What is IPv6, and why is adoption taking so long? (2022)

IPv6 has been in the works since 1998 to address the shortfall of IP addresses available under IPv4, yet despite its efficiency and security advantages, enterprise uptake is slow

By Josh Fruhlinger

Contributing writer, Network World |

What is IPv6, and why is adoption taking so long? (2)
(Video) IPv6 space, simplification, and adoption

For the most part the dire warnings about running out of internet addresses have ceased because, slowly but surely, migration from the world of Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) to IPv6 has begun, and software is in place to prevent the address apocalypse that many were predicting.

But before we see where are and where we’re going with IPv6, let’s go back to the early days of internet addressing.

What is IPv6 and why is it important?

IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol, which identifies devices across the internet so they can be located. Every device that uses the internet is identified through its own IP address in order for internet communication to work. In that respect, it’s just like the street addresses and zip codes you need to know in order to mail a letter.

The previous version, IPv4, uses a 32-bit addressing scheme to support 4.3 billion devices, which was thought to be enough at the time it was implemented. However, with the growth of the internet, personal computers, smartphones and now Internet of Things, it became clear that the world needed more addresses.

Fortunately, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) recognized this nearly 25 years ago. In 1998, it created IPv6, which instead uses 128-bit addressing to support approximately 340 trillion trillion (or 2 to the 128th power). Instead of the IPv4 address method of four sets of one- to three-digit numbers, IPv6 uses eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, separated by colons.

What are the benefits of IPv6?

In its work, the IETF not only added more address space, it included enhancements to IPv6 compared with IPv4. The IPv6 protocol can handle packets more efficiently, improve performance and increase security. It enables internet service providers to reduce the size of their routing tables by making them more hierarchical.

What do IPv6 addresses look like

You're probably familiar with IPv4 addresses, which are written in four parts separated by dots like this: 45.48.241.198. Each part written in conventional Base 10 numerals represents an eight-bit binary number from 0 to 255 (000000 to 1111111, written in binary).

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An IPv6 address looks like this: 2620:cc:8000:1c82:544c:cc2e:f2fa:5a9b. Instead of four numbers, there are eight, and they’re separated by colons rather than commas. And yes, they are all numbers. There are letters in there because IPv6 addresses are written in hexadecimal (Base 16) notation, which means 16 different symbols are required to uniquely represent the Base 10 numbers 1-16. The ones used are numerals 0-9 plus letters A-F. Each of these numbers represents a 16-bit binary number ranging from 000000000000 to 11111111111111.

Network address translation (NAT) and IPv6

Adoption of IPv6 has been delayed in part due to network address translation (NAT), which takes private IP addresses and turns them into public IP addresses. That way a corporate machine with a private IP address can send and receive packets from machines located outside the private network that have public IP addresses.

Without NAT, large corporations with thousands or tens of thousands of computers would devour enormous quantities of public IPv4 addresses if they wanted to communicate with the outside world. But those IPv4 addresses are limited and nearing exhaustion to the point of having to be rationed.

NAT helps alleviate the problem. With NAT, thousands of privately addressed computers can be presented to the public internet by a NAT machine such as a firewall or router.

The way NAT works is when a corporate computer with a private IP address sends a packet to a public IP address outside the corporate network, it first goes to the NAT device. The NAT notes the packet’s source and destination addresses in a translation table.

The NAT changes the source address of the packet to the public-facing address of the NAT device and sends it along to the external destination. When a packet replies, the NAT translates the destination address to the private IP address of the computer that initiated the communication. This can be done so that a single public IP address can represent multiple privately addressed computers.

Who is deploying IPv6?

As of March 2022, according to Google, the IPv6 adoption rate globally is around 34%, but in the U.S. it’s at about 46%.

Carrier networks and ISPs have been the first group to start deploying IPv6 on their networks, with mobile networks leading the charge. For example, T-Mobile USA has more than 90% of its traffic going over IPv6 as of March 2002, with Verizon Wireless close behind at 82.63%. Comcast and AT&T have their networks at 70% and 73%, respectively, according to the industry group World Ipv6 Launch. The past few years have seen broader IPv6 adoption in Asia and South America, with India currently standing at about 62% and the Indian wireless carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm topping World Ipv6 Launch's network adoption charts with more than 93%.

Just under 30% of the Alexa Top 1000 websites are currently reachable over IPv6, World IPv6 Launch says, a number that has remained stubbornly stagnant over recent years.

