blood on hand

Well when IPv4 was designed it was believed that 4,294,967,296 IP addresses would be enough, but due to bad management, greed and some large mistakes in the early days (compounded by the fact that more and more devices have internet connections) we will run out of IPv4 space within the next few years or so.

It became apparent in the 1980s that eventually we would use up all 4.29 billion IP addresses; in 2011 this became a reality when the last blocks of IPv4 addresses were allocated to regional Internet registries. However, as we’ve written about previously, there is a solution, the very much larger IP allocation system known as IPv6 which contains approximately 3.4×1038 IP addresses.

IPv4 is not compatible with IPv6 but most systems can have both an IPv4 and IPv6 address. There’s been lots of discussion on in this blog and in the media more generally about the importance of switching to IPv6 as a business. But the consumer aspect seems to have been totally overlooked.

The problem is that most broadband suppliers (BT, TalkTalk, Sky etc) have no interest in updating all of their equipment to support IPv6 due to the cost and the fact that they are led by marketing people who don’t understand it.

Cost is of course a factor. Every single Sky box, internet router, phone, games console, TV etc needs an IPv6 address and most of them were not designed to have it. The suppliers want you to buy new kit as sending out a software update is costly and time intensive for them, whereas replacement is costly and time intensive for you, but profitable for them.

Does it matter?

In the long term, no as the population will gradually replace all their devices, but in the short term, yes absolutely. Currently it’s estimated that over 97% of the UK population will not have access to IPv6 because their internet devices/internet service provider won’t support it which in turn means they will not have the ability to view all the websites on the internet.

Unlike the Digital TV switchover, the UK government is doing nothing about it as they do not understand the risk and are being led by big business that is more interested in rolling out TV to the home or checking that data centres are doing their jobs correctly.

Most high end websites such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft already deliver their websites over IPv6, and there is a drive for B2B businesses to move their websites to IPv6 to improve site performance and compatibility with other IPv6 businesses.

Without the roll out of IPv6 by all internet access providers, if a consumer’s internet access is not IPv6 compatible then they will not be able to see the IPv6 elements of new websites. Not good.

ipv6 V ipv4 written on wall

Is there a solution?

We supply all clients with IPv4 and IPv6 address so they can run in parallel. To check if your web site is able to support IPv6 go to ipv6-test.com/validate.php. If it does not, get on to your ISP and ask them to update.

To check if your internet connection is IPv6 capable go to ipv6-test.com. If not you might want to think about of switching to a service provider that has a plan to support it.

Finally don’t panic if you don’t have IPv6 at home – it just means you will not see the whole of the internet and most new web sites will not be viewable by you. Not such a disaster, but not a great state of affairs in our technical age!

 

Images by: George Foster & Thierry Ehrmann

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