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ISPs will Fail to Meet IPv6 Adoption Targets

Posted: 20th Aug, 2008 By: MarkJ
Arbor Networks has this week published an extensive study into IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) traffic over the Internet, which unsurprisingly revealed that adoption of IPv6 as a replacement for IPv4 is running way behind schedule.

The European Commission (EC) recently set member states a target of getting 25% of European industry, public authorities and households to use IPv6 by 2010 (news), although Arbor's study predicts that full global adoption could take another decade or possibly longer:

“It is now clear the original optimistic IPv6 deployment plans have failed. However, the eventual exhaustion of IPv4 allocations is very real and IPv6 adoption will happen. Based on our analysis, at the current rate of adoption, we are a decade or more away from pervasive adoption of dual stack support for IPv6,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor Networks chief scientist.

“With that said, throughout the world, government mandates are spurring IPv6 adoption. For example, in the U.S. a federal mandate was met and all major vendors publicly declared their IPv6 readiness. The Beijing Olympics are being highlighted as the first global showcase for IPv6 technology by China’s government. Despite the slow start, there’s reason for optimism.”

For those not in the know, an IPv4 address is assigned to your computer each time you connect with the Internet (e.g. 123.23.56.98). It is a unique online identifier made up of four number groupings and allows you to communicate with other computers around the world; not unlike a phone number for voice calls.

Unfortunately you can only have so many IPv4 address combinations before running out and the online population is fast outstripping the available pool, hence the need for a longer number (IPv6). Roughly 85% of all available IPv4 addresses are already in use, with predictions suggesting that they could run out entirely by 2011.

Presently IPv6 traffic is still a tiny percentage of overall Internet traffic. By one conservative estimate, by the end of July 2008, there was about 600Mbps of inter-domain IPv6 traffic compared to 4Tbps of IPv4 traffic. In other words, tunneled IPv6 traffic represented only 0.0026% of overall IPv4 traffic. The proportion of IPv6 vs. IPv4 traffic stayed roughly the same over the last year.

Failure to adopt IPv6 could result in a global Internet slow down, with worsening performance and ISP customers being forced to share their IPv4 address with other users. This could cause all manner of problems, not least if somebody downloads something illegal on the same IP as you.
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