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Some Three UK Customers Get Working IPv6 Internet Addresses UPDATE

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 (8:37 am) - Score 19,115

A number of data (mobile broadband) connected users on Three UK’s 4G mobile network have now reported that their connection has been assigned an IPv6 internet address, as well as the usual IPv4. At present this looks to be a limited customer field-trial, which often comes ahead of a major roll-out.

Internet protocol (IP) addresses are a seamless technology that helps to connect your computer/devices with the online world (like an ID number for your connection). At present most people still connect via the old IPv4 addressing standard but those have now been depleted (here) and as such many providers have been steadily moving to introduce “newer” IPv6 addresses.

Sadly the longer form hexadecimal IPv6 addresses are not directly compatible with older IPv4 addresses and so special systems (e.g. dual stack, dual stack lite etc.) have to be implemented in order that the two can be run side-by-side (likely to continue for many years to come). Doing this can present a few cost and development challenges for larger providers.

three_uk_ipv6_test

Some mobile operators, such as EE (BT), have already made the jump but others are still twiddling their thumbs. Until recently Three UK was in the latter camp, although the first signs of change came during spring 2019 when a number of users reported that an IPv6 address had been assigned to their connection, although they didn’t appear able to route traffic through it.

However, the operator seems to be making progress as several people – mostly around London – have now informed ISPreview.co.uk that their 4G connections are being issued with working IPv6 addresses (credits to Joe and Chris). Clearly this isn’t widespread yet as we haven’t seen it on our own service and very few other users have noticed it.

By the looks of it this is either a customer field trial or the early start of a phased rollout across Three UK’s wider mobile network. We’ve asked the operator for a comment and will update when they respond.

UPDATE 14th November 2019

By the looks of it Three UK’s new software-based cloud core network (here) – using systems from Nokia – includes support for IPv6 by default. As such we had been suspecting that the reason customers might now be seeing IPv6 is due to their gradual platform migration (this began in June). The operator has now confirmed this.

A spokesperson for Three UK told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We’ve started to migrate traffic onto our new core network. These customers are currently using our new core network intermittently resulting in some browsing occurring on IPv6. This will gradually increase as we migrate more traffic.”

Leave a Comment
13 Responses
  1. Avatar James

    Dual stack is not directly useful to operators trying to deal with exhaustion of IPv4 address space as each device will still require a valid, routable IPv4 address as well as the IPv6 address so the number of devices that can be supported does not increase. Technologies such as 464XLAT (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6877) provide in-device v4 to v6 NAT (network address translation) which allows the operator to assign only v6 addresses to the device (single stack), this removes the need for for the operator to allocate IPv4 addresses to the devices and therefore increased the number of devices that can be supported.

    464XLAT also addresses the inherent problem with IPv4 literals embedded in content which cannot be solved with DNS64 and NAT64 alone as there is no DNS query associated with fetched from literal IP addresses, NAT64 cannot work without this DNS query.

    Note that this also requires a NAT64 gateway at the operator edge so the address reported by ipv6-test.com is likely the NAT64 gateway address and not a device address, the device needs to be checked to confirm whether the device address matches the address reported by ipv6-test.com (dual stack) or not (single stack with 464XLAT).

    • Avatar Nick H

      I couldn’t agree more James, 464xlat works well for mobile handsets.
      Nick at EE
      By the way, http://www.test-ipv6.com does a DNS test, an “ipv4 literal” test and also tests for packet size issues; it’s my goto test site for IPv6/464xlat deployment.

  2. Avatar Blueacid

    So that’s EE and soon Three.

    Has anyone any experience with Vodafone and o2; do they have any ipv6 on their mobile networks?

  3. Avatar SuperFast Dream

    This is potentially very good news, at last we may be making waves towards being free of the shackles of CGNAT.

  4. Avatar John Holmes

    I just checked and I have an IPv6 assigned on my phone with 3 contract sim, no idea if it works.

  5. Avatar Karan

    Just changed my apn setting to ipv6 and data is working in Manchester city centre

  6. Avatar Lauren

    Noticed that I had IPv6 access on my iPhone with a Three contract SIM in Plymouth on the 2nd of November, although checking just now and it seems no longer unfortunately. Exciting times though.

  7. Avatar David

    I can see an IP address on my mobile broadband router and it’s also showing on my MAC when connected to it – but all the websites fail me at ipv6.

    My EE phone I am on now has had it for about 6 months so I can wait for three. I’ve had my three broadband router for a long time now.

    • Avatar David

      The settings are all the same on the MAC compared to EE apart from different IPv6 addys obviously. I guess Three are not etting it through yet

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