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CE Laggards Could Hinder Cable's IPv6 Transition

Carol Wilson
LR Cable News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large
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DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen IP Strategies: Entering the Zettabyte Era -- The cable industry may be leading the pack when it comes to preparing for the IPv6 transition, but it still faces a considerable challenge in helping consumers make the leap due primarily to the lack of preparation within the consumer electronics (CE) industry, a panel of experts concluded here this week. As the number of IPv4 addresses available for distribution to ISPs runs out in North America, as it is expected to do late this year or in early 2014, consumers using IPv4-only devices in the home could face unpleasant surprises, said John Curran, president and CEO of American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the industry organization responsible for Internet addresses in North America. "The CPE and home device problem is uniquely the cable industry’s problem," Curran said. While the mobile industry can count on customers upgrading their phones every two years or so, and therefore can put IPv6 devices into the hands of its consumers more easily, broadband ISPs such as cable companies and telcos will have to help their customers support IPv4 devices being used within the home for years to come, he said. Consumers won't want to replace PCs, connected TVs, game consoles and even devices such as "grandma's [digital] picture frame," nearly as often, Curran said. And since CPE providers have been much slower to heed the IPv6 transition call, there will still be millions of devices in use on broadband networks as IPv4 numbers run out and some consumers get IP addresses that are IPv6 based. Chris Grundemann, architect for IP networks at CableLabs, agreed that while the cable industry can congratulate itself for being ahead of the rest of the industry in IPv6 prep, the laggards in consumer electronics and in content development will complicate the future for everyone. "We are working on strategies for bringing everyone else along with us," Grundemann said. "IPv4 becomes more expensive and less reliable all the time." The reliability factor is attributable in part to the use of varying strategies for bridging the IPv4-IPv6 gap including tunneling, network address translation and more. The preferred long-term method for most IPv6 networks is dual stacking, or supporting both protocols within the network. Because no one is truly in charge of the massive technology transition that is IPv6 adoption, the 20,000 global service providers can each adopt their own approach and, to some extent, their own timetable for introducing the newer addressing scheme, Curran pointed out. And because the numbering authorities for both the Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions have run out of IPv4 addresses already, there is actually global competition for the remaining numbers, Curran warned. He also noted that anyone hoping to use the black market to acquire IPv4 addresses risks being caught and having the illegally acquired addresses confiscated. ARIN is required to maintain an accurate directory of all IPv4 address assignments, he said, and is able to determine when the rules regarding those assignments have been breached. — Carol Wilson, Group Director-Content, UBM Tech's Business Technology Events Group

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