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Enterprises are trailing in deployment. For instance, a RIPE Labs report on IPv6 adoption noted that U.S. use of IPv6 actually dropped from 2020 to 2021, and speculated that the reason might be that people who had worked at home early in the COVID-19 pandemic were returning to the office and IPv4-based corporate networks.

Complexity, costs, and time needed to complete a transition are all reasons that corporate IT is gun-shy over migration projects. In addition, many medium-sized and small enterprises outsource their networking needs to service providers, who themselves don't have a strong incentive to migrate in the absence of a push from their customers.

When will more deployments occur?

Enterprise resistance to large-scale IPv6 migration is slowing adoption overall. Patrick Hunter, Charter Communications' director of IT enterprise network and telecom, lays out many of the factors in play, noting that while most network administrators know migration is inevitable, nobody wants to necessarily wants to be a pioneer if the risk is causing problems for their own networks and applications.

As he puts it, admins have the attitude of "I’m not going to break things and make life difficult just because some insist everyone should hurry to the new protocol." Not all companies are resisting—Amazon is migrating its serverless and container AWS workloads to IPv6. But inertia, plus the fact that, as noted, widespread NAT use has staved off an IPv4 apocalypse, have reduced the incentives to make the move. The transition may not be complete until 2030 or later.

Nevertheless, as the price of IPv4 addresses begin to drop, the Internet Society suggests that enterprises sell off their existing IPv4 addresses to help fund IPv6 deployment. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has done this, according to a note posted on GitHub. The university concluded that 8 million of its IPv4 addresses were “excess” and could be sold without impacting current or future needs since it also holds 20 nonillion IPv6 addresses. (A nonillion is the numeral one followed by 30 zeroes.)

In addition, as more deployments occur, more companies will start charging for the use of IPv4 addresses, while providing IPv6 services for free. UK-based ISP Mythic Beasts says “IPv6 connectivity comes as standard,” while “IPv4 connectivity is an optional extra.”

Pushing for a faster transition will take government action, though many Western governments don't have this on their to-do list. One country moving to IPv6 in a big way is China. In 2021, the Cyberspace Administration of China unveiled an ambitious roadmap, aiming to have 800 million active IPv6 users by the end of 2025.

When will IPv4 be “shut off”?

Most of the world “ran out” of new IPv4 addresses between 2011 and 2018 – but we won’t completely be out of them as IPv4 addresses get sold and re-used, and any leftover addresses will be used for IPv6 transitions.

There’s no official switch-off date, so people shouldn’t be worried that their internet access will suddenly go away one day. As more networks transition, more content sites support IPv6 and more end users upgrade their equipment for IPv6 capabilities, the world will slowly move away from IPv4.

(Video) What Is IPv6? | IPv4 versus IPv6 Explained

Why is there no IPv5?

There was an IPv5 that was also known as Internet Stream Protocol, abbreviated simply as ST. It was designed for connection-oriented communications across IP networks with the intent of supporting voice and video.

It was successful at that task, and was used experimentally. One shortcoming that undermined its popular use was its 32-bit address scheme – the same scheme used by IPv4. As a result, it had the same problem that IPv4 had – a limited number of possible IP addresses. That led to the development and eventual adoption of IPv6. Even though IPv5 was never adopted publicly, it had used up the name IPv5.

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Related:

  • Networking
  • Internet
  • Internet of Things

Josh Fruhlinger is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles.

(Video) Lightning Talk: IPv6 adoption is killing my throughput

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FAQs

What is IPv6 in networking? ›

An IPv6 address is a 128-bit alphanumeric value that identifies an endpoint device in an Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) network. IPv6 is the successor to a previous addressing infrastructure, IPv4, which had limitations IPv6 was designed to overcome.

Why the transition to IPv6 is so difficult? ›

The first big problem with the change from IPv4 to IPv6 is that one variety of IP data can't travel on a network set up to handle the other variety.

What is the main reason for using IPv6? ›

The main reason for the development of IPv6 was to overcome the problem of IPv4 address exhaustion. With this issue in mind, the IETF also optimized the protocol in the general sense. To understand the need for IPv6 and why it is the successor of IPv4, we'll have to cover IPv4 briefly.

What is the current adoption rate of IPv6? ›

As of April 2022 Google's statistics show IPv6 availability of its users at around 34–38% depending on the day of the week (greater on weekends). Adoption is uneven across countries and Internet service providers. Many countries have 0% use while a few have over 50% use, such as India and Germany.

