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Comcast Gets Its IPv6 On

Jeff Baumgartner

10:50 PM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), already far along the IPv6 adoption curve, expects to conduct "real, production-network trials" of the fresh addressing scheme later this year, according to this posting made Wednesday by MSO executive director of Internet systems Jason Livingood.

He notes that the first tech trial will begin within the "next couple of months," and is inviting Comcast subs to participate by checking in at the MSO's IPv6 Information Center Website.

Comcast has been preparing for the move for several years, and its aggressive deployment of Docsis 3.0 fits in here because the CableLabs spec, in addition to enabling speeds of 100 Mbit/s or more, also supports IPv6.

Comcast's backbone has been v6-enabled for some time, and the MSO indicated last year that 2010 would set the stage for tech trials, though full deployment could take several years. Comcast also intends to sell v6 transit for wholesale customers, with BitGravity Inc. and The Planet Internet Services Inc. among those already on the list. (See Comcast Braces for IPv6.)

Seven months after that revelation and Comcast is just about to get some "real" v6 testing underway. Although timing's subject to change, here's what the MSO's shooting for this year:

  • Trial No. 1 (Q2 2010): Evaluate "tunneling" IPv6 over IPv4 using "6RD," an open Internet standard from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that should allow Comcast to provide production-level IPv6 service to customers who have only been issued IPv4 addresses by the ISP network.

  • Trial No. 2 (Q2 2010): Evaluation of "native Dual-Stack" IPv6 environments, whereby the MSO will test issuing both v4 and v6 addresses to modems and other IP-based customer premises devices. The idea there is to see whether Comcast can add in and enable IPv6 technology while preserving its legacy IPv4 platform.

  • Trial No. 3 (Q3 2010): Test drive tunneling v4 and v6 using "Dual-Stack Lite," another standard that involves provisioning of only an IPv6 address at the CPE, and creating a v4-over-v6 tunnel between the customer's gateway and an Address Family Transition Router (AFTR, what else?) on the Comcast network. The AFTR, Comcast says, allows the sharing of v4 addresses among DS-Lite v6 customers. DS-Lite allows the continued use of a v4 service when v4 addresses are "no longer readily available or otherwise constrained."

  • Trial No. 4 (Q3 2010): Comcast will work on deploying v6 to business customers on a native Dual-Stack v6 basis.

Although Comcast's v6 efforts are well along, other MSOs will need to have a plan of action up and running fairly soon.

The American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) told ISPs last April that "IPv4 will be depleted within the next two years" at the current rate of consumption.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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