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AT&T outlines a plan for networks to be on IPv6 by 2020

Pushes an agressive strategy against the luddites
Wed Aug 10 2011, 17:40

US NETWORK OPERATOR AT&T has outlined a plan for networks to move over to IPv6 by 2020.

AT&T, like all major network providers, has been banging on about IPv6 for many years but with the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses earlier this year the looming change over was brought into sharp focus. The plan in the short term is to run 'dual stack' networks, meaning running the current IPv4 network and the next generation IPv6 network side-by-side, however according to a report by AT&T that will only continue until 2020.

In a report written by Tom Siracusa, executive director of AT&T Labs, seen by The INQUIRER, AT&T recommends end users completely move over to IPv6 by 2020. The tier 1 network operator expects firms to take a five phase approach to moving over to IPv6, with dual stack configurations running for a few years.

While 2020 might seem a long way off now, it is important to understand that for the best part of a decade the end-user implementation of IPv6 was stagnant. AT&T's vast network might be IPv6 compatible but if the consumers' home networks only operate on IPv4 then the change is hardly worth it from a business standpoint. According to Siracusa, the cost of running dual stack networks will force network users, whether they be large operators, smaller regional ISPs or home networks and individual users to eventually move over to IPv6.

Siracusa outlines the problem neatly, saying, "There are several factors that will drive forward full adoption of IPv6, not least of which will be the cost of maintaining both networks. Another driving force will be the next "killer app" - such as the need to adopt VOIP on LTE [Long Term Evolution networks]. Additionally, without end-to-end connectivity, companies cannot take advantage of IPv6's scale to support peer-to-peer networking, spanning mobility and wireline networks. IPv6 also has streamlined packet routing and forwarding, while still providing the flexibility needed for endpoint differentiation."

The issue of voice over IP (VoIP) over '4G' LTE networks is seen by many as the key driving force in the demand for IP addresses. With LTE placing greater demands on the quality and range of high-bandwidth communications, it's expected that more and more voice traffic will be sent over IP networks, with both PC based systems and mobile phones using VoIP to place calls.

Siracusa's plea for firms to get ready for IPv6 is based on the premise that, as the internet's big players are forced to make the move, end users will be forced to make the change. And while home networks might need a change only one device, firms will need to look at other infrastructure services, including software.

Given IPv6's history, Siracusa's forecast for ditching IPv4 by 2020 could be wishful thinking as firms try to resist as long as they think it's profitable to do so. µ


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