IPv6: No-One Apart From Telcos Cares Much

One of the topics readers suggested I look into while at Cisco Live! this week was what was happening with the uptake of IPv6. The short answer? Not much.

Cabling picture from Shutterstock

I asked Cisco Australia’s chief technology officer Kevin Bloch whether IPv6 came up as an issue in conversations with customers. His response? It’s a big deal for telecommunications companies and Internet service providers, but most other companies don’t even bring it up.

That makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, telecommunications companies are responsible for assigning a very large number of IP addresses: for each mobile phone that connects to the network, for broadband customers, and for the large numbers of individual sensor-equipped devices which are being used in the much-discussed “Internet of things” (machine-to-machine or M2M if you want to be less hyperbolic). In all those contexts, being able to access the much larger pool of IP addresses which IPv6 is a necessary requirement.

Paradoxically, telecommunications companies are also one of the chief architects of the behaviour that means no-one is worrying much about IPv6: network address translation (NAT). As we’ve discussed before in some detail, using carrier-grade NAT, which assigns the same IPv4 address to multiple devices and then relies on NAT to work out which device is actually involved, is a cheaper solution than an equipment and software upgrade for many providers.

Last year, Cisco predicted that there would be 124 million total IPv6 devices connected in Australia by 2017, and that 85 per cent of connected devices would be IPv6-capable. The kicker is that just because they’re capable — something that applies to every modern smartphone and computer — doesn’t mean they’re using it. We appear to have avoided the IP address apocalypse, but change comes slowly.

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