BT Finally Begins Tests Of IPv6

BT has confirmed that trials of the IPv6 protocol have finally begun amid ongoing concern about the availability of fresh IP addresses.

IPv4 addresses have been in use since the beginning of the Internet but have run out. Yet the move to the new IPv6 address scheme has barely made any headway, despite the frustration of many Internet experts.

BT Trial

“We are currently trialling IPv6 with a small group of BT employees, before moving on to trials with customers at a later stage,” BT told TechweekEurope in an emailed statement.

“For some tests, we have to fully enable very small parts of the network for IPv6 for a limited period of time,” said BT.

“During this window of time, a very small number of customers who are not BT employees may get an IPv6 as well IPv4 address,” it said. “They are not included in the trial and they should not notice any issues at all with their internet experience.”

Adding that it has a strategy to include IPv6 for all its customers, “in good time,” BT noted that “at the moment customers can experience everything the internet can offer with IPv4.”

That last statement offers an insight into BT’s thinking about the much delayed adoption of IPv6.

The new protocol is intended to replace IPv4, and was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 address exhaustion.

Long Time Coming

What is remarkable is that IPv6 has been ready for use for the last 17 years, but has been implemented disastrously slowly.

Indeed, in December 2012, the UK’s IPv6 promotion body 6UK closed down in despair. It said at the time that there was nothing it could do to get IPv6 into wider use, given the level of government indifference.

And Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have known for years that almost all the 4.3 billion addresses available via IPv4 have been used up.

In 2013, BT-owned Plusnet tested a controversial scheme in which all its customers could share one IP address through Carrier Grade NAT (CGNAT). It undertook that test because of the shortage of IPv4 addresses and the slow uptake of the IPv6 protocol.

Despite that, ISPs in the UK have been remarkably reluctant to experiment with IPv6, with some suggesting the cost of swopping network equipment to kit capable of dealing with IPv6 as being a major inhibitor.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

View Comments

  • The original IPv6 RFC is 17 years old but newer things needed to deliver to mass mark customers like DHCPv6 prefix delegation came later. Hardware that supported IPv6 came later and software for subscriber management more recently. If big service providers were prepared to pay vendors to develop the support it would have come sooner. Since most of the benefits of IPv6 won't kick in until it is widely deployed it has taken a long time to get to this point. Outside the UK it started growing appreciably in 2011. In the US 22% of users have it. In Germany 16% have it.

  • ipv6 is needed for new stuff like the p2p style voip and IoT, which NAT makes very complex and unsuitably slow. However, such apps undermine some of the telco products, and nearly all of UK internet infra is controlled by a telco.

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