Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet. IPv6 was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 address exhaustion. IPv6 is intended to replace IPv4. In December 1998, IPv6 became a Draft Standard for the IETF, who subsequently ratified it as an Internet Standard on 14 July 2017.
Devices on the Internet are assigned a unique IP address for identification and location definition. With the rapid growth of the Internet after commercialization in the 1990s, it became evident that far more addresses would be needed to connect devices than the IPv4 address space had available. By 1998, the IETF had formalized the successor protocol. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address, theoretically allowing 2128, or approximately 3.4×1038 addresses. The actual number is slightly smaller, as multiple ranges are reserved for special use or completely excluded from use. The two protocols are not designed to be interoperable, and thus direct communication between them is impossible, complicating the move to IPv6. However, several transition mechanisms have been devised to rectify this.
IPv6 provides other technical benefits in addition to a larger addressing space. In particular, it permits hierarchical address allocation methods that facilitate route aggregation across the Internet, and thus limit the expansion of routing tables. The use of multicast addressing is expanded and simplified, and provides additional optimization for the delivery of services. Device mobility, security, and configuration aspects have been considered in the design of the protocol.
IPv6 is an Internet Layer protocol for packet-switched internetworking and provides end-to-end datagram transmission across multiple IP networks, closely adhering to the design principles developed in the previous version of the protocol, Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4).
In addition to offering more addresses, IPv6 also implements features not present in IPv4. It simplifies aspects of address configuration, network renumbering, and router announcements when changing network connectivity providers. It simplifies processing of packets in routers by placing the responsibility for packet fragmentation into the end points. The IPv6 subnet size is standardized by fixing the size of the host identifier portion of an address to 64 bits.
The addressing architecture of IPv6 is defined in RFC 4291 and allows three different types of transmission: unicast, anycast and multicast.
Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was the first publicly used version of the Internet Protocol. IPv4 was developed as a research project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a United States Department of Defense agency, before becoming the foundation for the Internet and the World Wide Web. IPv4 includes an addressing system that uses numerical identifiers consisting of 32 bits. These addresses are typically displayed in quad-dotted notation as decimal values of four octets, each in the range 0 to 255, or 8 bits per number. Thus, IPv4 provides an addressing capability of 232 or approximately 4.3 billion addresses. Address exhaustion was not initially a concern in IPv4 as this version was originally presumed to be a test of DARPA’s networking concepts. During the first decade of operation of the Internet, it became apparent that methods had to be developed to conserve address space. In the early 1990s, even after the redesign of the addressing system using a classless network model, it became clear that this would not suffice to prevent IPv4 address exhaustion, and that further changes to the Internet infrastructure were needed.
The last unassigned top-level address blocks of 16 million IPv4 addresses were allocated in February 2011 by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to the five regional Internet registries (RIRs). However, each RIR still has available address pools and is expected to continue with standard address allocation policies until one /8 Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) block remains. After that, only blocks of 1024 addresses (/22) will be provided from the RIRs to a local Internet registry (LIR). As of September 2015, all of Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE_NCC), Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC), and American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) have reached this stage. This leaves African Network Information Center (AFRINIC) as the sole regional internet registry that is still using the normal protocol for distributing IPv4 addresses. As of November 2018, AFRINIC’s minimum allocation is /22 or 1024 IPv4 addresses. A LIR may receive additional allocation when about 80% of all the address space has been utilized.
RIPE NCC announced that it had fully run out of IPv4 addresses on 25 November 2019, and called for greater progress on the adoption of IPv6.
It is widely expected that the Internet will use IPv4 alongside IPv6 for the foreseeable future.
By 2011, all major operating systems in use on personal computers and server systems had production-quality IPv6 implementations. Cellular telephone systems presented a large deployment field for Internet Protocol devices as mobile telephone service made the transition from 3G to 4G technologies, in which voice is provisioned as a voice over IP (VoIP) service that would leverage IPv6 enhancements. In 2009, the US cellular operator Verizon released technical specifications for devices to operate on its “next-generation” networks. The specification mandated IPv6 operation according to the 3GPP Release 8 Specifications (March 2009), and deprecated IPv4 as an optional capability.
The deployment of IPv6 in the Internet backbone continued. In 2018 only 25.3% of the about 54,000 autonomous systems advertised both IPv4 and IPv6 prefixes in the global Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) routing database. A further 243 networks advertised only an IPv6 prefix. Internet backbone transit networks offering IPv6 support existed in every country globally, except in parts of Africa, the Middle East and China. By mid-2018 some major European broadband ISPs had deployed IPv6 for the majority of their customers. British Sky Broadcasting provided over 86% of its customers with IPv6, Deutsche Telekom had 56% deployment of IPv6, XS4ALL in the Netherlands had 73% deployment and in Belgium the broadband ISPs VOO and Telenet had 73% and 63% IPv6 deployment respectively. In the United States the broadband ISP Comcast had an IPv6 deployment of about 66%. In 2018 Comcast reported an estimated 36.1 million IPv6 users, while AT&T reported 22.3 million IPv6 users.
The above is a brief about IPv6. Watch this space for more updates on the latest Trends in Technology.