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Virgin Media Plans to Adopt IPv6 by the Middle of 2017

Saturday, November 5th, 2016 (1:41 am) - Score 11,767
Virgin Media 2014 UK Logo

Cable broadband operator Virgin Media has informed ISPreview.co.uk that they plan to adopt the Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) standard by the middle of 2017.

Every Internet connection has an Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to it (you couldn’t do much without one), but the current IPv4 standard has run out of spare addresses and so everybody is slowly adopting the replacement IPv6 standard (very slowly.. it’s been around since 1998).

Most ISPs tend to deploy dual-stack networks so that both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, which are not directly compatible, can work side-by-side; at least until the day comes when IPv4 can be completely switched off (this isn’t likely to happen for a very long time as too much kit remains IPv4-only).

Recently we’ve seen both Sky Broadband and BT Consumer (Retail) move down the path to full IPv6 adoption. Now a spokesperson has confirmed to us that Virgin Media will be jumping on the IPv6 train by the middle of next year, although apparently their deployment will depend on the wider adoption of websites (we think this is a reference to the fact that most of the Internet traffic passing through VM is still from IPv4-only sites and servers).

Virgin offers the example of how Netflix can work with both IPv6 and IPv4, but iPlayer is said to be IPv4-only. The spokesperson said that at the moment only about 30% of traffic can be IPv6 and the rest needs to be translated to IPv4, thus they’re apparently managing the transition to align to the adoption across the Internet (our translation: “We’re late to the party, but then so are a lot of others“).

Virgin Media has previously told those who asked that most of their network was already prepared for IPv6, but they just hadn’t flicked the switch yet. A quick check of the United Kingdom’s AS-numbers (Autonomous System Number) for IPv6 usage (here) estimates that they have about 586 users on IPv6, which is perhaps a rough indication of where they stand today.

Mind you some ISPs, such as Andrews and Arnold (AAISP), have been using IPv6 in their network since 2002. The reason why it’s taken so long for everybody else is due to the slow pace of adding support to existing software / hardware and the fact that IPv4s only started to run out a few short years ago. Most of the big ISPs also have a large stockpile of IPv4s and so can hold out for longer.

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar Matt

    Basically it seems to have come down to oh it’s not a big priority and we will simply do when we need to. Least all the isp are getting round to it but like you say would be surprised if IPv4 is scrapped before 2025.

  2. Avatar Optimist

    At last VM recognises that the 21st century has arrived.

  3. Avatar Tim Dutton

    Virgin are wrong about Netflix.

    Netflix apps actually support IPv6 now. I have an IPv6 tunnel with tunnelbroker.net. Until Netflix decided that this constituted “A proxy or unblocker” I was able to switch off IPv4 on my Laptop and stream Netflix over IPv6 using the inbuilt Windows App.

  4. Avatar Morgaine Dinova

    The last sentence of this article “Most of the big ISPs also have a large stockpile of IPv4s and so can hold out for longer” perpetuates a myth which has probably been responsible for Virgin management doing nothing for so long on IPv6. It has resulted in them trailing the pack among the Big Three UK ISPs and fighting a losing battle not to be seen as technically inept.

    It’s a myth because having enough IPv4 address space for customer source addresses is not what matters to users, but their ability to reach destination addresses. As the worldwide usage of IPv6 has been ramping up and reached double figures many years ago, over 50% in some countries, the IPv4 Internet has become only a subset of the whole Internet. Not giving your customers IPv6 addresses means that you are preventing them from reaching that rapidly growing IPv6 side at a time when the IPv4 space cannot grow any further. This is clearly inappropriate for a general ISP unless they bill themselves as an “IPv4-Only Internet Service Provider”. (Tunnels for techies do not change this picture since the non-technical mass public remains in IPv4 prison.)

    Don’t perpetuate that myth. It arose only because ARIN (the US registry) was one of the last RIRs to suffer IPv4 exhaustion, and the US is inward-looking and mostly mono-lingual so the rest of the world is out of sight, out of mind. The RIRs for regions like Asia Pacific (APNIC) and EU (RIPE NCC) began running out of IPv4 addresses in 2011-2012 so all their address space growth has been on IPv6 since then. Restricting your user base to the non-growing IPv4 part of the Internet makes no sense whatsoever for users, and is quite draconian.

    The common topic nowadays for service providers is how best to move their internal infrastructure to IPv6-only, while offering IPv4 as an extra service that can eventually be dropped without pain. Except in enclaves like Virgin where for a long time they simply weren’t thinking straight (probably because of their policy of non-communication with customers), the question “Should we add IPv6?” isn’t even being asked anymore because it’s so obviously bad. It’s blinkered, a failure to grasp an opportunity, and setting your company up for ridicule.

  5. Avatar Johnerz

    It’s nice to read that Virgin have again given a timeline that they will fail to meet, or does implement not mean that it’s up and running 100% they as has been mention fail to grasp the importance of IPv6. Hardware is not a major issue as most can be upgraded via software.