What is IPv6 in simple words? ›

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet.

Why hasn't IPv6 been fully adopted yet? ›

Adoption of IPv6 has been delayed in part due to network address translation (NAT), which takes private IP addresses and turns them into public IP addresses.

What are the challenges of IPv6? ›

Difficulty in detecting and managing unknown or unauthorized IPv6 assets on existing IPv4 production networks. The added complexity of operating parallel IPv4 and IPv6 networks. A lack of IPv6 maturity in security products. The proliferation of IPv6 and IPv4 tunnels can complicate defenses.

What are the challenges in implementing IPv6 addresses? ›

Top 5 Concerns of Network Admins About Migrating to IPv6 in 2022
  • Concern 1 – Selling the Migration Internally to CIO/CFO.
  • Concern 2 – The Cost.
  • Concern 3 – Complexity.
  • Concern 4 – Dealing with Legacy System Issues.
  • Concern 5 – Cleaning Current IPv4 Inventory.
  • Reflection.
28 Dec 2021

Who is using IPv6 currently? ›

Broadband ISP
RankISPIPv6 Users (estimated)
1Reliance Jio237,600,764
2Comcast36,114,435
3AT&T22,305,974
4Vodafone India18,368,165
14 more rows
6 Jun 2018

Is IPv6 really necessary? ›

Do I need an IPv6 address? No. Not right now. You can still access websites such as Google and Facebook because they support both IPv4 and IPv6.

What are three benefits of using IPv6? ›

Six Benefits Of IPv6
  • More Efficient Routing. IPv6 reduces the size of routing tables and makes routing more efficient and hierarchical. ...
  • More Efficient Packet Processing. ...
  • Directed Data Flows. ...
  • Simplified Network Configuration. ...
  • Support For New Services. ...
  • Security.
8 Jun 2011

Which country has highest IPv6 adoption? ›

Google IPv6 Country Rank
#CountryAdoption
1France71.51%
2India68.5%
3Germany65.1%
4Belgium61.41%
95 more rows
7 Oct 2022

How long will IPv6 last? ›

Will IPv6 addresses run out eventually? In practical terms, no. There are 2^128 or 340 trillion, trillion, trillion IPv6 addresses, which is more than 100 times the number of atoms on the surface of the Earth. This will be more than sufficient to support trillions of Internet devices for the forseeable future.

Will IPv6 ever happen? ›

At our current rate of progress, IPv6 will be fully implemented on May 10, 2148.

What is IPv6 address example? ›

An IPv6 address is represented as eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, each group representing 16 bits The groups are separated by colons (:). An example of an IPv6 address is: 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334.

Is IPv6 faster than IPv4? ›

IPv6 is faster than IPv4 in network devices because it lacks network-address translation (NAT). Using IPv6 is a better choice for people that require high speed for their network processing.

What is the main difference between IPv4 and IPv6? ›

The main difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the address size of IP addresses. The IPv4 is a 32-bit address, whereas IPv6 is a 128-bit hexadecimal address. IPv6 provides a large address space, and it contains a simple header as compared to IPv4.

Why do we still use IPv4 instead of IPv6? ›

IPv4 has a large community and a large library of documentation. IPv6 also has one of the most active communities. There is a routing protocol that is supported by the routed daemon in the case of IPv4. As a result, IPv4 is preferred over IPv6 in terms of routing performance.

Why are companies still using IPv4? ›

By leasing IP addresses instead of buying them, businesses can conserve large amounts of financial resources. The costs of owning IPv4 addresses make leasing a more attractive option to meet your IP resource requirements at a low price.

Why do we use IPv4 instead of IPv6? ›

IPv4 provides an addressing capability of approximately 4.3 billion addresses. The Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is more advanced and has better features compared to IPv4. It has the capability to provide an infinite number of addresses.

Can IPv6 cause connection issues? ›

IPv6 addresses and headers take up more space in the data packet than IPv4 addresses and headers do. Because of this some users are not able to connect to the VPN at all, and others can connect but can't download files, read email, or do other things that use large data payloads in their data packets.

How do I change IPv4 to IPv6? ›

To convert Internet Protocol 4 (IPv4) to Internet Protocol 6 (IPv6), perform the following steps. Open the tool: IPv4 to IPv6 converter. Enter any valid IPv4 address, and click on the "Convert to IPv6" button. The tool will process your request and provide you the converted IPv6 address.

