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IP protocols/software

Dumbing Down IPv6

11:25 AM -- My gold standard for news coverage is National Public Radio (NPR), because I find its reporters break down difficult topics in ways that enable me to understand them.

So when the final blocks of IPv4 numbers were handed out last February, and the transition to IPv6 became serious enough to make the national news, I was surprised to hear NPR report on the event without ever using the terms "IPv4" or "IPv6." (See Ready to Join the IPv4 Cops? and IPv4: DON'T PANIC!!!.)

In retrospect, that just shows how deeply into telecom tech quagmire I've sunk.

Clearly the editors at NPR didn't think the majority of its listeners had any idea what those terms meant or any need to have them explained.

But as I've been hearing more and more, including recently from CableLabs' Chris Donley, consumers will no longer have the luxury of remaining ignorant about what IPv6 is, at least when it comes to buying devices they hope to connect to the Internet. (See CableLabs' Donley: Should Consumers Learn IPv6?.)

So where is this education going to come from? It's already happening at the retail level, according to Steven Bosch, strategy executive with Best Buy. At The Cable Show in June, he said his company's sales force is already having to help consumers understand things like the IPv6 Ready logo, which already appears on many products certified by the IPv6 Ready Logo Committee, set up by the IPv6 Forum .

The reality, however, is that while early adopters might get their info from the big box guys, mainstream America probably won't. And when a consumer buys an IPv6 device and has it set to work with IPv6, even though the cable modem or DSL connection is IPv4, things aren't going to work. And the first call is likely to be to the broadband service provider, not the device manufacturer.

This problem will only get thornier, as Donley points out, when there is more content out there on IPv6 and more devices connecting that way, and the user experience will be affected by improper connections -- the service may work but the video or other content won't look as good as it should.

Is the industry ready to explain all this to consumers in some fashion they might actually understand? NPR wasn't. And those guys are usually good at explaining things.

What do you think?

For more on IPv6, read:

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

sam masud 12/5/2012 | 4:57:44 PM
re: Dumbing Down IPv6

My own guess is that a lot of younger people--the ones glued to their smart phones and who can type faster with their thumbs than you and I can with two hands--know that IPv6 (did I just say that?) is the new Internet.

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:57:43 PM
re: Dumbing Down IPv6

I agree - I think consumers don't want to know anything about the plumbing if they can help it. But they'll have to begin to understand the IPv6 thing if only to make sure they know if they can buy certain digital devices and have them work.


And as Chris Donley said in our video, if carrer-grade NAT begins breaking applications, consumers will find out in a hurry what they don't know about IPv6.

jdbower 12/5/2012 | 4:57:43 PM
re: Dumbing Down IPv6

Replace "IPv6" with "DWDM" and the arguments are the same.  IPv6 is plumbing to most people, just like IPv4.  My mother understands IPv6 just as well as she understands IPv4 - no understanding at all and yet her Internet connection still works.  I would argue that consumers need to know about IPv6 only to the extent that they need to know they need a digital cable box to see new channels.  As long as they've got a router that supports it they'll be fine, make it a router that can get a v6 address from the ISP and hand out v4 addresses to the home and it's even more transparent (assuming the carrier does the v6-to-v4 proxying as cleanly as possible if it's not dual stack).  Make up a snazzy logo, put it on a sticker on the box and brand it.


I think the tipping point will be when Verizon/Comcast announce that they'll be out of v4 addresses and new customers will only get v6.  At that point content providers will need to scramble to get v6 services running or risk losing those customers. Or maybe the proxies will let v4 content owners live in an ignorant bliss as their IP-based tracking becomes less and less granular behind ever growing NATs.


On the other hand, ISPs can just stick with v4 and install largescale NATs in which case the tipping point will be people no longer able to make peer-to-peer connections for games or videoconferencing and trying to figure out what this TURN thingy is.

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:57:43 PM
re: Dumbing Down IPv6

My kids are now 20-somethings, and neither of them had a clue, despite being heavy tech users. My son only got interested when I told him of the potential impact on his ability to watch video online, which is where he does 90% of his TV watching.

Latif.Ladid 12/5/2012 | 4:57:41 PM
re: Dumbing Down IPv6

At this stage we talk about IPv4-NAT (mainly NATs for end-users) and IPv6 parity, meaning downscaling the features of IPv6 to lower levels of IPv4-NAT. Think out of the IPv4-NAT box and try to upscale IPv4-NAT features to be in parity with IPv6.  This exercise won't scale. IPv6 will deliver more to end-users than v4-NAT hence they should know about it as they will be able to do e2e apps (such as P2P), host content on their mobile devices or do v2v calls directly as soon as LTE is launched. v4-NAT is deployed like the phone switch board of the 50-60s. v6 will be a visible plumbing though its deployment will be transparent. Pls do not view v6 with v4-NAT blind-folded eyes. :-)

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