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

Monday, Aug 22nd, 2016 (1:32 am) - Score 10,214

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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