional bits can be added to the default subnet mask for a given Class to further subnet, or break down, a network. When a bitwise logical AND operation is performed between the subnet mask and IP address, the result defines the Subnet Address. There are some restrictions on the subnet address. Node addresses of all "0"s and all "1"s are reserved for specifying the local network (when a host does not know it's network address) and all hosts on the network (broadcast address), respectively. This also applies to subnets. A subnet address cannot be all "0"s or all "1"s. This also implies that a 1 bit subnet mask is not allowed. This restriction is required because older standards enforced this restriction. Recent standards that allow use of these subnets have superceded these standards, but many "legacy" devices do not support the newer standards. If you are operating in a controlled environment, such as a lab, you can safely use these restricted subnets.

To calculate the number of subnets or nodes, use the formula (2^n - 2) where n = number of bits in either field. Multiplying the number of subnets by the number of nodes available per subnet gives you the total number of nodes available for your class and subnet mask. Also, note that although subnet masks with non-contiguous mask bits are allowed they are not recommended.


10001100.10110011.11011100.11001000   IP Address
11111111.11111111.11100000.00000000   Subnet Mask
10001100.10110011.11000000.00000000   Subnet Address
10001100.10110011.11011111.11111111   Broadcast Address

In this example a 3 bit subnet mask was used. There are 6 subnets available with this size mask (remember that subnets with all 0's and all 1's are not allowed). Each subnet has 8190 nodes. Each subnet can have nodes assigned to any address between the Subnet address and the Broadcast address. This gives a total of 49,140 nodes for the entire class B address subnetted this way. Notice that this is less than the 65,534 nodes an unsubnetted class B address would have.

Subnetting always reduces the number of possible nodes for a given network. There are complete subnet tables available here for Class A, Class B and Class C. These tables list all the possible subnet masks for each class, along with calculations of the number of networks, nodes and total hosts for each subnet.

An Example

Here is another, more detailed, example. Say you are assigned a Class C network number of (apologies to anyone who may actually own this domain address). You want to utilize this network across multiple small groups within an organization. You can do this by subnetting that network with a subnet address.

We will break this network into 14 subnets of 14 nodes each. This will limit us to 196 nodes on the network instead of the 254 we would have without subnetting, but gives us the advantages of traffic isolation and security. To accomplish this, we need to use a subnet mask 4 bits long.
Recall that the default Class C subnet mask is (11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000 binary)
Extending this by 4 bits yields a mask of (11111111.11111111.11111111.11110000 binary)
This gives us 16 possible network numbers, 2 of which cannot be used:

Subnet bits Network Number Node Addresses Broadcast Address
0000 Reserved None
0001 .17 thru .30
0010 .33 thru .46
0011 .49 thru .62
0100 .65 thru .78
0101 .81 thru .94
0110 .97 thru .110
0111 .113 thru .126
1000 .129 thru .142
1001 .145 thru .158
1010 .161 thru .174
1011 .177 thru .190
1100 .193 thru .206
1101 .209 thru .222
1110 .225 thru .238
1111 Reserved None

CIDR -- Classless InterDomain Routing

Now that you understand "classful" IP Subnetting principals, you can forget them ;). The reason is CIDR -- Classless InterDomain Routing. CIDR was invented several years ago to keep the internet from running out of IP addresses. The "classful" system of allocating IP addresses can be very wasteful; anyone who could reasonably show a need for more that 254 host addresses was given a Class B address block of 65533 host addresses. Even more wasteful were companies and organizations that were allocated Class A address blocks, which contain over 16 Million host addresses! Only a tiny percentage of the allocated Class A and Class B address space has ever been actually assigned to a host computer on the Internet.

People realized that addresses could be conserved if the class system was eliminated. By accurately allocating only the amount of address space that was actually needed, the address space crisis could be avoided for many years. This was first proposed in 1992 as a scheme called Supernetting. Under supernetting, the classful subnet masks are extended so that a network address and subnet mask could, for example, specify multiple Class C subnets with one address. For example, If I needed about 1000 addresses, I could supernet 4 Class C networks together:   (11000000.00111100.10000000.00000000)  Class C subnet address   (11000000.00111100.10000001.00000000)  Class C subnet address   (11000000.00111100.10000010.00000000)  Class C subnet address   (11000000.00111100.10000011.00000000)  Class C subnet address
--------------------------------------------------------   (11000000.00111100.10000000.00000000)  Supernetted Subnet address  (11111111.11111111.11111100.00000000)  Subnet Mask (11000000.00111100.10000011.11111111)  Broadcast address
In this example, the subnet includes all the addresses from to As you can see in the binary representation of the subnet mask, the Network portion of the address is 22 bits long, and the host portion is 10 bits long.