    They drop out a press release in September about upgrading to a 4G service in October, I must have missed what year, obviously not 2016.

    Sadly I find them to be untrustworthy not only in what they release in the press but in their god awful customers service promises, and reliability promises vs issues

  6. Avatar Data Analysis

    “They drop out a press release in September about upgrading to a 4G service in October, I must have missed what year, obviously not 2016.”

    Live next week as pointed out in a prior story already. Hardly a significant delay.

  7. Avatar Morgaine Dinova

    ARIN (the Regional Internet Registry for Canada and USA) is making a very clear point with their “Do you get 6?” campaign at http://teamarin.net/get6/who-gets-it/

    “To connect to the whole Internet, not just the old Internet, websites must be IPv6-enabled.”

    It’s not a difficult message to understand, for those who are listening. But there’s the rub, the need to listen. For over half a decade of continuous requests and explanations from its user community, Virgin has steadfastly refused to listen.

    And that in a nutshell is why they’re the last of the Big Three to deploy IPv6 in the UK, and Sky and BT have eaten their lunch. Willingness to communicate with your customers is important.

    • Whilst I also wish to see more ipv6, let’s be frank. The sky is not falling on Virgin Media any time soon for being late to this party. I mean, a bunch of crazy nerds like us may switch ISP for the intangible (for now) benefit of ipv6, but it won’t make a significant difference to anyone’s bottomline.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      “It’s not a difficult message to understand, for those who are listening. But there’s the rub, the need to listen. For over half a decade of continuous requests and explanations from its user community, Virgin has steadfastly refused to listen.”

      What utter clap trap, the fear mongering which you are now spreading in this story has been going on for years. BT have only recently enabled IPv6 for all and the same goes for Sky. Literally less than a few months for both of them. So neither of those listened for years either if we listen to you. An example being this back in 2012 http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/09/ripe-warn-eu-and-uk-supply-of-ipv4-internet-addresses-to-run-out-next-month.html

      “And that in a nutshell is why they’re the last of the Big Three to deploy IPv6 in the UK, and Sky and BT have eaten their lunch. Willingness to communicate with your customers is important.”

      Nonsense again BT and Sky did not listen for years either, virgin likewise is not the last of the big ISPs to go IPv6. There are not 3 big players in the UK there are 4. Talk Talk of the 4 is is not IPv6 capable and have not made any plans or dates to be AFAIK. If you think Vigin following Sky and BT and enabling IPv6 in around 6 months time is catastrophic you have far bigger issues than they do.

  8. Avatar Morgaine Dinova

    @Nucco: It will make a difference if the common advice turns into “Don’t go with ISP XXX, they don’t give you access to the whole Internet.” ARIN aren’t the only ones applying pressure.

    It doesn’t take long for the Internet to turn on a dime, just look at the fortunes of Yahoo, MySpace, and now Facebook. Nothing lasts. A lot of people currently consider the benefits of IPv6 “intangible”, not only yourself, but that won’t last either.

    • Avatar Optimist

      Yes, you are right, Morgaine. I would go further and suggest that sites like this would incorporate that into the ISP information:

      “Internet coverage:
      Partial – IPV4 only (so last century)
      or
      Full – Both IPV4 and IPV6 (21st century)”

    • Avatar Morgaine Dinova

      That’s a good idea, Optimist.

      Now that UK websites no longer have the excuse that there are no UK residential eyeballs for IPv6 (a great excuse for doing nothing), we’ll be seeing rapid growth in their own IPv6 presences or they’ll be superceded by those who are more forward looking.

      And their content will follow suit. I like your idea of marking the Internet provision of ISPs as “Partial” or “Full” a lot. I bet that the “Partial” ones are going to be dwindling rapidly.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      What current largely visited websites in 6 months time plan to go IPv6 only and limit IPv4 users from accessing them?

    • Avatar GaryH

      @Data Analysis rather misses the point here, I feel. Of course the answer to that “clever” question is zero (or close to zero), but that’s really not the problem IPv6 is trying to solve, as existing Web sites generally have enough addresses of either or both protocols to survive.

      The main problem IPv6 is trying to solve is the lack of addresses for _new entrants_ on to the Internet. One day someone will invariably invent a new website that will become as phenomenally successful as the current incumbents such as Facebook and Google et al, and if the ISPs don’t roll out IPv6 then their customers will not be able to access these _new_ sites. (And also remember that the Internet is not just the Web.)

      Regardless of whether your favourite “Big 4” ISP has IPv6 support or not, they all know it has to happen (and so do VM and TT, and so do the non-enlightened smaller ones). And certainly we are now getting to the point where it is getting extremely difficult for providers of Internet services to obtain new IPv4 addresses in more than very small quantities. Even becoming a Local Internet Registry with RIPE will only get you a /22 (1024 addresses) max, unless you purchase them from elsewhere, and this is, I’d imagine, not enough addresses to support a phenomenally successful global Web site. In the end, necessity will make it happen. It’s not a case of if, but when.