What controls the lifetime of an IPv6 datagram? ›

The hop limit controls the lifetime of an IPv6 datagram. True, lifetime on the network all IP packets have an 8 bit Time to Live (IPv4) or Hop ... If a router (or any IPv6 host) receives an IPv6 packet with a Hop Limit of zero or ...

What do you think is a challenge of supporting both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses? ›

Unless network infrastructure is running what is known as a “dual stack”, i.e. two independent networking stacks that allow the processing and subsequent translation of the two protocols, the infrastructure cannot easily handle both IPv4 and IPv6 at the same time.

How is IPv6 implemented in IPv4 network? ›

Guy Edwards at Oxford University detailed a five-step plan for deploying IPv6 alongside IPv4, based on his own organization's experience.
  1. Perform a network device audit. ...
  2. Perform an audit of services. ...
  3. Build an IPv6 test network. ...
  4. Write a formal deployment plan. ...
  5. Produce a formal IP addressing policy.
16 Oct 2015

What today's network admins are most concerned about? ›

The goal of the network administrator is still high availability, where users experience continual access with no network failures from hardware, software, or security breaches.

Do cell phones use IPv6? ›

Cell phones running Android 4.3 or later come with the 464xlat (a widely supported IPv6 transition mechanism) built-in, although support for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol for IPv6 (DHCPv6) is still missing.

How will IPv6 impact society? ›

Using IPv6 can reduce the resources required to continue to support legacy IPv4 devices, which can also simplify network management and troubleshooting in some cases. Native IPv6 traffic can be expected to perform better and more reliably than IPv4 traffic using transitional techniques.

Is Google on IPv6? ›

Replace those addresses with the Google IP addresses: For IPv4: 8.8.8.8 and/or 8.8.4.4 . For IPv6: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and/or 2001:4860:4860::8844 . For IPv6-only: you can use Google Public DNS64 instead of the IPv6 addresses in the previous point.

How do you know if you are using IPv6? ›

Check connection status

For wired connection through a router, right-click “Ethernet”, and for wireless connection right-click “Wi-Fi”, and then click “Status”. Click “Details”. If you see an IP address for IPv6 within the window marked with a red box, you are connected to the IPv6 network.

How many ip6 addresses are there? ›

IPv6 uses a 128-bit address which allows for 2128 , or approximately 3.4 x 1038 addresses. 3.4 x 1038 is equal to 340 undecillion IP addresses. Therefore, there are 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 IPv6 addresses.

Are all IPv6 addresses public? ›

Both public and private addresses exist in IPv6, but they are totally different in definition and application.

Is IPv6 safer than IPv4? ›

IPv4 vs IPv6 security: which one is safer? IPv6 was made with security in mind, so, when implemented correctly, it is more secure than IPv4. IP Security (IPSec) is a series of IETF security protocols that promote authentication, security and data integrity that's built into IPv6.

How secure is IPv6? ›

First, the good news: IPv6 as a protocol suite isn't inherently more or less secure than its predecessor. Just as with IPv4, the vast majority of security incidents arise from design and implementation issues rather than weaknesses in the underlying technology.

What percentage of websites use IPv6? ›

IPv6 is used by 21.4% of all the websites.

Is IPv6 used in India? ›

Out of all the IPv6 addresses around the globe, India has a share of 50 per cent. IPv6 means a more a secure internet for Indians.

When was IPv6 released? ›

The World IPv6 Launch event on June 6, 2012, was where Akamai, major web content providers, and internet service providers (ISPs) collaborated to overcome the inertia that had been holding back the widespread deployment of IPv6.

Will we ever stop using IPv4? ›

The site referred to is called “IPv4 Flag Day” and it says that several software vendors, Internet service providers, and content providers are planning on removing IPv4 backward compatibility from their products and services starting Feb. 1, 2030.

Is there an IPv5? ›

The reason is that IPv5 doesn't exist. It never made it to become one of the IP protocols. It was planned as a streaming protocol, and it got to its second version, ST2. Its packets had the IP version 5 ID but eventually died as a draft.

What are some advantages of switching to IPv6? ›

Key benefits to IPv6 include:
  • No more NAT (Network Address Translation)
  • Auto-configuration.
  • No more private address collisions.
  • Better multicast routing.
  • Simpler header format.
  • Simplified, more efficient routing.
  • True quality of service (QoS), also called "flow labeling"
  • Built-in authentication and privacy support.

