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The benefits of IPv6

The benefits of IPv6

Getting Ready for IPv4 exhaustion by enabling IPv6 on VoiceHost broadband services

IPv6

The benefits of IPv6

The RIPE NCC is the EMEA Regional Internet Registry (RIR) providing global Internet resources and related services (IPv4, IPv6 and AS Number resources). RIPE very recently (03/10/19) advised after years or prior warnings that the IPv4 addressing is expected to be completely exhausted in the coming months.[1]

The VoiceHost core network has operated IPv6 for many years but now our broadband users can leverage the power of IPv6 too.

What is IPv6 and why is it important?

IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol, which identifies devices across the internet so they can be located. Every device that uses the internet is identified through its own IP address in order for internet communication to work. In that respect, it’s just like the street addresses and zip codes you need to know in order to mail a letter.

The previous version, IPv4, uses a 32-bit addressing scheme to support 4.3 billion devices, which was thought to be enough. However, the growth of the internet, personal computers, smartphones and now Internet of Things devices proves that the world needed more addresses.

Fortunately, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) recognized this 20 years ago. In 1998 it created IPv6, which instead uses 128-bit addressing to support approximately 340 trillion trillion (or 2 to the 128th power, if you like). Instead of the IPv4 address method of four sets of one- to three-digit numbers, IPv6 uses eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, separated by colons.

What are the benefits of IPv6?

In its work, the IETF included enhancements to IPv6 compared with IPv4. The IPv6 protocol can handle packets more efficiently, improve performance and increase security. It enables internet service providers to reduce the size of their routing tables by making them more hierarchical.

Network address translation (NAT) and IPv6
Adoption of IPv6 has been delayed in part due to network address translation (NAT), which takes private IP addresses and turns them into public IP addresses. That way a corporate machine with a private IP address can send to and receive packets from machines located outside the private network that have public IP addresses.

Without NAT, large corporations with thousands or tens of thousands of computers would devour enormous quantities of public IPv4 addresses if they wanted to communicate with the outside world. But those IPv4 addresses are limited and nearing exhaustion to the point of having to be rationed.

NAT helps alleviate the problem. With NAT, thousands of privately addressed computers can be presented to the public internet by a NAT machine such as a firewall or router.

The way NAT works is when a corporate computer with a private IP address sends a packet to a public IP address outside the corporate network, it first goes to the NAT device. The NAT notes the packet’s source and destination addresses in a translation table.

The NAT changes the source address of the packet to the public-facing address of the NAT device and sends it along to the external destination. When a packet replies, the NAT translates the destination address to the private IP address of the computer that initiated the communication. This can be done so that a single public IP address can represent multiple privately addressed computers.

NAT causes problems for SIP that IPv6 can help solve

Giving your endpoints their own IPv6 address will eliminate the issues of ALGs that is widely covered. Simply put, a public IPv6 address would mean "NO NAT". [2]

SIP Scanning or random active probing is infeasible in the IPv6 Internet.

Given the increased size of the IPv6 connected internet the ability to sniff is impractical using todays crude methods.

When will IPv4 be switched off?

Don't expect an official switch-off date, so people shouldn’t be worried that their internet access will suddenly go away one day. As more networks transition, more content sites support IPv6 and more end users upgrade their equipment for IPv6 capabilities, the world will slowly move away from IPv4.

How to enable IPv6 on your VoiceHost broadband connection

Login to your control panel and select the Leased Line or Broadband Products you wish to enable IPv6 on. It is available on every VoiceHost broadband product using DSL or Full-Fiber technologies.

SECURITY SECURITY SECURITY - Before you enable IPv6 check the basics

Given that any IPv6 connected device may become freely and directly available you must consider the security of that device. Firewall configuration is paramount. Most network providers (including VoiceHost) offer dual-stack IPv6 then you can freely chose how IPv6 addressing interacts with your network.

Addendum - The cost benefit and industry analysis

The cost of IPv4 addressing has been steadily increasing with the current average costs at $22 USD [3]. This cost which is borne by network operators is a major growth inhibitor and simply serves to increase end-user costs. The faster the industry can phase out IPv4 the better as the status quo is not practicable in the long-term, stifles innovation in areas such as IoT and has been generally allowed to create IPv4 magnates at the detriment of the wider internet.

Quite why RIPE policy has allowed such an aggressive marketplace to develop without greater scrutiny of the market in areas such as brokerage is concerning.

[1] - https://www.ripe.net/manage-ips-and-asns/ipv4/getting-ready-for-ipv4-run-out
[2] - https://www.voicehost.co.uk/help/sip-alg-and-why-it-should-be-disabled-your-router
[3] - https://www.ripe.net/participate/meetings/roundtable/january-2019/presentations/roundtable-2019-transfers.pdf

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Simon Richards is the Business Operations Manager at VoiceHost. He deals with all facets of the business from regulatory to suppliers and process.

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