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UPDATE3 BT to Deploy IPv6 Across Entire Network by December 2016

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 (2:52 pm) - Score 15,954
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The first hints that something significant was about to happen surfaced in July 2015 (here) and now BT’s Consumer division has just confirmed that they intend to deploy the Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) Internet addressing standard across their entire network by December 2016.

The telecoms and Internet giant has long spoken of being “committed to the development and support of IPv6 on our networks and services“, adding that they have a related “programme of investment in our network and systems over the next few years“, yet until recently nobody was quite sure when BT would actually get around to implementing it across their entire network.

All that uncertainty has now changed after the operator informed the 2nd UK IPv6 Council Meeting in London today of their plans, which will see the “new” Internet addressing standard deployed to 50% of their national network in the United Kingdom by April 2016 and then 100% by December 2016. The deployment will officially get underway this year with a very “gentle start“.

Customers with one of BT’s latest HomeHub 5 broadband routers will be the first to get the service and the ISP is also looking at an upgrade for their existing HomeHub 4, but those with older hardware may be out of luck. The following is a slide from today’s announcement.

bt_ipv6_announcement

Presently all of the major broadband ISPs still assign a traditional IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) address to your connection each time you go online, which looks a bit like this: 84.123.12.5 (yours will have a different number). It’s effectively the Internet equivalent of a phone number, which helps your hardware and software to communicate with remote servers, although it’s not strictly speaking “personal” to you because an IP can reflect many different users or devices on a single broadband connection.

The problem is that IPv4 addresses are no longer being distributed (they ran out a little while back) and so the whole system will eventually need to be moved over to the new IPv6 standard (example address: 2001:cdba::2257:9652), which are longer / more complicated and thus aren’t likely to run out anytime soon.. if ever.

However IPv6 requires ISPs to adopt an expensive dual-stack network so that both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses can communicate (i.e. they’re not directly compatible). At present most of the big ISPs still have enough spare IPv4 addresses to keep them going for a few years, but those won’t last forever and ISPs are making sure they’re ready.

Sky Broadband have been running their own large-scale trials of IPv6 (here) and they plan to begin a similar deployment to BT’s in the very near future. Meanwhile smaller ISPs, such as Aquiss, AAISP, Fluidata and many others, have actually been running dual-stack IPv6 networks for several years. So it’s no surprise that BT should follow.

Until recently one of the problems for big ISPs was the lack of consumer hardware with IPv6 support, although this has changed dramatically over the past couple of years and now most new routers include IPv6 as standard (the same is true for a lot of related networking hardware and or software).

So what does this mean for consumers? Well initially, not a lot. If the ISP has done its job correctly then the transition should be seamless, you simply won’t notice a difference except for now having both an IPv4 and IPv6 address attached to your connection. Eventually IPv4 will need to be completely switched off, but that could take many years and in the meantime ISPs will need to continue running both side-by-side.

NOTE: In the above slide BT excludes “IPstream“, which is an older broadband technology (e.g. 20CN ADSL) that has already been withdrawn from the vast majority of their network.

UPDATE 24th September 2015

Sky has just confirmed to us that they currently have over 1 million staff and customers live on their IPv6 trial and will continue to test it over the course of this year, although they are NOT yet enabling it by default and will only begin the official roll-out after their testing is completed.

UPDATE 24th September 2015 @ 1:36pm

We have a new comment from the RIPE Network Coordination Centre, which is one of the worlds five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).

Nathalie Künneke-Trenaman, RIPE NCC’s IPv6 Program Manager, told ISPreview.co.uk:

It’s great to see BT announce a target date for full IPv6 deployment. In the RIPE NCC’s service region – which includes Europe – IPv4 reached its exhaustion point in September 2012, and everywhere else around the world, except Africa, has also reached exhaustion.

This means any organisations relying solely on IPv4 will start to struggle to grow in size and complexity in the future. IPv6 is essential to safeguard the growth of the Internet, especially in the UK which is technologically advanced with Internet-connected devices ranging from smartwatches through to automated homes.”

UPDATE 24th September 2015 @ 4:01pm

The BBC seem to have picked up on our story and so finally BT have been nudged into giving us a statement, even if it did take 24 hours to construct.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We are currently completing trials of IPv6 with a small group of BT employees, before moving on to trials with customers. BT has a strategy to include IPv6 for its customers in good time and ensure that the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is seamless. At the moment, customers can experience everything the internet can offer with IPv4.

Depending on the results of trials with customers, we would aim to enable the network for IPv6 during the 2016/17 financial year. We expect customers with a Home Hub 5 will be able to take advantage of this soon afterwards, and are looking at options to enable customers with a Home Hub 4 to also benefit. We will provide more details closer to the time.”

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Karen

    ISP’s still don’t get it. It isn’t that they have plenty of IPv4 addresses left or not. Other people might not have IPv4 addresses left and have created a site that uses IPv6 that you want to access.

    At least BT have published a plan, some ISP’s like Virgin don’t appear to have said anything yet.

    • Avatar Bob2002

      I’d expect practically every ISP to start implementing IPv6 now, BT are so large they will effectively make it the new norm.

