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By: MarkJ - 26 November, 2010 (11:58 AM)
ipv6isp entanet broadband ukCommunications provider Entanet UK has warned that "turbulent times will lie ahead" for any broadband ISP that fails to adopt IPv6 internet addresses before the existing IPv4 pool is exhausted in 2011. A failure to upgrade could also put the government's broadband development plans in serious jeopardy.

An IPv4 address is assigned to your computer each time you go online (e.g. 85.23.56.198). These are a bit like the online equivalent of your home phone number, except only around 180 million (roughly 5%) remain available and they will all be depleted before the end of 2011.

Entanet's Chief Technical Officer, Steve Lalonde, blogged:

"The Internet will not stop working when IPv4 addresses run out, however future growth and innovation will become hindered without IPv6 uptake. In the worst case, it would become impossible for ISPs to accommodate any new Internet subscribers. Most consumers’ equipment built to support IPv4 won’t be compatible with IPv6, so they will either need to be upgraded or replaced."

Sadly IPv4's replacement, IPv6 (e.g. 2ffe:1800:3525:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf), has not been fully implemented by all ISPs. Furthermore most consumers still use internet connected devices (phones, routers, modems etc.) that do not support the new standard, which could be brewing up problems for the future.

Steve Lalonde added:

"Without the adoption by and availability from ISPs of IPv6, it is going to be difficult for the Government to meet its much debated 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment by 2015 – speed will be irrelevant if users can’t access the Internet at all. It will also be important to ISPs looking to remain competitive as some customers may not want to stay with ISPs that can’t provide them with IPv6 addresses, especially once the remaining IPv4 addresses have dried up."

Entanet, which is one of several early IPv6 adopters, also reiterated its snipe at non-IPv6 rivals by calling them "technically negligent" for compromising network performance via a risky "wait and see" approach.

As ever some providers may take a few years to make the change, which in the interim could result in a new culture of IPv4 address sharing (i.e. your IP would be shared between several users). This can cause all sorts of technical performance and security issues (e.g. usage restrictions for your IP on a server would also impact others on the same address; if somebody else gets IP banned from a service then you would too).
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