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Countdown to IPv6

by: Henning Schulzrinne, Chief Technology Officer

May 16, 2012

What if I told you that the world was running out of postal addresses or phone numbers, and that, in less than two months, many companies you regularly do business with will have a new system of contact information?  You’d want to learn more about this system and perhaps make a few preparations, right?  Such a big transition is not happening for postal addresses or phone numbers, but something close to that is happening for Internet addresses.

World IPv6 Launch Day is on June 6, 2012.  On that day, many Internet service providers (ISPs), manufacturers of networking equipment (such as routers) and web-based companies will permanently enable Internet Protocol version Six (IPv6) for their products and services.  As part of this event, consumers, businesses, governments, charities and anyone else that relies on the Internet are encouraged to check their computers and network equipment for IPv6 readiness.

A little background: In order for devices to find each other and connect over the Internet, each device must have an Internet protocol (IP) address.  The current IP system is Version 4 (IPv4), which makes available over four billion IP addresses.  However, the huge increase in Internet users and devices worldwide means that IPv4 addresses are running out.  IPv6, the next-generation protocol, provides approximately 340 undecillion IP addresses (that’s 340 with 36 digits after it), ensuring availability of new IP addresses far into the future, as well as promoting the continued expansion and innovation of the Internet.

It is important to note that all current web addresses and services will continue to work on June 6 and afterwards: websites with IPv4 addresses will still be accessible.  However, as IPv4 addresses run out, most new websites and online services will have IPv6 addresses that can only be accessed if you have your computer or network equipment is prepared.  In addition, the performance, reliability and security of the Internet and online services (such as video streaming and IP telephony) may slowly degrade unless most web traffic and network equipment is made compatible with IPv6.  Finally, as new IPv4 addresses become harder and harder to get, new businesses, from providers of content and services to new ISPs, will find it more difficult to get started and compete with established firms unless they utilize IPv6.

So what do Internet users need to do to prepare for IPv6?  Two main things: 1) check current equipment and Internet access services to see if they are compatible with IPv6; and, 2) when shopping for new devices that connect to the Internet (including Blu-Ray players and game systems), make sure they are “IPv6 Ready.”  The FCC has created an IPv6 Consumers Guide to provide basic information about IPv6 and steps that Internet users may take to prepare for it.  Here are some other online IPv6 resources:

 

Everyday Users: A Short Guide to IPv6”, a web-based guide by the Internet Society: www.internetsociety.org/everyday-users-short-guide-ipv6

The IPv6 Ready Logo Program’s homepage: www.ipv6ready.org/

American Registry of Internet Numbers, IPv6 Information Center:  www.arin.net/knowledge/ipv6_info_center.html

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