A task force has been formed in the UK to promote wider adoption of IPv6, the next generation Internet protocol.
The IPv6 Task Force UK, which held its first public meeting at University College London last week, aims to produce a roadmap for IPv6 deployment in the UK.
It also wants educate end users and service providers about the technology and to work with government to shape public policy on the deployment of next-generation Net technologies.
IPv6 is designed to replace the current Internet Protocol IPv4, which has a maximum address space for 4.3 billion. In practice, allocation and management inefficiencies mean that much fewer addresses are available for use, so the transition to IPv6
must happen before the increasing number of mobile devices and suchlike eats too far into the address space available with IPv4.
IPv6 features better support for next generation Internet services and applications on mobile, wideband and multi-media networks. Also, the security architecture of IPv6 is superior - bringing another advantage for the deployment of the protocol.
According to Christian de Larrinaga, Director of the IPv6 Task Force UK, IPv6 deployment in the UK is very much the exception rather than the norm. Most IPv6 networks in the UK to date are confined to research networks.
Awareness has to be built about the importance of IPv6, and a convincing business case put forward to ISPs to speed deployment of the technology, IPv6 Task Force UK says. ISPs should deploy dual stack (IPv6 + IPv4) networks and upgrade routers to deploy the technology from the ground up.
IPv6 has advantages for technologies such as 3G mobiles, P2P networks, streaming media, IP telephony and home networks. However few software apps specific to IPv6 have been written, because of the lack of IPv6 networks.
"It's something of a chicken and egg situation," de Larrinaga concedes.
IPv4 commonly applies Network Address Translation so that all the devices behind a firewall present the same IP address to untrusted networks. This approach has disadvantages for next generation mobile phone technologies like Session Initiation Protocol and as more such shortcomings become apparent, the case to embrace IPv6 will become all the stronger, de Larrinaga argues.
Many countries are starting to deploy IPv6 including UK's major trading partners and competitors, hence the need for the UK's Internet industry to act or risk getting left behind.
de Larrinaga reckons the move to IPv6 will be gradual rather than a "big bang" and will happen as end users find a need to run applications to run IPv6.
Widespread IPv6 deployment will probably take five years, he suggests.
The Task Force is an independent locally self-funded activity associated with leading IPv6 experts and organisations globally, including the European Union IPv6 Task Force Phase II programme. ®