N+I Tokyo: Mobility heralds IPv6 breakthrough

Vendors have demonstrated the mobile functionality of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) at this year's Networld+Interop Tokyo...

Vendors have demonstrated the mobile functionality of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) at this year's Networld+Interop Tokyo show.

Trials and demonstrations of IPv6 have been going on for some time but the widespread arrival of this long-awaited successor to IPv4 has yet to occur. Mobility features, however, are new to trials and demonstrations and are tipped to encourage the spread of the technology.

With IPv4, when a mobile node is moved from one network to another, that node's IP address has to be changed. This means that, for example, it cannot receive continuous streaming video while moving from one wireless LAN access point to another, or a continuous chat with another node.

Mobile IPv6, on the other hand, can have a fixed "home address" option, which allows a mobile node to keep communicating using the same home address while changing networks. This also allows, for example, a notebook PC to seamlessly switch its mode of Internet access from a wired connection to a wireless LAN card.

NTT Communications, Microsoft and Hitachi have formed an alliance to promote IPv6 and are using the show to demonstrate seamless peer-to-peer file exchanges between Hitachi's PDA running Windows CE.net and a PC running Windows XP. NTT, which provides the IPv6 network, has set up a demonstration of a PDA being used at a wireless access point, downloading a music file from a home PC.

NTT Communications currently offers commercial IPv6 services for enterprises and plans to launch an IPv6/IPv4 dual ADSL service for households from the end of this month. The company hopes to bring IPv6 wireless access points to market by the end of this year Hiroyuki Hara, an engineer at IPv6 Project at NTT Communications, said.

Also at the show, Sharp is exhibiting the prototype of its Zaurus SL-5500, a PDA that supports Mobile IPv6 connections. It is part of the WIDE (Widely Integrated Distributed Environment) Project's development of IPv6 support for the Linux operating system, since the SL-5500, which is available only in North America and Europe, is a Linux-based PDA. The WIDE Project is a consortium for researching new computing technologies, formed in 1986 by Jun Murai, a Keio University professor.

Meanwhile NEC has exhibited a home agent for the SL-5500's Mobile IPv6 connection. Each mobile device is registered with a fixed home address and the home agent is responsible for rerouting information through the network to reach those mobile devices when they are away from their home base. The specification for Mobile IPv6, which is being developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, has not been completed yet. However NEC's Motoyoshi hopes its home agent for Mobile IPv6 will be on sale six months from now.

"What is needed for the spread of IPv6 in general is the killer application," said Takayuki Shiina, chief engineer at Business Integration & Sales Division of NTT East. "This year, the network infrastructures were completed, commercial services were started, and hardware like Cisco's router and software like Windows XP, that support IPv6 were released. Now, all we need is to look for applications for IPv6," he said.

Mobile phones offer one of the potential triggers for its widespread use, Shiina said. "If every mobile phone had an IP address, I'm sure IPv4 addresses would've run out immediately," he said.

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