Three reasons why ISPs should deploy IPv6 now

Guest blog from George Michaelson, Senior R&D Scientist, APNIC
7 July 2016

The need to move to IPv6 is something that ISPs have known about for many years. Despite this, adoption of IPv6 across New Zealand’s ISPs has been low. According to APNIC Labs statistics, current IPv6 capability across NZ’s Internet infrastructure is about 2%.  

There have been a few reasons for this slow uptake. IPv6 is different from IPv4 and requires network operators to upgrade technology and invest in training for their technical staff. Network Address Translation (NAT) technology has allowed ISPs to extend the life of their IPv4 networks. And despite IPv4 scarcity in the APNIC region, ISPs have (in recent years) been able to make do with the IPv4 address space they do have.

However, in the past 12 months, IPv4 scarcity has begun to bite: billions more devices have connected to the Internet, and four of the five Regional Internet Registries have exhausted their available IPv4 supplies.

This has resulted in a sharper focus on IPv6 and rapid growth in IPv6 adoption globally from 2% to 6% in the past two years (with Google now seeing 12% of its visitors via IPv6). In particular, large ISPs in the United States and Europe have deployed IPv6, as well as content providers such as Facebook.

What about NZ? Here are three reasons why ISPs should seriously consider deploying IPv6 now.

1.  Unstoppable network growth

Billions of new devices are predicted to connect to the Internet in the next five years as the Internet of Things becomes a reality. Each of these ‘things’ will require IP addresses. 

While NAT technology has helped extend the life of IPv4, it was never intended to be a long-term solution to address scarcity. IPv6, on the other hand, offers an enormous number of addresses: a future Internet of 100 trillion devices would only consume a mere 5% of the available IPv6 space. 

Unlike IPv4, IPv6 addresses are easy to obtain to help ISPs cope with this growth.

2. IPv6 is becoming more economical

Deploying IPv6 has been viewed by many ISPs as a costly exercise best left until it is absolutely needed. However, the economics are shifting in favour of IPv6.

A strategy of relying on NAT systems and buying expensive IPv4 addresses via the private transfer market means ISPs will need to continually revisit address sourcing, network scaling and network complexity problems as the demands on the network continue to expand.

Dan Alexander, a network engineer from Comcast – America’s largest ISP with IPv6 capability of 62% and growing – says the reoccurrence of these problems makes IPv6 more economical:  

“When you look at how many devices we would like to provision, continuing to try and buy IPv4 addresses and propagate that model and the amount of money that it would require, it’s actually cheaper to deploy v6.”

Planning ahead can minimize the costs of IPv6 deployment; for instance, by ensuring IPv6 capabilities are gained within normal hardware and software upgrade cycles. APNIC also provides low-cost IPv6 training to help network operators develop the skills and expertise needed to manage an IPv6 network.

3. Improve performance

Increasing network complexity due to widespread NAT usage has a performance cost for Internet users. A growing body of evidence from content providers who have deployed IPv6 is showing that users are enjoying a better experience accessing content via IPv6 compared to IPv4.

LinkedIn and Facebook have both reported performance benefits for users accessing their sites using IPv6 – in LinkedIn’s case, they report that in Europe they have seen up to 40% faster performance accessing their content over IPv6 on mobile networks.

Internet users are already drawn to speed as a key part of their decision when selecting an ISP. As content providers continue to shift to IPv6, ISPs that offer IPv6 connectivity will gain an extra edge in the performance stakes.

There are many more reasons to go IPv6.  For more information, visit APNIC blogs here.

ENDS.

IPv6 is one of the issues that ISPs are rated on in the ISP Spotlight website. See more here:
ISP Spotlight