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EE Makes Progress on IPv6 Upgrade for their UK Mobile Network

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 (8:18 am) - Score 5,407

Mobile operator EE has revealed that they’ve “switched on” IPv6 Internet addresses for new subscribers during 2016 H2 (a mix of dual-stack with IPv4 and some IPv6-only), at least for those with supporting devices (legacy devices remain on IPv4). Work will now begin to migrate their existing users.

Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are how you identify your connection online and without them you can’t use Internet services. At present most mobile operators still make use of IPv4 and often adopt a form of CGNAT (IP address sharing) in order to make their addresses last longer, partly because new IPv4s are no longer being distributed (they’ve run out).

As such the whole system will eventually need to be moved over to the new IPv6 standard, which are significantly longer and shouldn’t run out any time soon (example address: 2001:cdba::2257:9652). But in the meantime a dual-stack system is usually adopted so that IPv4 and IPv6 can continue to run side-by-side until everybody is ready to switch off IPv4 (that won’t happen for many years).

The setup at EE also supports an IPv6-only Single Stack Bearer solution for more modern devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy 6 + 7, HTC M10 and Sony’s Z5 series etc. However this still allows a connection to IPv4 servers, but that translation from IPv6 happens at a later stage.

ee_dual_stack_and_single_stack_ipv6

At present EE notes that they already have around 50,000 PostPay mobile subscribers on their IPv6 supporting network and the plan is to start upgrading around 100,000 users per day (other subs will remain on IPv4 for the time being). The operator has around 15+ million postpaid mobile subscribers in the United Kingdom.

However EE also noted that there had been some problems, not least with IPv6 based international mobile roaming where the connections were “inconsistent” and would often fall back to IPv4 addresses. This is perhaps understandable since many operators in other countries will have different local networks.

The details were revealed by BT’s Network Architect, Nick Heatley, during this week’s UK IPv6 Council meeting, which among other things also confirmed that the total of IPv6 enabled users in the United Kingdom had increased from 2.58% last year to 16.2% now (largely due to the well documented and praise worthy efforts of some big networks, such as Sky Broadband). You can see Sky’s presentation slides here, although we’ve already reported on those details before.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Stephen Donaghy says:

    I joined EE just a couple of weeks ago (Late october) and I don’t seem to have IPv6 🙁

    1. Avatar Nick Heatley says:

      Thanks for the interest. IPv6 enablement requires an eligible device on an IPv6 subscription(as we update subscriptions this will become all pay monthly consumers on EE).
      The slides are here for more info:
      http://www.ipv6.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/UKIPv6Council-2016-Nick-Heatley_EE_20161031.pdf

    2. Avatar Optimist says:

      Sorry if this is a stupid question – but how can I tell if my phone is connecting via IPv6 or not? I’ve gone through all the settings of my Sony Experia and the only place I can see an IP address is on my Wi-Fi connection which is not always on anyway.

    3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Try this:

      http://test-ipv6.com/

      Ignore the other test results and just look at the top, where it should return both an IPv4 and IPv6 address. If you don’t have an IPv6 address then it’s not enabled. Note that certain firewalls or ad-blocking may prevent this test from working.

    4. Avatar Optimist says:

      Thanks, Mark. I also tried whatismyip.com which tells me the ip address itself.

  2. Avatar Chris Byrne says:

    I have 2 Mobile Broadband contracts with EE, one from January 2016 the other from November 2016. In early November the Dlink router with the SIM from the January contract stopped working. Having spent hours and hours trying to find a solution eventually Dlink technical support told me that it was the result of the EE upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6 and that my router which I only bought in January only supported IPv4. I live between Canterbury and Folkestone. Does this explanation ring true – is it likely that I have been upgraded from my January contract without any warning from EE?

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