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Virgin Media Invite 100 UK Staff to “Secret” Trial of IPv6 Internet Addresses

Thursday, August 17th, 2017 (7:58 am) - Score 3,148

Cable operator Virgin Media has sent out invites for 100 employees to join a “secret” trial of their long awaited Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) network upgrade. Sources inform ISPreview.co.uk that accepted users will need to be connected to Virgin’s broadband service via a Hub 3.0 router.

At the end of 2016 the cable operator told us that they “plan to adopt IPv6 by the middle of 2017” (here), although when asking for an update in June of 2017 we were instead told that they now intended to “start the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 later this year in line with the wider adoption of IPv6 across the internet” (here).

We note that a tiny number of users on Virgin Media’s network are already connected via IPv6, although this is likely to be reflective of users on their internal network and development teams. The next step for Virgin Media would be to expand their existing test to a wider closed customer trial or the next best thing, employees who use Virgin Media at home.

Invites for the new “staff trial” appear to have gone out this week and participants are being asked to fill out an online survey by 12pm on Wednesday 23rd August. The trial itself will then commence from sometime in September 2017 and last for roughly 4 weeks. After that we’d expect them to either expand the staff trial or open it up to a closed group of ordinary customers.

Virgin Media’s invitation stresses in bold that the “new features are still secret!,” which perhaps comically overlooks that they’ve already announced their plans to the public.. twice. The message then wades into the territory of stating the obvious by adding that they “need to thoroughly test the protocol before we roll it out“.

We shouldn’t have to remind people about what IPv6 is, but here’s a little summary. 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 that has run out of spare numbers and so everybody is slowly adopting its replacement, IPv6.

For example, both Sky Broadband and BT are deploying dual-stack networks so that IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, which are not directly compatible, can work seamlessly side-by-side; at least until the day comes when IPv4 can finally be switched off (this isn’t likely to happen for a very long time because too much hardware and software remains IPv4 dependent).

The shift to IPv6 isn’t as urgent for larger providers because most still own a big pool of spare IPv4 addresses, although it is somewhat of an inevitable upgrade and the sooner it’s adopted the better. Most people won’t even notice the switch.

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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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10 Responses
  1. Jack says:

    So that just leaves TalkTalk (business & residential) to churn out the usual “we have no plans to roll it out”

    1. G.Lee says:

      If they don’t need to they don’t need to do they

  2. Rob de Canha-Knight says:

    Virgin do already have pockets of dual stack users running on ipv6 in their usual test area zones.

    For example; I got offered this when we signed up a couple of months ago. New CTMS line cards in reading serving us (semi-propper) FTTP via RFoG (I’m sick of people telling me “virgin don’t use FTTP” when I say we do. They only back down when I explain what RFoG is and point them to this site to look up their lightning expansion!).

    Anyways yeah I’m on Dual Stack IPV6. Did sign a NDA so can’t go into *too* many details aside from being given a /48 to use (similar to how Zen do it I guess) and that it does NOT work with the SH3. One of the reasons I was asked is because they knew I’d be using an external FW (pfsense) from the start I think.

    So if anyone wants me to run a test and give you the stats I’m more than happy to but so far it seems to work well passes the checks I’ve done and I barely notice that it’s there these days to be honest.

    1. G.Lee says:

      I think it’s fair to say that virgin don’t use FTTP…

      1. It converts to copper before the modem and not after the modem.

      2. Not to mention the majority of the network is not even that close to FTTP…

      It like saying Sky Broadband and TalkTalk do FTTP… they don’t they do it in one area of one city only.

    2. PaulM says:

      1. No it does not
      2. No different to most including BT

    3. G.Lee says:

      Hey PaulM,

      1. Yes it does!
      2. Well not really, I would say BT isn’t FTTP either… if someone asks me “what ISP does FTTP?” I would say only a few but name Hyperoptic, Gigaclear off the top of my head.

      The problem with this discussion is the term FTTP being misused, so yes Virgin supply fibre to the Premises but then its copper to CPE,

      Openreach however supply FTTCPE/M so there fibre only terminates in a modem/CPE…

      But then UK broadband has failed repeatedly by using the wrong “terms” for grading services…. never should have called ADSL “fast” or VDSL “SuperFast” or even “Ultrafast”

  3. Simon says:

    not so secret now

  4. Optimist says:

    “Sources inform ISPreview.co.uk that accepted users will need to be connected to Virgin’s broadband service via a Hub 3.0 router”

    Presumably this means customers using earlier Superhubs will require new hardware to connect via IPV6, at odds with VM’s previous assertion that all their CPE were IPV6 capable, just requiring a firmware update.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      No I’d say it just means that for this initial trial the focus is on the latest Hub 3.0. Fairly common for ISPs to leave updating their older kit until later.

    2. G.Lee says:

      Virgin always focus new features on the latest equipment, and to be honest I think they’ll look to use these extra features to convert people from older equipment to standardise the network.

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