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UK ISP BT Confirm IPv6 to Officially Go Live on their Network this Autumn

Monday, August 22nd, 2016 (1:32 am) - Score 9,913
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BT’s consumer division has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that the Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) Internet addressing standard will finally be enabled on their network from this Autumn 2016, but it will be early 2017 before all of their customers can use it.

A year ago BT revealed that they intended to make the “new” Internet addressing standard available to 50% of their national network in the United Kingdom by April 2016 and then 100% by December 2016 (here), with the work getting a “gentle start” at the end of last year. Except that was perhaps a little optimistic.

At the time BT said that customers with their HomeHub 5 router would be among the first to benefit, while those on the HomeHub 4 might follow once a solution had been found. However BT later clarified that “we would aim to enable the network for IPv6 during the 2016/17 financial year” (i.e. 30th June 2016 marked the close of Q1 on BT’s 2016/17 financial year).

Over the past couple of months we’ve begun to see a rising number of reports from customers with IPv6 support enabled, although some noted that it only briefly appeared on their HH5 before later vanishing. However subscribers who have receive the new Smart Hub (Home Hub 6) router do appear to benefit from IPv6 by default.

The good news is that BT are now set to start a full phased roll-out over the next few months (looks like a dynamic /56 prefix for residential subscribers), although it won’t reach all of their HomeHub 5 using customers until “early in 2017” and that should put them roughly back on target.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We can confirm that IPv6 will be enabled on the BT network this Autumn, in line with our aim to include IPv6 for our customers in good time. Customers with our new Smart Hub have IPv6 capability immediately and we expect to have updated all customers with the Home Hub 5 early in 2017.

Customers do not need to do anything and all customers can currently experience everything the internet can offer with IPv4.”

At present most of the big broadband ISPs still assign a traditional IPv4 address to connections each time you go online, which looks a bit like this: 84.127.12.5 (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 strictly speaking it’s not “personal” to you because an IP can reflect many different users or devices on a single broadband connection.

The problem is that new IPv4 addresses are no longer being distributed (they’ve run out) 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 significantly longer and shouldn’t run out any time soon.. if ever (famous last words).

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, but those won’t last forever and ISPs like BT are now making sure they’re prepared.

BT’s move to adopt IPv6 is thus a significant development, although it should be noted that Sky Broadband has already made it available to millions of their subscribers (around 80% at the last check). The onus is now on Virgin Media and a fair few other ISPs to pick up the pace.

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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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38 Responses
  1. Avatar wirelesspacman

    “although it should be noted that Sky Broadband has already made it available to millions of their subscribers”

    I wonder how many of those millions actually use it? 🙂

    • Perhaps “use” is the wrong word here as you’ll often be using IPv6 on a dual-stack network with IPv4, even if it’s not always necessary for the content. The challenge is to get IPv6 adopted almost everywhere as the Internet cannot fully begin to move on from IPv4 until that has been achieved.

      Quite a lot of online services do now support IPv6 connections and when necessary this will be used seamlessly, without the end user even being aware. It’s really about being prepared for the inevitable.

    • Avatar Bob2002

      Assuming IPv6 is switched on on a client machine simply attempting to access YouTube with a common web browser like Chrome should start using IPv6 over IPv4 … so probably far more people are using it already than are actually aware of the fact.

    • Avatar Simon Farnsworth

      What do you mean by “use”? If you have decent IPv6, then you’ll automatically use IPv6 (transparently, no effort on your part) for Facebook, Google, Netflix, YouTube and others.

      You don’t have to actively select IPv6 on a default install of supported versions of Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows – it just happens behind the scenes.

    • Avatar Dagger

      Sky have about 25% of the UK broadband market. According to Google’s stats, 15% of the UK use IPv6 when connecting to v6-capable sites, of which about 14.8% is due to Sky. So I put that as around 60% of Sky’s customers actively using v6 right now.

    • Avatar Ethel Prunehat

      I have dual stack at home and >90% of traffic by volume is IPv6, because Google and Facebook accounts for the majority of the traffic. My “users” are certainly none the wiser.

    • Avatar Alex

      The simple response to this is – enable it and the traffic will flow.

      Assuming the user stays with their ISP provided router which gets regular updates so that IPv6 support can easily be added with an automated firmware update, and assuming that their operating system supports it – they pretty much all do. All an ISP needs to do is actually enable it and it’ll just happen.

      Honestly, it’s really that simple these days. Enable it and users traffic to Facebook, Google, YouTube, Netflix, etc will just go over IPv6.

      Maybe years ago when router firmware upgrades weren’t really much of a thing this would’ve been a pain to get users updated. I just woke up one day and found IPv6 enabled on my Sky router.

      There’s always going to be a few stragglers if people buy a custom router which doesn’t support it.

    • Avatar Tim Coote

      APNIC also tracks the useage data (http://bit.ly/1U1MCbz), as do others. The variation comes from different measurement techniques (ie what is actually being measured). You can click the BT AS to see how it’s deployment progresses.

    • Avatar Andrew

      “The challenge is to get IPv6 adopted almost everywhere as the Internet cannot fully begin to move on from IPv4 until that has been achieved.”

