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Vint Cerf, vice-president of Google who is known to many as one of the ‘fathers of the Internet’, declared at a 6UK launch event held in London recently that the UK will run out of IPv4 addresses well before the end of 2011. He said “There’s no question we’re going to be out of address space by springtime of 2011 [and], with more devices than ever set to join the Internet, such as mobile devices and the ‘Internet of things’, IPv6 will be critical to the future of the Internet.”

Steve Lalonde, Chief Technical Officer

Steve Lalonde, Chief Technical Officer

Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) is an Internet Protocol that was developed back in the 1990’s and is the next generation of Internet Protocol version four (IPv4). Whilst IPv4 uses a 32-bit system, IPv6 uses a 128-bit hexadecimal address that has the potential to make available 2128 individual addresses, which is roughly 340 trillion, trillion, trillion. It is thought that by the middle of next year, only 5% of unallocated IPv4 addresses will remain, at which point the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) will distribute the remaining addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).

Cerf continued by sharing his beliefs that the UK has run out of time to address the problem: “it continues to boggle my mind that the UK hasn’t taken this up as an issue. People will ask why their new smart devices don’t work. All the promise and potential of these devices will fail if the ISPs don’t grasp this.”

However, this is far from recent news, with Cisco Systems reporting back in September 2005 that available addresses would dry up in as little as 4 to 5 years.

Entanet also raised the issue back in 2009 (Opinion.enta.net: IPv6: Ready or not?) when the ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) announced we would run out of IPv4 addresses by as soon as 2010.

So why has take up been so slow?  As we said in our previous article “to be able to utilise IPv6 the ISPs network must be able to support the new addresses. This often requires investment in new and expensive equipment. Despite this being a cost that every network operator is going to have to bare eventually as complete consumption of IPv4 is inevitable, many are using lack of customer demand for IPv6 as their excuse for putting off this investment. Whilst most new [ISP] hardware available on the market is already IPv6 compatible or could be with a firmware update, the majority [of consumers] connect via existing IPv4 addresses.”

Essentially, the Internet will not stop working when IPv4 addresses run out, however future growth and innovation will become hindered without IPv6 uptake. In the worst case, it would become impossible for ISPs to accommodate any new Internet subscribers. Most consumers’ equipment built to support IPv4 won’t be compatible with IPv6,  so they will either need to be upgraded or replaced. It is for this reason that Cerf is encouraging the UK government to offer tax credits for businesses, to help them with the migration. Whether or not this will happen though is another point entirely.

Cerf warned there could potentially be a period of 20 years while the world switches to IPv6: “If you are not running dual stack networks (i.e. supporting both addressing schemes) you will be restricting your ability to reach a global market and to grow.”

In September 2010, a European Commission funded survey conducted by the Number Resource Organization, polled over 1,500 organisations from 140 countries of which 58% were ISPs. It found that approximately 60% of ISPs already offer, or plan to offer consumers IPv6 within the next year. 70% already offered or planned to offer IPv6 to businesses within the next year, and only 10% had no plans at all to offer IPv6.

It’s clear from this that IPv6 is available and some ISPs are already utilising it, including Entanet. However for those that aren’t, turbulent times will lie ahead.

Without the adoption by and availability from ISPs of IPv6, it is going to be difficult for the Government to meet its much debated 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment by 2015 – speed will be irrelevant if users can’t access the Internet at all. It will also be important to ISPs looking to remain competitive as some customers may not want to stay with ISPs that can’t provide them with IPv6 addresses, especially once the remaining IPv4 addresses have dried up. As we said in our previous opinion article, by adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach ISPs are compromising network performance and even becoming technically negligent.

Entanet was an early adopter of IPv6 and has recently been promoting its availability to channel partners. We believe ISPs should explain why they are  holding off and encourage resellers and end users to provide feedback on their experiences. If you are successfully using IPv6 we would like to know your success stories and also about any problems you encountered. Did you experience any problems with incompatible hardware or incorrect configurations? If you would like to share your experiences please email IPv6@enta.net. Your feedback will be collated and used to help educate resellers and end users to the benefits of IPv6 including the compilation of a list of compatible hardware.

Have your say!

What do you think about the UK’s apparent reluctance to adopt IPv6? Are you ready for IPv6? Are you aware of your ISPs plans for IPv6? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below or by emailing IPv6@enta.net to share your experiences.

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3 Responses to “IPv6: Do or Die!”

  1. Providing an IPv4 service alone is going to be cheaper than the complexity of having to deal with IPv4 and IPv6 for end users. An ISP which says it supports IPv6 has to ensure that it works, is supported with all the hardware it provides, all the software it uses, and all the support it gives out to customers.

    The sad fact is – how will it ever become a problem for end user ISPs? All they have to do is put more customers behind NAT.

    A few customers may moan, maybe they’ll have to pay a small premium for a reachable IP address. Will the vast majority of users who aren’t technically minded actually realise that they’re behind a NAT? I can only see them moaning when sites start to break because they’ve only got an IPv6 address and the user has only got an IPv4 address.

  2. For all the noise EntaNet makes about IPv6, its a shame it isn’t followed up with some action.

    As an EntaNet customer, I have been attempting to get native IPv6 connectivity since the summer of 2008. Emails to the ipv6@enta.net address were simply ignored, so I then opened support tickets. The original support ticket confirmed that someone would be in touch – this never happened, so 3 months later I chased again and was told that I had been accepted onto the IPv6 trial. Unfortunately, the peer ignored router solicitation requests and when I reported this I was informed that no more users were being accepted onto the trial (despite previously being told that I had been accepted).

    I chased again in March this year and was told that the trial was still ongoing and no more users were being accepted into it.

    Just 1 month ago, I opened a new support ticket regarding IPv6 connectivity and was told “Our network is IPv6 enabled, but as this is not wideley supported on the internet we have not rolled this out. As yet there are no confirmed plans when this will be.”. Not exactly the proactive response I’d expect from a company making these sorts of blog posts – what’s the point in having an “IPv6 enabled” network if you’re not going to allow your customers to use it (especially when you keep making blog posts saying how ISPs who don’t provide IPv6 connectivity for their customers are incompetent!)

    I have now (as of today) been informed that IPv6 connectivity is now available on Enta. However, I’m not really holding my breath after the numerous false starts I’ve had over the past 2.5 years.

    @Alex: “how will it ever become a problem for end user ISPs?” – I don’t expect end user ISPs to have a problem with running out of IPv4 addresses any time soon. However, it will become a problem for them when datacentres can’t get any more IPv4 addresses (so have to start rolling out IPv6-only services) and the ISPs’ users start demanding access to those services. Unfortunately we have a chicken & egg situation here (no one wants to roll out IPv6-only services if very few ISPs offer IPv6 connectivity and ISPs aren’t interested in offering connectivity until there are services that require it). The “do as I say, not as I do” attitude from Enta doesn’t help this situation much though.

  3. Hi Steve,

    I am sorry to hear that you have had an unsatisfactory experience, this is certainly not in keeping with our approach to IPv6. I am unsure why your emails to IPv6@enta.net and later your support tickets were not resolved however I have raised this with the appropriate teams and asked for their assistance. If you could provide your contact details and ADSL reference (if known) to marketing@enta.net then we will be able to use this information to track down your correspondence and hopefully get to the bottom of the issue.

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