This is still an issue in Ubuntu 16.04 up to the current date.
It is an interface bug, as Robin Sheat pointed out.

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https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/269910

Title:
  Netmask automatically changes to 24

Status in network-manager package in Ubuntu:
  Fix Released

Bug description:
  Binary package hint: network-manager

  I have added a new wireless connection with a WPA2 password and a manual IP 
address, like this:
  IP address: 180.180.180.11, Netmask: 255.255.255.0 Gateway: 180.180.180.254
  I also added two DNS servers.
  The connection is flawless (pass my compliments to whoever responsible for 
this, I could never get it to work on Hardy). However, when I edit the wireless 
connection again, for some reason, the Netmask changes to 24. Just 24. The 
connection still works. Everything else is the same.
  network-manager version:  0.7~~svn20080908t183521+eni0-0ubuntu2
  I'm running Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex Alpha 5.

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