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BT embarks on year-long IPv6 transition

BT says it will move its entire network to IPv6 by the end of 2016

BT has set out on a mission to switch over 6 million customers around the UK onto IPv6 network addresses by the end of 2016.

The telco made the announcement in a presentation at the UK IPv6 Council’s annual conference, saying it hoped to have IPv6 up and running on 50% of its network by April 2016.

At the present time, just more than 1.5 million out of BT’s 7.8 million-strong customer base have switched to IPv6-capable hardware, but the majority of its customers are using IPv4 network addresses, stocks of which are now rapidly approaching complete exhaustion.

On the same day as BT’s announcement, John Curran, president and CEO of Arin, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, revealed that the supply of IPv4 addresses in the US and Canada was now exhausted.

The telco will have to spend a substantial amount of time and money swapping out home routers, most of which are incapable of supporting IPv6. The lack of equipment able to support IPv6 addresses has been a major barrier to adoption so far, although this is now beginning to change.

Ripe NCC IPv6 programme manager, Nathalie Künneke-Trenaman, hailed a major commitment from one of the UK’s biggest internet service providers and said it was a clear sign that the UK was taking IPv6 seriously.

With IPv4 rapidly approaching exhaustion in Europe – even with the release of some stocks that had been held back by bodies such as the UK government – it is expected to become increasingly difficult for the internet of things (IoT) to grow at its predicted rate, as each device requires a unique IP address.

“In the Ripe NCC’s service region – which includes Europe – IPv4 reached its exhaustion point in September 2012, and everywhere else around the world, except Africa, has also reached exhaustion,” said Künneke-Trenaman.

“This means any organisations relying solely on IPv4 will start to struggle to grow in size and complexity in the future.

“IPv6 is essential to safeguard the growth of the internet, especially in the UK, which is technologically advanced with internet-connected devices ranging from smartwatches through to automated homes,” she said.

Tom Coffeen, an IPv6 evangelist at network services, cloud and virtualisation supplier Infoblox, said businesses have been ignoring the inevitable depletion of IPv4 addresses and were soon to be faced with a “new reality”.

“While most British companies haven’t adopted IPv6, service providers such as BT are already deploying IPv6 to avoid problems connected to the exhaustion of available IPv4 address space. The fact that only 2.61% of the UK is currently IPv6 capable doesn’t change the reality that IPv4 is facing extinction,” said Coffeen.

“With service providers leading the charge and bringing users online via IPv6, there is no alternative: Companies without an IPv6 presence on the internet will face degraded website performance and damage to their brands. Cloud, IoT, mobile networks and brand preservation – IPv4 exhaustion is a stark reminder that all of these are at risk without IPv6 adoption.”

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