IPv6 gathering momentum

We're continuing to use up the internet's IPv4 addresses, but the next-generation IPv6 is finally beginning to pick up steam in no small part because of 4G smartphones.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Ordinary users don't have to worry about switching from the old-style IPv4 internet to IPv6 ... yet. Businesses are another matter. Europe, the Middle East, and some of Central Asia ran out IPv4 addresses in 2012. The rest of Asia used up the last of its IPv4 addresses in 2011. The United States, Canada, and most of the Caribbean Islands? We're due to use up the last of our American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) assigned addresses on January 6, 2015. Lucky us.

It's taken years, but IPv6, thanks in large part to 4G smartphones and tablets, is finally catching on.
Image: Google

Fortunately, we are slowly, ever so slowly, moving to IPv6. In no small part, that's because of the growth of 4G phones and tablets.

As Phil Roberts, technology program manager for the Internet Society, wrote, "This week, the internet passed a significant milestone in global IPv6 deployment: The percentage of users reaching Google services over IPv6 crossed the 2 percent threshold, according to Google's regularly published statistics. This is still a relatively small percentage, of course, but it is important as a measure of increased usage of IPv6 globally."

Two percent? Really? Really, that's a a big deal? Yes, it is.

Another way of looking at this increase is that in "just slightly less than a year, the amount of IPv6 traffic has doubled ... and after so many years with so little growth, the trend line now is moving in the right direction."

Companies and governments have been resisting switching from IPv4 to IPv6 like a kid fighting going to sleep at bedtime. Telecomms, which need lots of internet addresses, have been embracing IPv6.

Roberts continued: "This bodes well for continued IPv6 deployment. We have recently seen many network operators around the world start rolling out IPv6 to their subscribers, and many network operators who had already begun that process have continued to increase their own offerings."

Dan York, a senior content strategist with the Internet Society and CircleID blogger, thinks IPv6 is finally growing because of many factors. "Obviously, there was the World IPv6 Launch last year that brought together a great number of the network operators and content providers who all enabled IPv6, including many of the largest websites in the world. We've also seen very large deployments, such as Comcast's network in the US. I also suspect that the rising deployment of LTE networks in the wireless space is contributing, as much of that deployment has involved IPv6 from the start."

Yes, that's right. Your 4G phone may already be using an IPv6 address. By April 2013, over 25 percent of Verizon Wireless traffic was over IPv6. As 4G traffic increases, so will IPv6's usage share.

Slowly and quietly, IPv6 really is moving into the internet. As we continue to run out of IPv4 addresses, it can't come quickly enough.

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