Although several companies have written software to support IP v6, Cisco is the first to release products that have built-in support for the software.
Version six provides a huge increase on the IP numbers that are currently available in v4. Since every device that links to the Internet needs to be identified by its own number, the existing protocol has come under pressure from the emergence of net-enabled handheld devices and mobile phones.
With the prospect of everything from washing machines to in-car systems being accessed online, the need for new addresses has grown acute.
Cisco has built support for IP v6 into its latest release of its Internet working Operating System (IOS). Available from the end of this month, IOS runs the routers that carry the bulk of online data.
Last week, BT and Nokia used IP v6 to send a 3G mobile phone call and a handful of US telecom companies also use the new standard. However, some experts question how soon the industry will adopt v6, as there are alternative ways of solving the shortage.
Changing the method of network address translation enables programmers to translate one IP number into many unique addresses. Also, large organisations can ensure they are not holding on to more addresses than they need.
Stanford University recently returned 16m numbers it was not using to the American Registry for Internet Numbers, the group that distributes them.