What is IPv6 vs IPv4? ›

The main difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the address size of IP addresses. The IPv4 is a 32-bit address, whereas IPv6 is a 128-bit hexadecimal address. IPv6 provides a large address space, and it contains a simple header as compared to IPv4.

What is IPv6 address example? ›

The following are examples of valid IPv6 (normal) addresses: 2001:db8:3333:4444:5555:6666:7777:8888. 2001:db8:3333:4444:CCCC:DDDD:EEEE:FFFF.

What is IPv6 and IPv4? ›

The Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is a protocol for use on packet-switched Link Layer networks (e.g. Ethernet). IPv4 provides an addressing capability of approximately 4.3 billion addresses. The Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is more advanced and has better features compared to IPv4.

What is IPv4 and IPv6 used for? ›

IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is the sixth revision to the Internet Protocol and the successor to IPv4. It functions similarly to IPv4 in that it provides the unique IP addresses necessary for Internet-enabled devices to communicate.

Why are we adapting IPv6 instead of IPv4? ›

The purpose of deploying IPv6 is to ensure network growth and continued interconnectivity when IPv4 address space becomes depleted and difficult to obtain. In addition, as the global Internet continues to expand, it is likely that an increasing number of Internet sites will only be available via IPv6.

Why is IPv6 preferred over IPv4? ›

IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is the next version after IPv4. Instead of the 32 bits used by IPv4 for addressing, IPv6 uses 128 bits for the same purpose - which theoretically makes it possible to assign 2 128 addresses - hence, it offers long term solutions to most of the problems that emerged while using IPv4.

Does IPv6 make Internet faster? ›

In general, there's no major difference between IPv4 vs IPv6 speeds, though some evidence does suggest that IPv6 might be slightly faster in some situations.

What are the 3 types of IPv6 addresses? ›

The three types of IPv6 addresses are: unicast, anycast, and multicast. Unicast addresses identify a single interface.

What are three parts of an IPv6? ›

Explanation: There are three elements that make up an IPv6 global unicast address. A global routing prefix which is provided by an ISP, a subnet ID which is determined by the organization, and an interface ID which uniquely identifies the interface interface of a host.

How many IPv6 addresses are there? ›

How many IP addresses does IPv6 support? Well, without knowing the exact implementation details, we can get a rough estimate based on the fact that it uses 128 bits. So 2 to the power of 128 ends up being 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique IP addresses.

Do we need IPv6? ›

Do I need an IPv6 address? No. Not right now. You can still access websites such as Google and Facebook because they support both IPv4 and IPv6.

Why is IPv4 still used? ›

IPv4 is still the dominant internet protocol. A key benefit of IPv4 is its ease of deployment and widespread use. Because IPv4 is used so broadly, network administrators and other internet developers can assume it is everywhere because everyone is compelled to support it. That's how widespread it is.

What are the features of IPv6? ›

IPv6 features
  • Header format simplification. ...
  • Larger address space. ...
  • Hierarchical address structure. ...
  • Address autoconfiguration. ...
  • Built-in security. ...
  • QoS support. ...
  • Enhanced neighbor discovery mechanism. ...
  • Flexible extension headers.

Who uses IPv6? ›

Broadband ISP
RankISPIPv6 Users (estimated)
1Reliance Jio237,600,764
2Comcast36,114,435
3AT&T22,305,974
4Vodafone India18,368,165
14 more rows
6 Jun 2018

How will IPv6 impact society in the future? ›

Using IPv6 can reduce the resources required to continue to support legacy IPv4 devices, which can also simplify network management and troubleshooting in some cases. Native IPv6 traffic can be expected to perform better and more reliably than IPv4 traffic using transitional techniques.

Which is more secure IPv4 or IPv6? ›

IPv4 vs IPv6 security: which one is safer? IPv6 was made with security in mind, so, when implemented correctly, it is more secure than IPv4. IP Security (IPSec) is a series of IETF security protocols that promote authentication, security and data integrity that's built into IPv6.

Videos

1. IPv6 Adoption
(NANOG)
2. To IPv6 - The Dual-stack Adoption Advisory Panel
(CNCF [Cloud Native Computing Foundation])
3. What is IPv6 and why does it matter? : Episode 8
(Cisco Meraki)
4. CGN – a driver for IPv6 adoption
(Rocky Mountain IPv6 Taskforce)
5. IPv6 Adoption over Internet Exchanges
(NANOG)
6. How far are we in IPv6 adoption?
(Rocky Mountain IPv6 Taskforce)

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