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This Thursday, 6 June, marks one year since World IPv6 Launch. The Launch was about turning IPv6 on by default, for websites, for ISPs and for equipment vendors, and leaving it turned on. We saw a significant uptick in the availability of IPv6-enabled content as a result of the Launch. But what growth has there been since then? If World IPv6 Launch was an attempt to bootstrap the IPv6 deployment process across the Internet industry, is there anything measurements can tell us about how successful that has been?

As we'll explore in more detail below, measurements show that many major network operators all over the globe have made huge strides in IPv6 deployment to their subscribers and this is driving a measurable increase in the volumes of IPv6 traffic seen at large aggregation points. The growth of this IPv6 traffic suggests IPv6 could be the dominant Internet protocol within six years. 

When trying to answer the general question of how broadly IPv6 is being used on the Internet, we have to resort to multiple measurements of different pieces of the answer to build up an overall picture. And inevitably each of those pieces is subject to caveats and debates about methodology, accuracy, applicability and so on. To draw robust conclusions we need to use multiple measures, and look for broadly similar results.

Take measurements of IPv6 traffic growth from content providers and other large aggregation points like Internet exchanges for example. In the year since June 2012, Google's IPv6 statistics have recorded a doubling in the percentage of their users that access their services over IPv6, from 0.75% to 1.5%.

Over the same period DECIX in Germany shows growth from 4G to 13G peak IPv6 traffic. Here the absolute numbers are less interesting than the ratio of IPv6 to IPv4 traffic. The figures for peak IPv4 traffic over the same period are 1.8T and 2.5T. A few seconds with a calculator tells us that is an increase in the percentage of exchange traffic that is IPv6 from 0.22% to 0.52%, more than doubling. Looking at AMSIX in the Netherlands we find growth rates just less than 2x for the period. 

For another reference point to get our bearings as we float around on the sea of IPv6-related measurement data we can turn to APNIC's IPv6 measurement study which reports the levels of IPv6 capability on end hosts. This shows an even more rapid growth over the period from 0.5% in mid-2012 to 1.86% now, a growth rate of nearer 4x.

Based on these inputs from highly aggregated data sources, we can reasonably talk about a doubling of levels of IPv6 deployment in the year since World IPv6 Launch, and observe that if growth rates continue in this fashion we'll see IPv6 deployment levels in excess of 50% within 6 years. Of course these are relatively long-term projections from very small changes and relatively small numbers, but the consistency across multiple sources suggests the trend is robust.

Another set of measurements that help us with a piece of the answer are the network operator measurements published monthly that show levels of IPv6 deployment on a per operator basis using source data from Facebook, Google and Yahoo!. In the year since Launch, the number of operators registered for measurement (and measurable by the methodology being used) has grown from 65 to 110.

From these data we can observe the significant progress made by operators like AT&T (4% to 9%), Swisscom (1% to 15%), XS4ALL (4% to 16%) and Verizon Wireless (7% to 31%). We can also observe that for networks where IPv6 deployment is pervasive, like Virginia Tech, IPv6 deployment measurements in excess of 50% are commonplace. This will continue to grow as legacy operating systems and applications that struggle to support IPv6 get replaced.

swisscom ipv6 deploymentchart showing at&t ipv6 deployment

chart showing verizon wireless ipv6 deploymentxs4all ipv6 deployment chart

It's also worth noting the major networks that have joined the Launch since 2012: Deutsche Telekom, Softbank, Chubu Telecommunications, Telefonica del Peru and VOO. The Belgian operator VOO has made huge strides in just the last 3 months and now has measured IPv6 deployment of nearly 23%. So we're seeing major operators, globally distributed, taking the initiative to successfully deploy IPv6 at scale and this is what is driving up the traffic measures mentioned above.

All of these measurements indicate that IPv6 deployment is happening at scale and in a global fashion. Of course there is a very long tail of web content and services that is not yet IPv6 capable, and there are many more networks that have yet to deploy, but the data we have suggest these are challenges to be addressed rather than reasons for despair. Nobody can predict the future, and that's especially true when we're talking about the future of the Internet, but for IPv6 deployment at least, the signs are promising.

Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! have agreed to continue providing network operator measurements through 2013. If your network is enabling IPv6 you can sign up for the Launch and be included in these measurements by signing up here

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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