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Delayed Again – Virgin Media’s Shifting IPv6 Adoption Goalposts

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 (12:36 am) - Score 5,764
Virgin Media 2014 UK Logo

Hopes that cable operator Virgin Media might finally start to roll-out the Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) networking standard by the middle of 2017 have once again been dashed. The provider said that the transition would now begin “later this year“.

Broadband providers assign a public Internet Protocol (IP) address to your connection each time you go online, which is like the internet equivalent of a phone number. Today most addresses still use the IPv4 standard but there are no longer any spare numbers and so everybody is slowly adopting the replacement IPv6 standard (very slowly.. it’s been around since 1998).

For example, both Sky Broadband and BT are already deploying dual-stack networks so that both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, which are not directly compatible, can work seamlessly 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 hardware and software remains IPv4-only).

However a big question mark has continued to hang over the progress of IPv6 adoption by Virgin Media. Last November 2016 the cable operator told ISPreview.co.uk that they “plan to adopt IPv6 by the middle of 2017” (here) but the trail has since gone cold. At the start of this month some customers were also told the following.

A Virgin Media Support Agent said:

“Though we are IPV6 ready, Virgin Media have no firm plans or dates to deploy it across our network. We will likely make an announcement on this at any point when we have an official update but for now you’re stuck with IPV4 I’m sorry.”

The mixed messaging isn’t exactly helpful and so, with the end of June 2017 rapidly approaching, I decided to prod Virgin Media for a more official statement. The good news is that the roll-out is still expected to begin this year, although experience tells us that such statements are best taken with a pinch of salt.

A Virgin Media Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Virgin Media intends to start the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 later this year in line with the wider adoption of IPv6 across the internet. This deployment will be seamless to customers.”

At the time of writing the United Kingdom’s AS-number (Autonomous System Number) tracker for IPv6 usage (here) estimates that they (listed as NTL) have about 1,118 connections on IPv6, which is double what it was last year but the figure remains indicative of a limited closed service trial or use by internal networks only.

Mind you Virgin Media are by no means the only major ISP to be lagging behind on the IPv6 adoption front, with other big examples including TalkTalk and KCOM.

Separately we also asked for an update on the Intel Puma 6 latency fix for Virgin Media’s SuperHub 3 (aka – Hub 3.0) routers and were told that the field trials of a new firmware update are due to “begin shortly“. Sadly we don’t know any more than that.

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

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17 Responses
  1. Chris P

    I wonder if their IPv6 deployment will be some cludge rather than a proper dual stack.

    It’ll probably be IPv6 only with an IPv4 bridge in their network or something equally odd.

  2. Optimist

    VM have been promising IPv6 “next year” for several years now.

    ISPs have no incentive to upgrade as long as their customers find everything still works. That will continue until some content provider or carrier discontinues IPv4 traffic.

    • Karl

      “That will continue until some content provider or carrier discontinues IPv4 traffic.”

      Not going to happen. A content provider especially media related is not going to scrap using IPv4 for traffic anytime soon. Do you really think the BBC, Netflix, Amazon and their ilk are suddenly going to eliminate a large portion of their userbase by making it impossible to consume their content (example older Roku boxes) on certain devices that do not support IPv6.

  3. Jack

    @mark don’t suppose you fancy giving TalkTalk (business in particular) a nudge about IPv6? They constantly churn out the usual “no plans, no information” :/ Thanks

  4. craski

    Other than “being prepared” I’d be interested to know what use case actually requires IPv6 at the moment. I’ve seen lots of threads on forums where even technically minded users appear to be struggling to get dual stack configured properly so what hope does the average punter have in getting it working. There is a huge difference between an ISP stating they are offering/supporting IPv6 and that actually being usable in a meaningful way for the vast majority of customers.

    • Nucco

      Some of it can be work related. For example if you’re responsible for enabling IPv6 on an application and you work from Home, ipv6 access is useful for testing. You also get a wider allocation of public routable IPs for use in your own applications, even on a home connection. Also, IPv6 if widely available and supported may simplify p2p applications such as gameplay for home users.

