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What’s IPv6 and Why Should I Care?

World IPv6 logoIPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is the latest version of the Internet Protocol – the method by which devices (including those which are available publicly as websites) link together and communicate with each other.  It also enables Smartphones, laptops, tablets and other mobile devices to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots and use mobile data. That little router blinking in the corner of your living room supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) wouldn’t connect to the ISP exchange circuits without using the Internet Protocol.

2013 is likely to be the biggest year yet in the switch to IPv6 for homes, business and internet providers alike.

World IPv6 Launch Day

On June 8th 2012 IPv6 was ‘officially launched’.    Although IPv6 has been around since before June of last year, the launch was intended to raise awareness of the fact that IPv4 addresses have all but run out.

As you will gather, World IPv6 Launch Day was not really a launch, more a marketing initiative to raise awareness amongst the industry and public that the move from IPv4 to IPv6 is imminent.  A few providers permanently turned on their IPv6 equipment to ensure it works together with their IPv4 equipment, but there are thousands more ISPs and internet hosts who have no IPv6 capability as of yet.

How will it affect me?

IPv4 is now doomed and with every passing day the requirement to migrate your hardware and software to IPv6 only grows. If you do not have IPv6 capability or connectivity you may not experience any issues – yet. It may take years for the accumulated number of websites and devices to migrate to IPv6, but new businesses and service providers are rolling it out as a matter of course and any new piece of equipment to be used online or which will have access to the Internet should be IPv6 enabled.

That router you just bought which only works with IPv4 will shortly be obsolete.

What problems might I encounter at home?

The problems arise if you are connecting to the internet via a router which you have bought yourself. If the router was supplied by the ISP from whom your service is provided, they have a duty of care to provide equipment which is ‘fit for purpose’. You can fire off an email to your service provider asking a few pertinent questions about IPv6, and they should respond with the correct answers. Though, as this is a technical issue you may find it takes several years to connect to a live person at your ISP helpline!

If you have any hardware on your home network which isn’t IPv6 enabled, you will have issues if the service you are trying to connect to is IPv6 only and you have only IPv4 capability. Network printers, game stations and other network devices such as switches may become obsolete overnight. If you run a business it is imperative you check how you may be affected.

The questions to ask?

There are several questions you can ask your ISP; however, in the main you may want to limit them to the following which are more pertinent:

  • When will you start supporting IPv6?
  • Am I currently IPv6 enabled?

I tested a few ISP helplines to evaluate the knowledge around IPv6 and the response was disappointing. Neither BT nor Virgin were able to answer my questions. In fact, one of the call center operators (no names or company mentioned here) admitted to using Google to try to answer my query whilst I was speaking to them.

Most of the modern operating systems support IPv6 as standard; the following all support the latest IP release:

  • Windows Vista, Windows 7 & Windows 8
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS

Windows Phone 7.5 doesn’t offer it yet but Windows 8 does. Android v2.0 (and older versions) do not support it. Therefore if you have any device which has an OS other than these you may have issues in the future, regardless of the hardware you are using to connect to the internet.

You can also read our roundup of how IPv6 affects IP CCTV.

We, like most companies, are not quite yet ready for the switchover. Moving to an IPv6 infrastructure for a multi-location company such as NW is costly and time-consuming, but we have, at least, begun the process and are in a good place for switching over when we must.

Be aware and don’t get caught out. You may not have any connectivity issues right now but things will change. If a service provider sends you any information about connectivity and/or IPv6 check it over carefully.

The last thing you want is to one day find your shiny Smartphone, tablet, laptop or other internet enabled device is no longer internet enabled.

My real barometer of change will happen when the BBC or Google announce that they are dropping IPv4 support – that’s when everyone will be forced to migrate and, as humans, that’s how most of us will make the transition.

Feel free to ask questions on any IP Camera or security surveillance subject on our Twitter, Google+ or Facebook page or add comments below.

Published on January 12th, 2013 by Kevin Bowyer

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