Most of the warnings about the imminent loss of internet addresses have been disregarded. Slowly, but definitely, migration from Internet Protocol Version 4 to IPv6 began. Software is now in place to protect against the address apocalypse so many had predicted.
Let’s look back at the initial days and see where IPv6 is going.
Importance of IPv6
IPv6 represents the latest version the Internet Protocol. This protocol identifies devices over the internet to allow them to be identified. To allow internet communication to work, every device connected to the internet must have its own IP address. This is just like knowing the zip codes of street addresses to mail a letter.
IPv4 uses a 32-bit address scheme to support 4300 million devices. It was believed to be sufficient at the time. It became apparent that more addresses were needed as a result of the explosion of the personal computers, internet, smartphones, and the IoT.
Why is IPv6 Beneficial
The IETF did more than just add address space. It also added IPv6 enhancements over IPv4. The IPv6 protocol has the ability to manage packets more competently, increase security and improve performance. It allows internet service providers the ability to reduce the size and complexity of their routing tables, and it makes them more hierarchical.
Structure of IPv6
You may be aware about IPv4 addresses. These addresses are composed of four parts and these parts are further separated with dots. Each part, is written in Base ten numerals, and signifies an eight-bit binary numbers from 0 through 255 (000000 to 111111), written with binary.
An IPv6 address looks something like this: 2620:cc: 4000:1c88:364c:cd2e: f2fa:1a4f. Instead of 4 numbers 8 numbers are there, and these are separated with colons instead of commas. Yes, they’re all numbers. As IPv6 addresses are written using hexadecimal (16Base 16) notation, there is usage of letters in between too. 16 symbols are necessary for each of the Base 10 numbers 1-16. The numbers used are the numerals A-F and the letters 0-9.
Network Address Translation (NAT) & IPv6
Network address translation (NAT), which converts private Internet Protocol addresses to public Internet Protocol addresses, has caused delays in IPv6’s adoption. A corporate machine can send and get packets from machines that are not part of the private network but have private Internet Protocol addresses.
If NAT was not in place, large corporations that have numerous computers would consume huge amounts of public Internet Protocolv4 addresses if their goal was to converse with outsiders. These IPv4 addresses, however, are extremely limited and close to exhaustion.
NAT is a solution to this problem. NAT can allow lot of privately-addressed computers to be exposed to the public internet through a Network Address Translation machine, such as a router or firewall.
NAT works in the following way: Whenever a corporate computer sends a packet to a private Internet Protocol address, it first goes through the NAT device. The packet’s source, destination and other information is recorded by the NAT in a translation list.
Who deploys IPv6?
According to Google as of the third month of this year, the global IPv6 adoption rate is approximately 34% while it’s around 46% in the United States.
ISPs and carriers were the first to deploy IPv6 in their networks. However, mobile networks have led the charge. T-Mobile USA had more than 90% of its traffic over IPv6 in March 2002. Verizon Wireless was close behind with 82.63%. According to the World IPv6 Launch industry group, Comcast has 70% and AT&T 73% respectively. In Asia and South America have seen greater IPv6 adoption over the last few years. India currently stands at approximately 62%, while Reliance Jio Infocomm in India tops World Ipv6 Launch’s network adopters with more that 93%.
Enterprises are slowing down in their deployment. a report by RIPE Lab on IPv6 Adoption reported that the United States’ usage of IPv6 dropped between 2020-2021. This could be due to people who were working at home during the pandemic of COVID-19, but are currently resuming the offices to use IPv4-based corporate networks.
Corporate IT is cautious about implementing migration projects due to complexity, cost and time requirements. Many medium-sized and smaller enterprises also outsource their network needs to service providers who don’t have any incentive to migrate without a push from customers.
When will there be more deployments?
The resistance of enterprises to large-scale IPv6 adoption is slowing overall adoption. Patrick Hunter, Charter Communications’ director IT enterprise network, telecom explains many of the factors at play. Hunter notes that, while network administrators are well aware of the fact that migration is inevitable and understands the risks involved, they don’t want to be pioneers if this causes disruptions to their applications and networks.
He says admins don’t want to make things worse or make it difficult for others to adopt the new protocol. Amazon is migrating to IPv6 its serverless and container-AWS workloads. The fact that IPv4 is still in use, and the fact that NAT has been widely used, have slowed down the movement. The transition could not be complete until 2030 or later.
However, the Internet Society suggests that businesses sell their IPv4 addresses to raise funds for IPv6 deployment. According to a note published on GitHub, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made this move. The university found that 8 million IPv4 addresses it had been “excess”, and could therefore be sold. Nonillion is the sum of 30 zeroes followed by the number 1.
As more deployments take place, more companies will begin charging for IPv4 addresses. However, they will provide IPv6 services at no cost. UK-based Internet Service Provider Mythic Beasts claims that IPv6 connectivity is a standard feature, while IPv4 connectivity may be an optional extra.
Government action is needed to push for a quicker transition. However, many governments in western regions don’t have this on the agenda. China is one country that is moving quickly to IPv6. In 2021, China’s Cyberspace Administration released an ambitious roadmap that aims to reach 800 million IPv6 users by 2025.
When will IPv4 become “shut off”?
Most of the world was out of IPv4 address between 2011-2018. But, they won’t disappear completely as IPv4s are sold and reused. Any remaining addresses will also be used for IPv6 transitions.
There is no date set for the internet switch-off. People shouldn’t worry about losing their internet access suddenly. As more networks migrate to IPv6 support and more end users upgrade to IPv6 capability, IPv4 will be slowly replaced.
Why doesn’t IPv5 exist?
IPv5 was also known as Internet Stream Protocol or simply ST. It was created for connection-oriented communication across IP networks and supports voice and video.
It was successful in this task and was tested experimentally. The 32-bit address scheme, the same one used by IPv4, was what hampered its popularity. It had the same problem IPv4 did – it only had a small number of IP addresses. That was the catalyst for the development and eventual acceptance of IPv6. Although IPv5 wasn’t used publically, the name IPv5 was already given to it.