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I need an ISP that offers IPv6. Virgin Media: Whatevs, nerd

Not exactly getting with the program

Despite being the third-largest internet provider in the UK, Virgin Media is not exactly looking toward the future.

As pretty much every ISP in the world recognizes, we have already effectively run out of IPv4 addresses and so finally need to move to, or at least offer, IPv6.

Not so Virgin Media, which – despite owning 20 per cent of the UK market – has let customers know that it's going to wait until non-nerds want this new-fangled addressing system with the funny letters and colons.

Faced with a Virgin customer tweeting he was going to have to find a new ISP after tunneling service SixXS announced it was shutting down, Virgin Media got back, even offering an air-kiss to close out:

Sorry to hear you say this Stephen. Rest assured we'll be ready to support IPv6 when this is necessary for our customers. MYa.

It didn't take long for Stephen and others to point out that this approach was a little... short sighted.

"IPv6 is necessary for me right now. Other ISPs support it right now. That's why I have to switch," Stephen responded. Alec also chimed in: "It is necessary NOW! I have services which I run over IPv6. I cannot believe that you are not offering it yet! Please!"

Jon felt likewise: "No plans for IPv6 – shocking! You can stay in the dark ages... I'll be looking for a new ISP, TV and Phone provider!" And so on.


Virgin's twitter account has gone surprisingly quiet on the issue, but while it may be just one tweet, it does appear that the company has taken a hands-off approach to IPv6.

Although Virgin's two main competitors – BT and Sky – have gone all-in on IPv6 and now virtually every customer can use the protocol, Virgin has only given a vague goal of mid-2017. Even then it couched that deadline by saying it depended on the "wider adoption of websites" – by which, it is assumed, the company means the number of IPv6-using visitors to its website.

And, yes, in case you're wondering, Virgin Media's websites don't do IPv6 either.

According to the latest stats from regional internet registry APNIC, there are only 807 Virgin Media (NTL) customers using IPv6, out of its 13.3-million user base. It seems all too possible that those 807 were the people using SixXS' IPv6 tunneling service.

Ironically, SixXS announced it was sunsetting precisely because of ISPs' increased support for IPv6. While it still has a healthy 40,000 users, it has noticed that new users are getting fewer and fewer, and the number of new tunnels has gone from a peak of over 4,000 in 2011 to just eight last year.

SixXS was created to allow people to use and test IPv6 in a world where access to it was limited: now it believes its service is acting as a barrier to people going IPv6 native. So it's shutting down.

Meanwhile, at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting taking place this week in Chicago, the viewpoint is the exact opposite.

"If it only does IPv4, it is broken," argued APNIC senior researcher George Michaelson. Tell that to Virgin, George. ®

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