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Major ISPs and Websites Prepare for World IPv6 Launch Day on 6th June 2012

Posted: 18th Jan, 2012 By: MarkJ
ipv6Facebook, Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo and many more websites from around the world have all agreed to make 6th June 2012 their official World IPv6 Launch day. This is the day when all associated websites will enable the "new" Internet Protocol v6 ( IPv6 ) addressing standard on their servers (similar to last year's 24-hour "test flight" but this time it will be permanent).

An IP address is assigned to your computer each time you go online (the internet equivalent of a phone number), which allows you to connect with other online websites and services. At present most of these use the old IPv4 (e.g. 84.76.41.2) standard, which are about to run out, and thus the adoption of IPv6 is fast becoming necessary.

Erik Kline, Google Tokyo's IPv6-Software Engineer, said:

"The original IPv6 specification was published more than 15 years ago, but for the entire career of most Internet engineers its deployment has always been in the future. Now it’s finally here. The widespread deployment of IPv6 paves the way for connecting together the billions of devices that permeate our livesーboth fixed and mobile, from the largest cloud computing services to the smallest sensors.

Just a year ago, we announced our participation in World IPv6 Day. Since then, the IPv4 address global free pool was officially depleted, each of the five regions around the world receiving one last address block. Soon after, the Asia-Pacific region exhausted its free IPv4 address pool. Hundreds of websites around the world turned on IPv6 for a 24-hour test flight last June. This time, IPv6 will stay on.

For Google, World IPv6 Launch means that virtually all our services, including Search, Gmail, YouTube and many more, will be available to the world over IPv6 permanently."

Thankfully ISP customers need not worry too much and you can even test your internet connection compatibility here ipv6test.google.com. Crucially most broadband providers in the UK shouldn't have any trouble (even if they lack IPv6 support) because IPv4 is still, for now, being catered for.

Google admits that it could still take "years for the Internet to transition fully to IPv6", which is in large part due to the slow pace of progress by large ISPs and hardware manufacturers (e.g. broadband routers).

Thankfully hardware makers like Billion and Technicolor have already begun producing IPv6-ready kit, some of which is beginning to enter the realm of consumer affordability. Cisco and D-Link have now also committed to enabling IPv6 across their range of home products by June 2012.

Meanwhile most of the largest ISPs have a significant stockpile of IPv4 addresses that should last them for several years before IPv6 becomes critical, although there is a risk that, during this time, some sites and services might become unreachable to IPv4-only connections.

ISPs that don't have plenty of spare IPv4 capacity also run the risk of being unable to connect new customers, at least not without resorting to problematic IP address sharing. One key problem is that many such ISPs still claim a lack of demand.

BT's Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in February 2011:

"We foresee a predictable steady demand rather than a rush. Current predictions are for IPv4 addresses to run out circa 2012. After that we'll see a steady growth in usage of IPv6. At worse it will match the current usage trends of IPv4 growth. We believe that it will start lower than that as ISPs like BT use "carrier grade Network Address Translation" to delay the need to use IPv6.

BT's 21cn equipment is IPv6 ready. We just need to turn it on when the time is right; that is when there is clear customer demand and it is commercially viable. We have also run several IPv6 trials on several of our networks for extended periods."

The issue of "customer demand" often crops up but is a poor argument because IPv6 is a necessity not a feature. It's a seamless part of the internet, one that customers never have to see or know and thus one that would not be demanded.

Like it or not most ISPs will, for the next few years at least, need to at some point adopt a dual stack system that allows IPv6 and IPv4 networks to run side by side (note: they aren't "directly" compatible with each other). Sadly this is a costly solution and eventually native IPv6 connectivity will become the norm for all of us.
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