We’ve already seen media coverage this week with headlines like “Web Running Out of Addresses.” If you’ve read reports like these, you’re aware of the Internet’s transition to a new set of IP addresses which will continue to connect the massive number of new computers, mobile phones and countless other gadgets.
This transition is due to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the organization responsible for handing out global IP addresses, having exhausted their supply of existing addresses. Fortunately, the cable industry has been working for several years to prepare for the transition and to minimize the impact on Internet users.
(CableLabs today issued a press release: Cable Industry Is Well Positioned to Transition to Next Internet Protocol, IPv6.)
We’ve often noted that “the Internet” is a network of networks – a global communications platform with no single authority. This is exactly how it was designed to work from the beginning and Internet Protocol addresses are the key to this system.
Devices that are designed to interact with the Internet are assigned IP addresses so that messages can be sent and received. Today’s Internet traffic today travels via the Internet Protocol version “IPv4.” IPv4 has the capability to address about 4.3 billion devices which was originally thought to be plenty, but is now expiring because of the tremendous innovation and growth we’ve seen in devices that access the Internet.
IANA provides these IP addresses to five regional Internet registries (RIRs) around the world, who in turn hand out the addresses to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). As IANA runs out of IPv4 address blocks, it is expected that the RIRs will hand out all of their IPv4 addresses later this year. As a result, ISPs, who get their addresses from the RIRs, will not be able to get additional IPv4 addresses.
From IPv4 to IPv6
The solution to the IPv4 crunch is to transition to Internet Protocol version 6, which has a dramatically larger address space (128 address bits compared to the 32 address bits in IPv4). This transition will include participation from content providers and websites, ISPs, equipment vendors, as well as consumers – in other words, all the parts of the entire Internet “ecosystem.”
Cable operators have also been taking the lead in encouraging others to transition to IPv6. Last Fall, NCTA and CableLabs held an educational IPv6 summit with television content companies and cable operators. Cable operators, along with CableLabs and NCTA, have been aggressively working with different Internet organizations such as NANOG (The North American Network Operators’ Group) and the IETF (the Internet Engineering Task Force). And cable operators are now working to implement IPv6 across their broadband networks. Comcast just yesterday announced that it is conducting the first North American test of IPv6 with a group of DOCSIS cable modem users in Colorado (Also see past posts about IPv6 on Comcast’s blog).
To help evangelize the transition, on June 8, 2011, the Internet Society (ISOC) is promoting “World IPv6 Day,” to encourage all Internet participants “test drive” IPv6 for a 24-hour period. Cable plans to participate in World IPv6 Day.
Look for more updates about the transition to IPv6 from CableLabs and NCTA.