Under CIDR, the subnet mask notation is reduced to a simplified shorthand. Instead of spelling out the bits of the subnet mask, it is simply listed as the number of 1s bits that start the mask. In the above example, instead of writing the address and subnet mask as, Subnet Mask 
the network address would be written simply as:
which indicates starting address of the network, and number of 1s bits (22) in the network portion of the address. If you look at the subnet mask in binary (11111111.11111111.11111100.00000000), you can easily see how this notation works.

The use of a CIDR notated address is the same as for a Classful address. Classful addresses can easily be written in CIDR notation (Class A = /8, Class B = /16, and Class C = /24)

It is currently almost impossible for an individual or company to be allocated their own IP address blocks. You will simply be told to get them from your ISP. The reason for this is the ever-growing size of the internet routing table. Just 5 years ago, there were less than 5000 network routes in the entire Internet. Today, there are over 90,000. Using CIDR, the biggest ISPs are allocated large chunks of address space (usually with a subnet mask of /19 or even smaller); the ISP's customers (often other, smaller ISPs) are then allocated networks from the big ISP's pool. That way, all the big ISP's customers (and their customers, and so on) are accessible via 1 network route on the Internet. But I digress.

It is expected that CIDR will keep the Internet happily in IP addresses for the next few years at least. After that, IPv6, with 128 bit addresses, will be needed. Under IPv6, even sloppy address allocation would comfortably allow a billion unique IP addresses for every person on earth! The complete and gory details of CIDR are documented in RFC1519, which was released in September of 1993.

Allowed Class A Subnet and Host IP addresses

# bits Subnet Mask CIDR # Subnets # Hosts Nets * Hosts
2 /10 2 4194302 8388604
3 /11 6 2097150 12582900
4 /12 14 1048574 14680036
5 /13 30 524286 15728580
6 /14 62 262142 16252804
7 /15 126 131070 16514820
8 /16 254 65534 16645636
9 /17 510 32766 16710660
10 /18 1022 16382 16742404
11 /19 2046 8190 16756740
12 /20 4094 4094 16760836
13 /21 8190 2046 16756740
14 /22 16382 1022 16742404
15 /23 32766 510 16710660
16 /24 65534 254 16645636
17 /25 131070 126 16514820
18 /26 262142 62 16252804
19 /27 524286 30 15728580
20 /28 1048574 14 14680036
21 /29 2097150 6 12582900
22 /30 4194302 2 8388604

Allowed Class B Subnet and Host IP addresses

# bits Subnet Mask CIDR # Subnets # Hosts Nets * Hosts
2 /18 2 16382 32764
3 /19 6 8190 49140
4 /20 14 4094 57316
5 /21 30 2046 61380
6 /22 62 1022 63364
7 /23 126 510 64260
8 /24 254 254 64516
9 /25 510 126 64260
10 /26 1022 62 63364
11 /27 2046 30 61380
12 /28 4094 14 57316
13 /29 8190 6 49140
14 /30 16382 2 32764

Allowed Class C Subnet and Host IP addresses

# bits Subnet Mask CIDR # Subnets # Hosts Nets * Hosts
2 /26 2 62 124
3 /27 6 30 180
4 /28 14 14 196
5 /29 30 6 180
6 /30 62 2 124

Logical Operations

This page will provide a brief review and explanation of the common logical bitwise operations AND, OR, XOR and NOT. Logical operations are performed between two data bits (except for NOT). Bits can be either "1" or "0", and these operations are essential to performing digital math operations.
In the "truth tables" below, the input bits are in bold, and the results are plain.


The logical AND operation compares 2 bits and if they are both "1", then the result is "1", otherwise, the result is "0".

0 1
0 0 0
1 0 1


The logical OR operation compares 2 bits and if either or both bits are "1", then the result is "1", otherwise, the result is "0".

0 1
0 0 1
1 1 1


The logical XOR (Exclusive OR) operation compares 2 bits and if exactly one of them is "1" (i.e., if they are different values), then the result is "1"; otherwise (if the bits are the same), the result is "0".

0 1
0 0 1
1 1 0


The logical NOT operation simply changes the value of a single bit. If it is a "1", the result is "0"; if it is a "0", the result is "1". Note that this operation is different in that instead of comparing two bits, it is acting on a single bit.

0 1
1 0

References and Sources on the Internet

Requests for Comments (RFCs):

Newsgroups of interest:

Other Stuff:


This site contains files and links to support the free courses taught by James D. Keeline at the New Media Center / North City Center through the San Diego Community College District's Centers For Education and Technology.   A list of courses available at the center may be consulted.

The site will be updated throughout the semester both with new content and as a way to try out technologies used in several of the classes. This file modified 14-Jan-2007.