Cable Industry Is Well Positioned to Transition to Next Internet Protocol, IPv6
Louisville, Colorado, February 1, 2011—The cable industry is well positioned to transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) as the addresses available from the current protocol, IPv4, nears exhaustion, said Dr. Paul Liao, President and CEO of CableLabs®.
Following today's announcement that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, IANA, has distributed two IPv4 address blocks to the Asian-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), and is poised to release its remaining IPv4 address supply to Regional Internet Registries, it is anticipated by some experts that the last IPv4 addresses that these registries can allocate to any ISP requesting additional addresses will run out later this year. Cable operators have recognized that the ultimate solution to the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses is the ubiquitous implementation of IPv6 protocol technology. However, during the transition to IPv6, they have developed strategies that will enable them to continue offering IPv4 service while the transition to IPv6 is completed.
CableLabs and its cable system operator members have been working on this transition for more than six years, Liao noted, in order to ensure continued delivery of the best broadband service available anywhere to consumers. "Cable operators will minimize the effects of the transition on end users, and ultimately to ensure superb customer experiences over the widest range of devices," Liao added.
Comcast CTO Tony Werner said that Comcast has been conducting field trials of IPv6 deployments, and has established an information rich site for consumers on the protocol transition at http://www.comcast6.net/. "We have been planning for years, and are currently deploying IPv6 resources, so our customers will not be impacted."
"Time Warner Cable has long been preparing for the eventual end of IPv4 address availability. We've decided that the best architecture for ensuring the level of performance our customers expect is 'dual stack,' which supports both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols," said Mike LaJoie, CTO of Time Warner Cable. "We, along with other MSOs, have been working with CableLabs, NCTA (National Cable & Telecommunications Association) and the SCTE (Society of Cable & Telecommunications Engineers) in a multi-industry effort to adopt the IPv6 protocol, and are hopeful that companies in the CE (consumer electronics) and vendor communities begin to offer new equipment and provide firmware upgrades that ensure the devices in our customers' homes support IPv6. Time Warner Cable signed up its first commercial customer using native IPv6 over our fiber access product last year, and we expect to begin residential IPv6 trials this spring."
At the request of its members, CableLabs began updating its specifications in 2004 to account for IPv6 usage. DOCSIS® 3.0 has supported IPv6 addressing from the start, while also allowing for IPv4 compatibility. Backward compatibility is also written into the preceding DOCSIS 2.0 specification, which accommodates the IPv6 protocol through upgraded (3.0-compliant) cable modem termination systems. Likewise, PacketCable™ 2.0 includes support for IPv6. These steps, plus the expectation for continued allocations of IPv4 addresses from the Regional Internet Registries until such time as the registries exhaust their address pools, should allow cable broadband subscribers uninterrupted service during the transition to IPv6.
Liao further noted that CableLabs has reached out to content owners and consumer electronics manufacturers who also must transition to IPv6. "The Internet is a highly complex and connected network, and the impact of this transition will be minimized by a move to IPv6 throughout the Internet, including by content providers, CE manufacturers, and all ISPs," Liao said.
CableLabs has hosted IPv6 summits, bringing together industry engineers, network architects, CE industry companies, and content providers to analyze IPv4 and IPv6 co-existence requirements and define transition strategies. Such a summit was held recently on January 19, 2011, in the San Francisco Bay area with cable, CE industry companies and large web publishers to focus on implications for connected devices and applications not supporting IPv6. Another was held last year in concert with the NCTA and involved television content companies along with cable operators. "A successful transition will rely on all of these market segments to support the new technology," noted Liao.
CableLabs and its members also plan to participate in "World IPv6 Day" on June 8, 2011, an Internet Society (ISOC)-sponsored event where websites will be offered over IPv6 to "test drive" the new protocol for a 24-hour period.
CableLabs also coordinates some of the cable contributions on IPv6 in the Internet Engineering Task Force, the standards body where IPv4, IPv6 and the transition strategies are defined and debated. Cable operator engineers on CableLabs' project teams contributed to key technology developments at the IETF where standards for Internet addressing and transition technologies are defined.
Additionally, CableLabs has held twice-a-year interoperability events to help vendors make progress toward implementation of IPv6 in their equipment according to this specification work. In 2011, the interops are set for the weeks beginning February 14, April 18, and September 19.
These initiatives, plus weekly calls with member companies and numerous public speaking engagements to explain the importance of this key technology, reflect the cable industry's intent to play a lead role in operationalizing the development of IPv6.
The need for a transition arises because the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has announced its distribution of the final IPv4 address blocks. IPv4 has theoretical capability to address about 4.3 billion devices on the Internet. IANA provides these blocks to regional Internet registries (RIRs) which in turn hand out the addresses to Internet service providers. The RIRs are expected to hand out all their IPv4 addresses by the fourth quarter of this year or early in 2012. IPv6 can address 340 undecillion (36 zeroes) but is not backward compatible with IPv4. IPv6 offers enough addresses for every atom on the surface of the earth.
About CableLabs: Cable Television Laboratories (www.cablelabs.com) was founded in 1988 by members of the cable television industry. A non-profit research and development consortium, CableLabs delivers innovations that enable cable operators to be the providers of choice in their markets. Cable operators from around the world are members. CableLabs maintains web sites at www.cablelabs.com; www.packetcable.com; www.cablemodem.com; www.cablenet.org, and www.opencable.com.
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