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’Net Flips Switch on Next-Gen Protocol

Most Web surfers didn’t notice, but at
8 p.m. ET last Tuesday (June 5), the Internet changed forever
— or so the organizers of the World IPv6 Launch event
were hoping.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon Wireless
were among the Internet-service providers that enabled
the next-generation IPv6 protocol for at least 1% of
their users for World IPv6 Launch, which began at midnight
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on June 6.

In addition, more than 2,000 websites — including
Google, Facebook, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo, AOL and Netflix
— pledged to turn on IPv6 permanently for their main
websites, alongside the existing IPv4.

The shift to IPv6, which has been in the works for more
than a decade, “is the single largest upgrade in the history of
the Internet,” John Curran, president and CEO of the American
Registry for Internet Numbers, which assigns IP address
space for North
America and parts of
the Caribbean, said.
“The good news is
that, done properly,
Internet users globally
will not notice any
significant difference
in their daily lives.”

IPv6 provides an
astronomically large
number of unique addresses
(about two to
the 128th power), and
the move to adopt it has become urgent for ISPs and other
Internet companies, as the pool of 4.3 billion available addresses
in the current IPv4 scheme nears depletion.

Comcast, for one, said that as of May 24, it has launched
and enabled IPv6 in more than one-third of its broadband
network, in areas that are served by Arris cable-modem termination
systems. IPv6 is available to approximately 6 million
Comcast subscribers, but just roughly 5% of those are actually
connecting via the protocol natively on their home-networking
equipment and PCs, according to John Brzozowski, Comcast
distinguished engineer and chief architect for IPv6.

World IPv6 Launch, organized by the not-for-profit Internet
Society, came one year after the 24-hour World IPv6 Day
test on June 6, 2011. In addition to the participating ISPs and
website operators, home-networking equipment makers, including
Cisco Systems and D-Link, had said they will enable
IPv6 by default across their home-router products by June 6.

“Last year, it was basically an industry party held by
industry players trying to create some excitement about
moving to IPv6,” Ovum principal analyst Mike Sapien
said. “This year is different: They are going to do something
that stays up permanently.”

IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible. At first, ISPs like Comcast
are rolling out dual-stack support, so customers can
access content on both IPv4- and IPv6-hosted sites. But
longer term, users with IPv6-only end
devices will not be able to access legacy
IPv4 services without some intermediate

Comcast will be able to operate in
dual-stack mode “for a bit,” Brzozowski
said, without specifying a time horizon
until IPv4 addresses would run out. “We
are really laser-focused on enabling
IPv6, and once we have network-wide
coverage, then we can have a conversation
about what comes next,” he said.


25% of North American ISPs have deployed IPv6 to
date, but 100% plan to do so by the end of 2012.

23% of ISPs worldwide have moved to IPv6; 35% say
they plan to do so this year.

48% of European ISPs and 20% of Latin American
providers expect to implement the next-gen protocol in 2012.

Survey of 67 ISPs worldwide by Nominum, a provider of
DNS-based applications and solutions for service providers