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Cisco, Microsoft Research and Orange are jointly funding the Mobile IPv6 Systems Research Laboratory at Lancaster University to the tune of £750,000.
Most networks use existing Internet Protocol version 4 technology, which has proved easy to implement and highly versatile. However, IPv4 has limited management capabilities for content such as streaming video. IPv4 also has a limited number of addresses, leaving it vulnerable to overload if mobile phone-makers initiate a unique IP address system.
Stephen Hope, a senior consultant with Orange, said, "The major advantages with IPv6 are the built-in quality of services and expanded range of IP addresses. Both these requirements will be necessary for the next generation of mobile services."
Hope admitted that there were problems associated with using IPv6-based switches and software from different companies, but that part of the remit of the project was to "see how we can get IPv6 to work in a real world and not just a purely academic fashion".
Andrew Scott, a senior lecturer in computer science at Lancaster University, said the introduction of IPv6 was likely to be a low-key affair. "The existing IPv6 switches and operating software is stable enough for experimental work and I would expect to see the first commercial implementations at some point next year," he said.
Scott predicted that FTP and Web servers would initially be implemented in IPv6 with little difficulty. Researchers at the university are also working to enable devices to use a form of "roaming" technology allowing IP devices to choose a specific IP network as required.