More Restrictive Subnet Masks

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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 (also called the Network Address or Network Number). 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 its 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 Recent standards that allow use of these subnets have superseded these standards, but many "legacy" devices do not support the newer standards.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 (2n-2) where n = number of bits in either field, and 2n represents 2 raised to the nth power. 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 (23-2) subnets available with this size mask (remember that subnets with all 0's and all 1's are not allowed). Each subnet has 8190 (213-2) 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.

You can calculate the Subnet Address by performing a bitwise logical AND operation between the IP address and the subnet mask, then setting all the host bits to 0s. Similarly, you can calculate the Broadcast Address for a subnet by performing the same logical AND between the IP address and the subnet mask, then setting all the host bits to 1s. That is how these numbers are derived in the example above.

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.

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Updated January 31, 2007 .
Copyright © 1996-2007 by Ralph Becker < > send me Feedback!