3 min read

The Internet Governance Project (IGP) did some research last year to understand the factors affecting decisions of network operators for IPV6 adoption. The study was done by Georgia tech’s IGP in collaboration with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) office. A study was commissioned as both IGP and ICANN believed that the internet community needs a better understanding of the motives to upgrade IPV4 to IPV6. The study titled The Hidden Standards War: Economic Factors Affecting IPv6 Deployment should be out this month.

IPV6 is a different type of internet protocol with a larger address space. As IPV4 addresses are limited, about 4 billion, they may get depleted in the future. Hence IPV6 adoption will happen sometime. it can hold 2^128 addresses which is more than enough for the foreseeable distant future. IPV6 addresses are also longer than IPV4 and contain both numbers and letters in a hexadecimal form.

Initial results of the study

The report by IGP is still in the draft stage but they have shared some initial findings. It was found that IPV6 is not going to be disregarded completely after all. Especially in mobile networks where both the hardware and the software support the use of IPV6. Although IPV6 capability is mostly turned off due to lack of compatibility, it still remains.

  • The initial findings show that 79% of the countries, a total of 169, did not have any noteworthy IPV6 deployment. The deployment percentage remained at or even below 5% when the study was conducted last year.
  • 12% of the countries summing up to 26 had an increasing deployment.
  • 8% or 18 countries had shown a plateau in growth where IPv6 capability growth stopped between 8% and 59%.

Why the slow adoption?

They say that it is all about the costs and benefits associated with upgrading. As economic incentives were investigated, it was found that there is no real need for operators to actually upgrade their hardware. No one uses IPv6 exclusively, as all public and almost all private network service providers have to offer full compatibility. With this condition in place, operators have only three choices:

  1. Stick to IPv4
  2. Implement dual stack and provide both
  3. Run IPv6 where compatible and run some tunneling for IPv4 compatibility.

To move towards IPv6, dual stack is not economical. The third option seems to be the only viable one. There are no benefits for the operators to shift to IPv6. Even if one operator migrated, it puts no pressure on the others to shift. The network operators exclusively bear the maintenance costs. Hence, a wealthier country can deploy more IPv6 networks.

Even though it was introduced in 1994, a big problem for forwarding adoption is that IPv6 is incompatible with IPv4.

IPv6 adoption can make sense if a network needs to grow, but most networks don’t need to grow. Hence, instead of buying new hardware/software to run IPv6, operators would rather just buy new IPv4 addresses as they are cheaper. Bottom line is, there is no considerable incentive to make a move to change protocol until the remaining IPv4 pool in near depletion.

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