IPv6: Are Scandinavian countries really leading the world?

Official figures put Norway as the most IPv6 enabled country on the globe, with other countries in the region also putting in a strong showing - but how far is Scandinavia really ahead of the US and the UK?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Scandinavian nations supposedly have a higher number of IPv6-enabled networks than any other region. But if that's true, why were ISP networks from these nations all but absent on IPv6 Launch Day?

According to the latest figures by RIPE Ncc, the EMEA region's internet address regulator, Norway is the world's leader when it comes to IPv6 enabled networks.

As of June 1, 56 per cent of Norway's networks were 'IPv6 enabled' while fellow Scandinavian nations, Sweden (33 per cent), Finland (29 per cent), Iceland (35 per cent), and Denmark (27 per cent) were also seemingly ahead of the IPv6 enablement curve.

Taken at face value, the figures seem to show Scandinavian nations were well-prepared for IPv6, trailing the US (9 percent), the UK (20 per cent), Australia (18 per cent) and China (13 per cent) in their digital dust.

Ultimately, all these nations will all embrace IPv6 in time, but are Scandinavian nations really more organised than their southern neighbours when it comes to actually delivering IPv6 to end users?

The "unfortunate truth" about World IPv6 Launch Day for Sweden was that not a single network participated, says Jorgen Eriksson, the IPv6 project manager for Sweden's top level domain authority, .SE.

Last week's Launch Day was intended as an exercise in generating user awareness and allowed ISPs, among others, to announce their switch to IPv6.

While numerous websites in Norway and Sweden supported the launch, the only network participant from 'the most IPv6 enabled' nation in the world was Uninet, Norway's university network.

So how did Norway become the most IPv6 enabled nation with just one participant at launch?

More Norwegian networks have acquired an IPv6 prefix which allows them to 'announce' IPv6 to their peers and providers, explains Tore Anderson, Norwegian network and infrastructure manager at Swedish-headquartered open source company Redpill Linpro.

"It is certainly not the case that over 50 percent of Norwegian end users can access the IPv6 internet. I measure the Norwegian end-user IPv6 capability, and it is currently at about 0.3 percent," says Anderson.

Prefix vs enablement

Anderson's figures roughly align with Google's count of 0.5 percent for Norway. To register as IPv6 enabled under Google's figures requires that all links in the chain, including device, router, and the ISP, have enabled IPv6.

ISP enablement is critical to delivering IPv6 for the end user, since no matter what gear the end-user has, they can't transmit IPv6 data without the support of an ISP.

Google's IPv6 enablement figures for Europe place France and Romania as the continent's leaders, with over five percent of each nation's Google user-base actually able to connect to its IPv6 websites. China (0.59 percent) and the US (0.96 percent) are also ahead of Norway (0.52 percent), according to Google's figures.

Figures based on an IPv6 prefix used by a network can be misleading, according to Bill Cerveny, a quality assurance engineer for US network monitoring company Arbor Networks.

"A network may advertise an IPv6 prefix for which there are very few nodes actually transiting IPv6.

"Because a network is advertising a prefix, [it] doesn't necessarily indicate that there is any significant IPv6 traffic on this network or significant number of users able to access the global IPv6 Internet infrastructure on this network."

So, like most nations, Norway and Sweden have really only just begun their migration to IPv6.

Redpill Linpro's Anderson is only aware of two Norwegian ISPs that have made IPv6 available to end-users on a permanent basis: Lynet, a smaller FTTP ISP in Oslo, and Powertech, a medium sized enterprise-focused ISP that runs both copper and fibre networks.

That would put Norway roughly on par with Australia where the only commercial ISP that has enabled IPv6 permanently for consumers from 6 June is Internode.

Meanwhile, Telenor, Norway's incumbent carrier, and Get, the country's second largest provider, won't enable IPv6 until 2013 and late 2012 respectively.

Sweden has IPv6 constraints of its own with IPv6 there driven by explicit customer demand- or lack of it, says Olle E Johansson founder of IPv6 Forum Sweden.

"There's no movement in Sweden. One of the problems is that if no person asks for it or requires it, no vendor delivers it," says Johansson.

"We just need [ISPs] to have IPv6 as part of their standard offering to customers."

.SE's Eriksson confirmed IPv6 is request driven, pointing out that the ISPs Bahnhof, IP-only, TDC and Tele2 provide it to corporate customers only.

Johnny Aspman, chief executive officer of Bahnhof says it has IPv6 in trial mode today, but it can't deliver IPv6 to end users until the 80-plus owners behind the 150 networks that make up Sweden's open access last mile network swap out infrastructure to support IPv6 or dual stack.

That means networks might offer IPv6 on a business to business basis, but not a single operator in Sweden offers IPv6 to end-users commercially.

"Everybody's talking about it, but it takes time," says Bahnhof's Aspman.

"Today we can manage with the IP addresses we have but within six, 12 or 18 months we'll be forced to go to IPv6 of course."

And that puts Scandinavian nations in roughly the same spot as the rest of the world.

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