With the worldwide supply of IPv4 addresses rapidly dwindling, the United States is pulling ahead of its global rivals in the deployment of next-generation Internet services based on the emerging IPv6 standard.
From the number of IPv6-enabled households to the amount of IPv6 traffic carried by ISPs, the United States has made enormous strides during the last two years. Indeed, the latest statistics indicate that the United States is the global leader in several categories, including the amount of IPv6-enabled users, Web content and networking products.
[ Get your websites up to speed with HTML5 today using the techniques in InfoWorld's HTML5 Deep Dive PDF how-to report. | Learn how to secure your Web browsers in InfoWorld's "Web Browser Security Deep Dive" PDF guide. ]
Quiz: are you ready for IPv6?
"The U.S. has put a lot of effort into IPv6," says Christine Schweickert, senior engagement manager for public sector at Akamai, a leading content delivery network. "Government agencies were putting pressure on the big networking vendors. They were pushing all the major telco providers and requiring them to put IPv6 in their road maps...It was a strategic move on their part."
IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet's addressing scheme, which was created 40 years ago using a protocol known as IPv4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and can support a virtually limitless number of devices: 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 is necessary because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses. However, IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4, requiring network operators to support both protocols at an added cost.
One sign of U.S. progress in IPv6 is that there are now three U.S. carriers -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Comcast -- that are among the top six ISPs carrying the majority of the world's IPv6 traffic. Around 15 percent of Verizon Wireless customers, 6 percent of AT&T's DSL customers and 2.5 percent of Comcast broadband customers are using IPv6.
"There's no doubt that U.S. ISPs have made significant progress in IPv6 in the last year," says John Brzozowski, chief architect for IPv6 and distinguished engineer with Comcast, which is halfway through its IPv6 deployment. "This is a numbers game, and raw numbers-wise, the U.S. has a big challenge because of the sheer size of our networks. We have the largest, contiguous ISPs in the world, with Comcast being the largest. It's interesting that a Romanian ISP can come out of nowhere and enable IPv6 on 15 percent of their infrastructure. I say good job to them. But I have thousands and thousands of devices to enable on my network. . . Here in the U.S., we have gotten a lot done in a relatively short period of time."