      I disagree.

      The Internet is moving on to IPv6 whether some people / ISPs are ready or not. The challenge is to migrate before you are left behind but not so soon that you incur un-necessary cost with extended dual stack running.

      (The end game is IPv6 NOT dual stack)

  2. Avatar Jonny

    I’m 90% sure it’s a /64 but I’ll check when I get home.

  3. Avatar David Taylor

    “expensive dual stack network”? er what?

  4. Avatar MikeW

    Dynamic /56 prefix?

    Isn’t one of the main points of IPv6 to get rid of the need for dynamic allocation?

    Doesn’t reallocation of the router’s prefix mean that every device on the internal network needs to change their own (global) IPv6 address too?

    • Avatar Gavin

      Honestly, I can’t even begin to fathom why they would do this. AS2856 (BT Plc) currently announces an entire /25 subnet (two billion /56 networks), so it’s not like they’re short of addresses.

    • Avatar Gavin

      Scratch that, AS5400 (also BT Plc) has an entire /22, which is enough to give every human that has ever lived a /56 subnet of their own and still have room to spare.

    • Avatar Tim Coote

      network renumbering for IPv6 is a normal model. In fact, some of the emerging routeing automation (Homenet WG) assumes that the in-home network will work without an externally routeable network so that the environment can be set up before ISP connection.

      In any case, fixing the network prefix would create ISP lock-in.

  5. Avatar bucklez

    I’ve had it on my HH5A for a month or so..

  6. Avatar bucklez

    just noticed the above comment is my post on TTB lol

  7. Avatar Maris Piper

    It’s a dynamic /56 alright. I know, because I’ve had it for months, because I don’t use a homehub.

    DYNAMIC IPV6 IS USELESS. REPEAT AFTER ME, DYNAMIC IPV6 IS USELESS.

    https://jeremy.visser.name/2009/06/why-dynamic-ipv6-subnet-allocations-for-home-users-are-evil/

    What is the point of having a /56 when you don’t, *can’t* have a stable internal network?

    BT: you are utterly, utterly useless.

    • Avatar Chris P

      dynamic IP’s is a security feature and good practice when protecting millions of end users who have no clue or inclination regarding security or may purchase equipment who’s manufacturers have little regard to security or patching compromised software.

      IPv6 has many, many glaring flaws, which has contributed to its slow implementation.
      whilst you may conclude that nat is a terrible thing, its actually been a huge enabler and its by product of statefullness was the main best security for early networks.
      not everyone wants globally addressable addresses. internet routers do not route rfc 1918 addresses, if you are securing an internal net rfc 1918 helps narrow down the number of addresses from your net that can route across the net, i.e only your gateways that you can fw,. Yes you can fw ipv6, only permitting specific hosts to the net, an organisation would funnel traffic through a proxy then fw preventing unsolicited inbound, how will your non tech relatives do the same for that IOT device or net connected appliance with a server and lousy software who’s flaws the vendor wont patch? Statefull outbound only fw great. no need for static /56.
      what about privacy? if your router and/or os just uses eui, every site knows the MAC of your connecting device, it’ll know the device vendor and likely the device age, like a cookie it’ll know when you connect from different networks, from home, passing starbucks, on the train, tube, at work, at the mistresses, back home etc.

      lastly they could have made the next IP backwards compatible with IPv4, we would have all transitioned years ago if that where so.

      Anyone hoping for globally static addresses with IPv6 can dream on.
      security will decrease as crappy iot devices let hackers in to home nets harvesting local addresses to C&C servers. ipv6 is a privacy nightmare, but the masses just want the latest shiny shiny because it has a bigger number and sounds better to them.

  8. Avatar MikeW

    What about security?

    Are they using dynamic IPv6 addresses so they can use a v6 variant of NAT? So they can effectively auto-firewall the outside world without any subscribers having to worry themselves over re-configuring their router?

  9. Avatar Maris Piper

    (1) MikeW, you seem to think there is such a thing as NAT for ipv6. The whole point of ipv6 was: NO NAT. Read this:
    https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5902

    And if you can tell me where I can get a home router that implements rfc 6296, and how we can rewrite rfc 6296 to avoid all the breakage that it causes, I’ll buy you a bottle of Chateau Pixieland.

    (2) If you think NAT is a firewall, you deserve all you’re going to get. Is this authoritative enough?
    http://www.internetsociety.org/deploy360/blog/2015/01/ipv6-security-myth-3-no-ipv6-nat-means-less-security/

    Please stop trying to construct excuses for BT’s lameness if you’ve got no technical knowledge.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Gee, thanks for the help there Maris Piper. I guess IPv6 incorporates the new kinder, gentler internet too.

    • Avatar karl

      “Please stop trying to construct excuses for BT’s lameness if you’ve got no technical knowledge.”

      LOL its what he is here for LOL

  10. Avatar TheFacts

    Is Sky etc. fixed or dynamic?

  11. Avatar toplard

    I just tuned up IPv6 on my home built linux router. Whois shows it as static. It was delegated with a /64 mask. I’ve not yet tried cycling power to see if its sticky

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