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ipv6 logo with a link to www.worldipv6launch.orgWorld IPv6 Launch was about turning IPv6 on by default, for websites, for ISPs and for equipment vendors, and leaving it turned on. As we discussed in Monday's post, this resulted in significant deployment then and increased deployment since. And all indications are that this is increasing and will continue to do so.

We pointed out that major networks from around the world have joined the Launch since 2012 including Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Softbank and Chubu Telecommunications in Japan, Telefonica del Peru in Peru, and VOO in Belgium. And although global traffic levels for IPv6 are small, they have increased substantially over the few years and seem to be accelerating in places.

All of this is good news for IPv6 deployment, and good news for IPv6 deployment is good news for a healthy open Internet continuing to thrive into the future.

But work clearly remains to be done. Of the over 100 network operators that are measurable in the ongoing measurements we do for World IPv6 Launch, only a handful of these are mobile operators. Verizon Wireless is a wonderful success story for IPv6, being among the largest deployments worldwide and with a whopping 30% of traffic from their networks to the major websites being carried over IPv6.  It is clear from discussions with mobile operators around the world that many have plans to deploy IPv6 at a commercial scale and on by default, and that they are working through the remaining obstacles preventing them from doing that.

To see other areas where work remains to be done, it is worth exploring some of what shapes the particular traffic measurements for ISPs.  Between a website that has IPv6 enabled and a user with an IPv6-enabled device there are several networking components. There are often transit networks in between the website and the network where the user resides. The story here is good - there’s a lot of IPv6 transit capability now. There is also the network providing access service to the end user. Much of what we discussed in this blog last week was about progress in these networks.  The news is good, but deployment in these networks around the world is still in its infancy and much more needs to be done.

The final piece between a website and an end user with an IPv6-enabled device is the network in the home. This network often consists of many devices. Both the number of devices and the kinds of devices that are networked continues to increase. The device closest to the network operator is usually some kind of gateway or home router that may or may not have been provided by the network operator. Home routers connect all the devices in the home with the network providing Internet service. So, if a home router is not capable of forwarding IPv6 traffic, then an IPv6-enabled device inside that home will not be able to use web content and other Internet services that are available over IPv6, even if the access network provides that capability. These devices provide one limit to the amount of IPv6 traffic being seen at a website from an access network.

Part of World IPv6 Launch last year included providers of off-the-shelf home routers. Several of these vendors made a commitment to ship devices with IPv6 enabled by default. As more of these devices are easily available to consumers, there will be fewer obstacles in this realm between connecting an IPv6-enabled device and the content and services available using IPv6 in the Internet.

Traditionally the main devices using the Internet in the home were personal computers. Newer personal computers will have IPv6 capabilities.  Desktops or laptops running newer versions of Windows or MacOS come with IPv6. There are still a lot of older devices that either have no IPv6 capability, or require users to enable something to use IPv6, or worse, require users to install something to use IPv6. This mix provides another current limit to the amount of IPv6 traffic showing up at major websites from IPv6 enabled networks. Users with older devices simply will not be using IPv6 because it isn’t able or hasn’t been turned on. The good news here is like that of home routers: as new technologies get deployed, the percentage of devices without IPv6 will continue to decline. According to the latest Desktop Operating System Market Share analysis by Net Applications, the global market share of Windows XP has declined to 38%. 

There is, of course, a range of other devices in the home now being connected to the Internet including televisions and related gadgets and game boxes. The news here is less good. Many of these devices are being rolled out and installed in home networks and connected to the Internet without any IPv6 capabilities at all. They are contributing increased traffic to the Internet that is not IPv6 traffic. This is an area that still needs a lot of work.

The campus networks in the World IPv6 Launch networks show typically a much higher IPv6 penetration than residential networks. Thinking about the above components of home networks it’s clear that much of it doesn’t apply on a campus network. It’s more often the case that students are using newer technology than what one might find in the typical home and campuses that have committed to deploying IPv6 are more likely to see to it that all the required networking components in their network are upgraded.  So there are fewer impediments to using IPv6 in such settings.

Much of the above doesn’t apply “much” to mobile networks. There clearly are options to convert your mobile network into your home ISP but most experiences of mobile are still a number of devices attached directly to the mobile network (when they are using the mobile network and not a home LAN).  So, when IPv6 is enabled on devices for those networks the uptake is direct and noticeable. Verizon Wireless is a case in point for this.  As LTE has rolled out and its uptake has grown, all of their LTE-enabled devices that use IPv6 automatically start showing up at the big websites over IPv6. So it’s not a surprise that their numbers have grown rapidly. As other mobile networks roll out IPv6 on new devices, one would expect their traffic on IPv6 to grow rapidly as well, given the high rate of turnover with new devices on mobile networks.

Given the progress on IPv6 as demonstrated in the last year, and the large amount of available IPv6 deployment information, what obstacles remain that are keeping you from deploying IPv6 in your network?

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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