News, views and contacts from the global telecommunications industry

IPv6




Key Data


Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the next-generation protocol, designed by the IETF to replace the current version, Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4). Today's internet mostly uses IPv4, which is now nearly 20 years old. IPv4 has been remarkably resilient in spite of its age, but problems are beginning to surface. Most importantly, there is a growing shortage of IPv4 addresses, which are needed by all new machines added to the internet.

IPV4 - PROBLEMS

IPv6 fixes a number of problems in IPv4, such as the limited number of available IPv4 addresses. It also adds many improvements to IPv4 in areas such as routing and network autoconfiguration. IPv6 is expected to gradually replace IPv4, with the two coexisting for a number of years.

In the past, the internet and the mobile networks were two isolated systems. Today, technology exists that enables the transmission of broadband wireless data to high-performance mobile terminals. The vast amount of information on the internet has therefore become available to mobile users, inducing the creation of exciting new information services.

The major trend in the field of telecommunications is towards IP-enabled mobile terminals. In the near future, mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptops will use IP for data transport to access information and services on the global internet. Today, IPv4 is used as the network infrastructure on the internet. Even though IPv4 has no inherent support for mobility, the transparent routing of IP datagrams to moving terminals can be performed by extending IP with a macro mobility protocol called Mobile IP. In the future, IPv4 will be replaced by the next generation of networking protocol, IPv6. IPv6 supports Mobile IP (Mobile IPv6) as an extension to the base protocol and, most importantly, it has a much larger address space. This, together with a better support for quality of service and security, is the main driving force for the upgrade.

Commercial exploitation of the internet has evolved very rapidly, taking the scope and scale of internet applications far beyond those envisaged when the first-generation protocol, IPv4, was implemented. While many of the original constraints on IPv4 have been overcome, the next-generation IP protocol, IPv6, has the potential to improve the environment for e-commerce.

Another benefit is the potential for services based on higher levels of service quality. IPv6 enables particular traffic flows to be labelled for special handling, including real-time service. IPv4 was not designed to differentiate between the urgency of different traffic types, for example between non-urgent emails and highly urgent real-time video conferences.

IPV6 - TRIALS

In November 2000 the main developers of the project, BT, SmarTone of Hong Kong, and Ericsson, completed the first successful trials. These included GPRS with the currently available LAN's, roaming between fixed and wireless, and the interoperability of IPv4 and IPv6. IPv6 is viewed as a key technology for future mobile multimedia services. With the addressing capacity to provide end-to-end connectivity for all mobile devices, it is expected to bring voice, internet and video together into the mobile environment. By providing increased address space, IPv6 offers an answer to the potential long-term shortage of IPv4 addresses, removing a barrier to that growth.

IPv6 is expected to be introduced in three phases. The first phase, which began in October 2001 when Microsoft launched Windows XP, saw the advent of home gateways. The second phase began to network home appliances and the third phase, estimated to begin in 2003, will see IPv6-equipped mobile phones.