What is IPv6? How does it effect you?

Recently we had carried an article “Beware: Internet may collapse on June 8!“. This was more like the world ending on May 21, which finally got “postponed“. Many have been asking around what is this ipv6 about. To a large extent none of us need to panic, everything will fall in place over the next couple of years.

Each of our PCs, mobile internet ready handset, servers have an IP address. What we are using today is known as IPv4, a 32 bit address. Internet protocol addresses are numerical labels that direct online traffic to the right location. For e.g. when you type www.oneindia.com from your browser, you need to ultimately download the content from the relevant server which has an IP

The usage of internet has grown exponentially, as when you login to the internet you are using up an IP address. There is only a limited availability of IP addresses. This exhaustion of IP addresses was foreseen in 1995 itself, which is when IPv6, a 128 bit address was developed.

IPv4 allows for about 4.3 billion possible addresses. The available addresses dropped from more than 1 billion in June 2006 to just 117 million in December 2010, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers.

IPv6 has 128 bits which translates to 2128 (approximately 340 undecillion or 3.4×1038) addresses. This is huge but you never know if this gets exhausted too. Reasonably sure I won’t face this address exhaustion problem in my life time.

How does it effect you?

Over the next few years, your internet service provider will move from IPv4 to IPv6. An example of IP address: (for IPv4), and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 (for IPv6). About 0.25% of the world’s systems are on IPv6 today (negligible).

I collected many queries and got most of them answered by my friend Shankar Ravi, thanks.

All new operating systems and hardware handle IPv6 without any problem.

  • I have a 3 year old PC, Windows XP. If my broadband (eg Airtel) provider moves to IPv6 will I have to change anything at home?

Should not have to. They should be able to tunnel ipv4 through ipv6, if required. This is not required because any new services that are deployed using IPv6 will also support IPv4 due to the common dual stack approach.

  • Do I need to change the network cards? What about the laptops, how do we know if it supports IPv6 protocol?

IPv6 is a protocol, not associated with any hardware. You would not need to change any hardware. Most laptops, running newer versions of Windows, already support IPv6.

  • Let us assume the site I am going to browse has moved to IPv6. But at home I haven’t changed anything, even my broadband provider is still on IPv4. My assumption is – I can still browse this ipv6 site as my provider will be able to reach this IPv6 machine inspite of still being on IPv4 protocol.

Correct. It should be completely transparent to the end user, otherwise, it is not called a migration.

  • I am using wifi on my blackberry/iphone. My office has moved to IPv6. Will my phone support IPv6?

Same story here. Any move to IPv6 typically mandates that they support both types of clients for a period of time.  Usually, any general stack that supports IPv6, also supports IPv4. This is called a dual stack, and most services will be able to support both types of clients.

  • Most servers plan to have both ipv4 and ipv6 IPs for few years, am I correct? If folks who are on IPv4 can reach IPv6 servers, why should these servers have both IPs for few years?

The servers should have both IPs because they support dual stacks and want to support both types of clients (clients means PCs, mobile handsets etc).

  • Should I move my servers to IPv6 now for wait for another year? What will be the advantage if I move to IPv6 now (other than getting some media coverage!)

If you move to IPv6, it will be a dual stack approach and you can support both types of clients at the same time. The clear advantage of IPv6 is larger address space (No problem with public addresses), better security, better handling of real time audio / video etc.

  • Let us assume Airtel broadband moves to ipv6, few cases, I am on Windows XP. Without CHANGING ANYTHING (hardware + software), will I automatically have a IPv6 IP? In Windows XP network screen, I see only IPv4 type of IPs. So how will it suddenly accommodate IPv6 IP? Will I be required to do some sort of ‘update’ on Windows XP/7 to accommodate IPv6 IPs?

You cannot use IPv6 unless your provider supports it. Typically, most people do not configure IP addresses on their PCs. When you do a DHCP, in Windows 7, since it already supports V6, you will automatically get a V6 address if the DHCP supports it. If not, Windows will get a IPV4 address. This process is completely transparent to the user, so it happens on the background. Most home users use WiFi routers, do not support V6, so you will only get V4 address.

  • What happens if people have older version of OS which doesn’t support IPv6? Will they be able to connect to the net?

Yes, since a dual stack approach is what is implemented.

  • In what way is the security better in IPv6?

To ensure confidentiality and packet’s integrity encryption and authentication options are included in IPv6. This is not the case in IPv4.

  • By when will the world migrate to IPv6 completely? What if I haven’t moved to IPv6 by then?

By 2016 it is expected the complete transition will be done. Even by 2016 (we have 5 more years!) if you have device that doesn’t support IPv6, even god can’t help  you.


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