    • Chris P

      @Nucco

      if your enabling ipv6 on an app then just set up an IPV6 lab in your home, most modern OS’s dual stack and are doing ipv6 anyway so you can already talk native ipv6 between hosts on your home net even if your internet connection is ipv4, you just can’t connect those internal ipv6 hosts to anything else ipv6 outside of your home net unless you tunnel or vpn.

      the wider number of routable IP’s is a security issue in its own rite, anything on the net able to connect to anything on your lan. devices having multiple ipv6 addresses by default, internal and public ip’s as a minimum. Only 1 internal system needs be compromised to enable a miscreant to discover all your internal hosts and directly connect to them from afar. An IOT device that’s on your LAN needs just to do an arp -a and secrete that info to the cloud and your done as all your hosts are potentially directly accessible from the net.

    • PaulM

      “Other than “being prepared” I’d be interested to know what use case actually requires IPv6 at the moment…”

      None really but its a good opportunity for some to moan.

    • Andy D

      Use case is as a Business we have found it painfully difficult to get any sort of meaningful block of IPv4 addresses despite making good cases for (Even with making plentiful use of NAT). Quicker everyone can connect via IPv6 the easier this will become rather than also having to allow for connectivity via IPv4. Another thought is performance is likely to be better using raw IPv6 over IPv4 behind NATTED routers your ISP may even NAT (or transparent proxy), as any loadbalancer can work better when it doesn’t see all communication from one Source IP
      Implementing IPv6 I see as little more difficult certainly at home if not more so with SLAC and ND taking the pain away of explaining Subnet Masks and Gateways etc. Many people may already have Dual Stack enabled on both their PC’s and Printers and could be happily printing away without even reliasing they are using IPv6 and a Link-Local Address

      If your an XBox user using Voice chat you will certainly be using an IPv6 tunnel over IPv4 already as it dosn’t support IPv4 so things can only be better for you using native IPv6 as you can better secure your connection and lock out tunnels you don’t know where they go

  5. Dragon

    @Chris P You’d firewall IPv6 much the same way you would IPv4 just because an IP is routable doesn’t mean you need to permit traffic to it.

    Also most insecure IOT devices can be a springboard to get inside the network regardless of NAT anuyway.

  6. Tim Coote

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that Facebook is finding ipv6 measurably faster than ipv4 (~15% faster, last year, iirc). FB is now almost entirely ipv6 internally (http://bit.ly/2vj6Vwx).

  7. ‘Other than “being prepared” I’d be interested to know what use case actually requires IPv6 at the moment.’

    Address shortages in IPV4 world increasingly require kludges such as NAT and worse Carrier Grade NAT which break end to end connectivity, and which prevent ordinary users installing devices which act as globally accessible service points. So the consequence is when you buy an IOT device its capabilities are limited to a wretched extent, due to its need to connect to the world through a proprietary server interface operated by its vendor. For them to make money they take your personal data which you granted them in the click through “agreement”. So the continued use of IPV4 is synonymous with continued corporate over-lordship and user serfdom in the Internet space. Your assets (personal data) become their assets. They flog digital crap which they can switch off at any time by switching off the servers which crap IOT devices depend upon. And they will do this when data obtained through such devices become worth less than the longer-term cost of maintaining the firmware and servers.

    If you imagine an IOT device you’re paying for is yours, then you have to have the ability to upload new firmware, there has to be a community of users interested in developing such, and you have to have IPV6 to make such devices addressable within user-community controlled networks without reference to the corporate overlords who run the servers.

    Operating a cloud server isn’t currently very expensive at about £12/month for an entry level device, but with the increasing pressure on IPV4 address space, those operating IPV6 only are fairly soon going to get less expensive. It’s not in anyone’s interest that server operation should become a corporate monopoly.

  8. Degenerate

    IPv6 actually lowers the router hardware requirement for faster speeds. Most of the CPU use in IPv4 routers is wasted on NAT. As they ramp up speeds, getting a move on with IPv6 deployment would make more sense than deploying routers with hardware NAT.

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