Leading Internet prognosticator still pessimistic about IPv6

Researcher doubtful that IPv6 will get deployed in time to avert an addressing crisis across the Internet

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Huston: I look at the sales projections of Apple and folk in the Android area. They're forecasting this year along the lines of 300 million to 400 million new mobile subscribers, and the same for next year, and the year after. Even if you were capable of taking the 1.84 billion unadvertised IPv4 addresses and reusing them, that would buy only three more years of life for IPv4. And we can't get them all because a lot of them are tightly tied up in networks. Yes, some IPv4 address space is being released into secondary markets. That market is inevitable, but it's a short-term palliative measure. It's not a cure. IPv4 can't cut it if what you want at the end is one network.

Network World: There's a growing market for allocated-but-unused IPv4 addresses in the U.S. primarily from bankruptcy sales. The IPv4 addresses are selling for anywhere from $8 to $13 per address. Is this price too high, too low, or just right in your opinion?

Huston: Inside a data center, an IPv4 address is worth a lot more than $10 each -- orders of magnitude more. Once you get into a market where the highest bidder gets the good, I think the prices that you are quoting me are [going to go up]. They are too low. If we go down this path of IPv4, and we're able to keep the IPv4 secondary market open enough, I suspect the pricing is going to be much higher than $10. That's going to be painful for this industry. Are rising prices for IPv4 addresses going to propel us into IPv6? I really hope so, but it's hard to tell right now.

Network World: How is the U.S. doing in terms of IPv6 adoption compared to the rest of the world?

Huston: Where the U.S. has a cable infrastructure, it has a little more control over CPE and in that case it is actually possible to turn on IPv6 without the users doing anything. Cable providers are better off than DSL providers in terms of upgrading to IPv6. The other thing that's different for the U.S. is the move by Verizon with 4G LTE. They're reinventing most of their mobile services. Verizon understood that if they wanted a coherent mobile network, it had to be IPv6. They wrote it into all of their specs and said that all of their suppliers had to be IPv6. I haven't seen many countries where a carrier has taken such a bold move.

Network World: Is last-mile infrastructure the biggest challenge to IPv6 deployment?

Huston: Yes. This is one of the hardest problems that our industry faces. Over the last 10 years, we have made the last mile the subject of intense competitive pressure. Revenue per consumer per month is measured in pennies instead of dollars. The issue for them is twofold: One, they have to upgrade their internal equipment, but they are sitting on equipment that they don't want to replace.

The second problem is that the one thing most last-mile access providers absolutely dread is when the customer rings up the call center. It costs a huge amount of money to run a call center, upwards of $60 to have the phone answered. The last thing you want is to have more phone calls. When you introduce a second protocol on the wire, the Internet can appear to go very slow. Sometimes Web pages take 30 to 40 seconds to load. Sometimes in IPv6, you don't get there. So you might ring up the help desk number. Carriers dread more phone calls from the customer. So that's why the last-mile access providers want to wait until their competitors deploy IPv6. They don't want to be at the front of the pack.

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