    • Avatar Morgaine Dinova

      IPv6 denialism is fairly common, despite the obvious mathematics that Internet growth on IPv4 is nearing its limits through address exhaustion. This makes IPv6 inevitable unless Internet growth is made to stop. There is no Plan B.

      But rejection of change has never been rational, and this is no different. Fortunately the agreement of denialists isn’t needed, as IPv6 deployment is storming ahead. They’ll come along anyway, whether they like it or not, for the reason already given: there is no Plan B.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      “@Data Analysis rather misses the point here, I feel. Of course the answer to that “clever” question is zero (or close to zero), but that’s really not the problem IPv6 is trying to solve, as existing Web sites generally have enough addresses of either or both protocols to survive. ”

      Good so we agree there was no rush back in 2012 and before and there is no rush right now and will not be for years to come.

      IPv4 is nowhere near its limit, providers could if they so wish just implement CGNAT and have several users all sharing the same IPv4 address.

      If you had 5 million users and only 5 million IPv4 addresses all with a IPv4 address each and you suddenly implement CGNAT and force 4 people per address you could still take on another 15 Million users before you hit any provision “limit”.

      Its not denial its facts. IPv6 will be nice to have, was it needed 5-10 years ago… NO is it needed right now… NO is it needed a year from now… NO Does anywhere significant on the net use IPv6 only or about to in the next 5 years, unlikely.

      So where you (yes 1 of you) think its needed right now is an utter mystery.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      PS i see there is no comment about Talk Talk and its 3.5 Million odd users and no IPv6 announcement, what a shock.

    • Avatar Morgaine Dinova

      It shouldn’t be a shock at all, @Data Analysis. You attempted to deflect the discussion away from Virgin, and we didn’t bite, it’s that simple. And since your IPv6 denialism is so blatant, I doubt there will ever be any engaging with you since this is a discussion about IPv6.

    • Avatar Gordon

      He did not deflect anything his initial post you have no answer for he actually says…
      “If you think Virgin following Sky and BT and enabling IPv6 in around 6 months time is catastrophic you have far bigger issues than they do.”
      He is obviously correct with that statement.

      He also points out there are 4 big players in the market not 3 like you claim and of those 1 has no announced plans for IPv6 at all.

      Nobody denies IPv6 will need doing sooner or later, you though make it sound like the whole internet is going to fall to pieces and all Virgin customers are screwed cos they have to wait an extra 6ish months and its not being done right now.

      The only people with “denialism” are those that have been saying for neigh on a decade that if IPv6 is not adopted things will implode, only they haven’t and they keep saying they will.

      Like he said far bigger issues there.

    • Avatar Data Analysis

      “Nobody denies IPv6 will need doing sooner or later, you though make it sound like the whole internet is going to fall to pieces and all Virgin customers are screwed cos they have to wait an extra 6ish months and its not being done right now.

      The only people with “denialism” are those that have been saying for neigh on a decade that if IPv6 is not adopted things will implode, only they haven’t and they keep saying they will.”

      EXACTLY 😀

  9. Avatar Optimist

    If I were running an ISP I would implement IPv6 ASAP then sell off redundant IPv4 address space to those daft enough to pay for them ($10 per ip address?).

    • Avatar Morgaine Dinova

      I agree optimist, and I expect that that is quite likely to happen. Once companies have no further projected business case for large IPv4 blocks obtained “just in case” in pre-exhaustion days, why not sell the excess off to those myopic enough to buy? Retaining a /24 for a legacy IPv4 website will make sense for a few years, but their large allocations will be superfluous.

      Not even old, non-upgradeable IPv4 equipment provides a strong case for retaining IPv4 capability throughout your entire network. Such old gear can be provided with cheap IPv6-to-IPv4 translation in front of it, leaving the rest of your network unencumbered with legacy problems.

      What’s more, if you’ve looked at the videos or slides from recent UK IPv6 Council and UKNOF meetings, it’s unmistakeable that the trend is towards IPv6-only internal networks plus a carbunkle on the side to handle IPv4. Industry sees no long-term future for IPv4 at all, and who can blame them? Running two networks side by side is extra work and costs more money, so internally many are aiming to move to IPv6-only operation rapidly. It makes sense on multiple grounds.

  10. Avatar Ross Chandler

    They shouldn’t be “holding out” if they have IPv4 addresses. Other users of the Internet don’t and their IPv4 connectivity may be behind NATs. To improve the connectivity to these users ISPs need to turn-on IPv6 connectivity.

  11. Avatar Brian Cox

    Come on Virgin Media IPV6 has been around since 1998 BT and SKY have left you way behind – at the very least inform your customers when you intend to initiate IPV6 and stop leaving your customers hanging as we are the people that pay you for our service.

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