05 Nov 2015

IPv6 and the telecoms industry

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IPv4 is running out and the problems that this causes get more acute every day. How bad is it? ARIN, the regional internet registry covering North America, recently exhausted its supply completely, meaning that companies in the region can now only attain addresses through trading.

Cisco estimates that 50 billion devices will be online by 2020, and Ericsson says 90% of the world’s population will use a mobile phone by then. To fulfil the potential of the IoT, each device will need an IP address. 

However, IPv4 only has 4.3 billion addresses. The solution is IPv6, which offers the same functionality as IPv4 but there’s far more of it: 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses. 

This means there’s an immediate opportunity for telecoms providers to lead IPv6 adoption. Not only will this safeguard the future growth of the Internet, but it can also give a significant strategic advantage. 

In the short term, IPv4 trading can prolong IPv4’s lifespan. However, as IPv4 shortages become more severe, the price per address will rise. This is a dangerous market; at the point when obtaining IPv4 costs more than rolling out IPv6, there will be a sudden shift and IPv4’s value will plummet.

Some people argue there are alternative workarounds like carrier-grade NAT, which can extend the life of IPv4. However, NATs cannot scale indefinitely and have to be layered, creating complex routing tables, and if something breaks it will affect lots of people instead of just one person. 

These repercussions can be expensive to manage and fix. Many business communication and collaboration tools also need end-to-end connectivity, rendered impossible by NATs.

The next generation of technology, from the IoT to driver-less cars to healthcare, will only be possible with end-to-end connections. Apple already requires all new apps to support IPv6 so that developers and customers won’t be caught short when IPv6 takes off. 

Telecoms providers can attract innovators by offering a future-proofed environment. IPv6 is gaining momentum at an exponential rate; the number of users accessing Google over IPv6 has increased from just over 2% to nearly 9% in just two years. 

Waiting for IPv6 to gain even more momentum will undoubtedly mean missing out on a number of opportunities – and customers. This is especially important when you remember that IPv4 and IPv6 don’t speak the same language, so if you have an IPv4-only network, no one using IPv6 can access your product. 

IPv6 as the global standard is inevitable – there’s simply no other way for the Internet to work in the future. The telecoms industry is the best placed to take the lead, ushering in a new generation of technological innovation with infinite possibilities.



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