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.”
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.”
- Telegraph.co.uk: UK ‘will run out of web addresses by 2012’
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.
- News.cnet.com: In U.K., Vint Cerf calls for IPv6 tax credits
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.
- NRO.net: Organizations Urged to Stop Delaying IPv6 Deployment to Safeguard Future Growth of the Internet
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.
- Opinion.enta.net: Share IPv6: Ready or not?
- 6UK: 6uk.org.uk
- Ripe.net: IPv4 Depletion and IPv6 Deployment
- BBC.co.uk: Internet pioneer Vint Cerf warns over address changes
- Computerweekly.com: BIS cash aims to raise awareness of need to move to IPv6
- Independent.co.uk: Britain ‘is running out of new web addresses’
- ISPReview.co.uk: Vint Cerf Predicts UK ISP Internet Trauma When IPv4 Addresses Run Out in 2011
- IPv6-speedtest.net: IPv6 Speed Test
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