    • Avatar nucco

      If ISPs have IPv4 addresses available, it stands to reason that their customers also have access to these IP Addresses.

      There are not a lot of businesses at this time that would dare to make an ipv6-only website if they care for it to be reachable by their target users. It would take quite a while at the current rate for IPv6 to become the default.

      Still, I’m happy that a major ISP has now committed to enabling seamless access to IPv6 for its customers.

    • Avatar Neil

      “At least BT have published a plan, some ISP’s like Virgin don’t appear to have said anything yet.”

      Started and announced quite some time ago.
      http://www.ipv6.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/VM-IPv6-council-presentation.pdf

    • Avatar Karen

      Ah Neil, thank you – I’d not seen that before

  2. Avatar nucco

    Just to pre-empt any potential pedants ;), I am well aware that websites aren’t the only services that are IP-based. The point applies equally to any such service.

  3. Avatar kds

    hope this will pushup the ipv6 usage and sites like BBC will use ipv6 for their servers etc

  4. From 0 up to 100 within one year!

    They have a plan!

    Lets watch:
    http://6lab.cisco.com/stats/cible.php?country=GB&option=all

    The race was already started.

  5. Avatar Fifi

    ISP review should take note: Sky has one million subscribers active on IPv6 today.

    • I just asked Sky about it and that’s a reference to their large-scale customer trials (as linked in the article above), which we’ve covered extensively before. Sky tells us that they are not yet enabling IPv6 by default, it’s still a trial.

    • Avatar JamesM

      Sky should take note. AAISP have been doing IPv6 since 2002.

      And there ends the ISP willy waving contest..

  6. Avatar stuart

    I wish the mobile operators would give every sim card, or account a fixed ipv6 address. It would be good for applications like embedded devices.

  7. Avatar Neil

    Will BT have to replace all the Homehub 3’s and similar age equipment, they do not support IPv6 do they?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Doubt it the hh3 is old and has seen it’s day. Like any other router if it doesn’t have a feature you want and a firmware upgrade won’t enable it you buy another. Just because it was supplied years ago for free it doesn’t mean it comes with lifetime free upgrades

    • Avatar Neil

      I would not call equipment which was given out as late as 2013 “old”.

    • Avatar Neil

      The update also seems to indicate the HH4 does not support IPv6 currently either which i thought was the case but was not sure. Those i believe in some cases were still being handed out as late as the beginning this year or very late last year so less than 12 months ago :O

      What equipment do they give their business users nowadays? I wonder if that is IPv6 capable?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      It was released what 2011? It’s old in terms of tech.

      In terms of the hh 4 why would they be bothered either way ? This has only been announced this week what is out there now is irrelevant. If you have capable kit and want to use it great, if you don’t you upgrade this is the way of the world same with other tech. I expect your average punter wouldn’t give two figs anyway

    • Avatar Neil

      2011 you are correct for the HH3 as the release date, 2013 for the HH4. I feel it a shame with BT it is left to customers to upgrade the supplied kit. You would think at the very least existing customers could get a significant reduction in price if they wanted a HH5 rather than £69 it currently costs without recontracting. At that point IMO at least you may as well spend £20-30 or so more and get third party gear which is superior. Even more so given that there is also another bunch of users stuck with ECI modems which do not support GINP properly.

      Do not take it as a moan as such, just think BT are missing a trick when it comes to looking after current customers and keeping them happy.

  8. Avatar Leo

    Some questions that are still open:

    1) What size IP blocks will BT hand out? A common /56 per subscriber or a more generous /48? (Apparently the trial hands out /56 at the moment)

    2) What technology will BT use to hand out addresses, PD? DCHPv6?

    3) Will BT need to push firmware updates or profiles to the Homehubs to make them pick up IPv6 or will they work as soon as IPv6 has been switched on at the local exchange?

    4) When they only mention the HomeHub 5 is that because they know that’s the only BT supplied CPE currently supporting Dual Stack or will they actively only provide addresses to subscribers where they detect a HH5?

    5) Will this work out of the box with third party CPEs like the Draytek v130?

    6) Are there any settings subscribers can already set to make sure they pick up IPv6 as soon as BT enables it?

  9. Avatar Tim Coote

    The issue is not just address exhaustion. IPv4 is not well suited for IoT types of applications as NAT breaks the end to end connectivity, leading to the need for workarounds such as STUN/ICE, which are complex to work with and often fail due to configuration variations that are invisible to the application.

    From a UK point of view, an instant IPv4 IoT legacy both stunts innovation and increases costs of support for services. It also puts our skills base behind much of the rest of the world. Facebook has found that IPv6 is 30% faster than IPv4 over the same infrastructure and now starts with IPv6 based software, retrofitting IPv4.

    I don’t understand why UK ISPs continue to invest in legacy. Treat it as a cash cow, but surely there’s a business imperative to learn how to make money from the new technologies?

  10. Avatar Kanthamohan

    Large Internet companies like google should take an initiative and force the issue on the rest of the internet. Perhaps google should set a target of 12-24 months and say at the end of that period all google services will be Ipv6 only this is increase the pace of change in adopting ipv6.

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