Telkom’s IP Connect network is IPv4-only, but according to Graham Beneke, network engineer at Neology, there are ways for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in SA to work around the limitation to provide IPv6 addresses.
The Internet Society has deemed today (6 June 2012) “World IPv6 Launch Day” and has arranged that a number of large ISPs, home networking equipment manufacturers, and websites participate in the event.
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are needed to route packets around a network, including the Internet, and many industry bodies have been warning that the number of addresses is close to running out.
IP version 6 (IPv6) was developed to replace IPv4 and offers around 340 undecillion (which is 340 followed by 36 zeroes) as opposed to the 4 billion or so IPv4 addresses.
Much has been written about the imminent exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, with some prominent geeks and techies predicting that IPv4 would be commonly used for a number of years still.
So, is the Internet’s sky really falling?
“The Asia-Pacific region is already in the rationing phase of IPv4 address allocations,” said Beneke, who is also co-Chair of the Internet Service Providers’ Association working group. “The European region is expected to reach the same phase before the end of this year.”
What this means in more technical terms, Beneke explained, is that there are only enough IPv4 addresses available for the NAT (network address translation) gateways inside the operator networks.
“Many users in these regions are only able to host publicly reachable services on IPv6 addresses,” Beneke said.
Benefit to users
Asked how users would benefit from a switch to IPv6, Beneke explained that as IPv4 addresses run out, network operators will be forced to stop providing customers with public IPs on their Internet services.
“Large NATs will be placed in the network cores and features like port forwarding and UPnP will no longer be available,” Beneke said.
Those using IPv6 will not be affected by this and hosted services, peer-to-peer and protocols like VoIP will continue to work without problems.
Beneke warned that users on certain operating systems may experience slow downs or latency to some sites if their system attempts to tunnel to an IPv6 website.
“Most recent releases of the popular OSs will automatically choose the optimal protocol based on available connections,” Beneke said.
Beneke said that users can test the IPv6 status of their PC by visiting http://test-ipv6.co.za/.
Is SA ready?
Commenting on South Africa’s readiness, Beneke said that Neology has been running IPv6 natively for over a year and that “a number of ISPs” are getting IPv6 connectivity from them.
“We also peer with a number of other networks at JINX [Johannesburg Internet Exchange] who are at various stages of their IPv6 roll-out,” Beneke said.
Beneke also punted Neology’s “neoSIX” range of products that can be used to provide IPv6 services over IPv4.
“‘neoSIX’ is currently being used to IPv6-enable the MyBroadband website,” Beneke said.
Using IPv6 rapid deployment technology (6RD, which Neology also provides, Beneke pointed out), it is also practical to provide South African ADSL users with IPv6 connectivity.
“Along with 6RD ADSL routers that are already available in South Africa a user gets an automatically configured IPv6 connection,” Beneke said.