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Next-Gen Internet: Ready for Liftoff?

The Internet’s next-generation protocol —
IPv6 — is set to go live more broadly this summer in the U.S.,
at least for part of the Web.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T are among the
Internet-service providers that have committed to participate
in the World IPv6 Launch on June 6, 2012. The
event, organized by the not-for-profit Internet Society, will
also encompass website operators and home-networking
equipment vendors and is aimed at catalyzing the transition
to IPv6.

The move to IPv6 is becoming urgent as the pool of 4.3
billion available addresses in the current IPv4 nears exhaustion.

The ISPs participating in World IPv6 Launch will enable
IPv6 for enough users so that at least 1% of their wireline residential
subscribers who visit participating websites will do
so using IPv6 by June 6. Other service providers that have
initially pledged support include Free Telecom, Internode,

“IPv6 deployment is a key priority for Comcast in 2012,
and we’re excited to participate in this Internet Society event
that will help catalyze action around the world on this important
transition,” John Schanz, Comcast’s executive vice
president and chief network officer, said in a statement.

U.S. Internet-service providers probably have about a
year’s supply of IPv4 addresses left, but Asian and European
ISPs are already being forced to activate users with IPv6
connections, according to John Curran, president and CEO
of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which allocates
IP address space to ISPs and other organizations in
North America and parts of the Caribbean.

IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible, so without some kind
of translation layer, websites and other Internet servers hosted
on IPv4 are invisible to users with IPv6-only end devices
(and vice versa). ISPs are expected to provide large-scale
translation for IPv6-only customers to reach existing Internet
sites, but “we don’t really know how well that will work,” Curran said in a recent interview, urging content providers
to IPv6-enable their websites as quickly as possible.

The first group of Web content companies that are participating
in World IPv6 Launch includes Facebook, Google, Microsoft
Bing and Yahoo. They will enable IPv6 on their main
websites permanently beginning June 6.

In addition, two home-networking equipment manufacturers
— Cisco Systems and D-Link — have said they will
enable IPv6 by default across their home router products by
June 6.