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IPv6 - Fast Facts

IPv6 is a new version of IP, designed to be a step up from IPv4. Because of the way it is designed, it will provide for many times more addresses than the current (IPv4) system, and will help ensure the future growth of the Internet.

The RIPE NCC is one of five Regional Internet Registries allocating IPv6 address space to different regions around the world. The RIPE NCC allocates address space to its service region of Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, and has already made thousands of allocations of IPv6 space in this region.

IPv6 can be installed as a normal software upgrade in Internet devices and works alongside IPv4.

The largest block of IPv6 addresses that the RIPE NCC has allocated to date was to France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. The allocation is what is known as a /19 block, which is equivalent to 35,000 billion (35,000,000,000,000) subnets (or smaller networks) that can be assigned to customers. Each subnet alone has more individual addresses than are currently available on the entire existing (IPv4) Internet.

IPv6 can be considered a mobile technology. IPv6 includes support for users who ‘roam’ between different networks, with global notification when you leave one network and enter another one.

IPv6 could mean the end of dynamic IP addresses. With so many numbers available, every device could be assigned a fixed IP. This would also immediately identify a portable computer on the road, easing access to your home server for email. While this has lead to a few concerns about privacy, it could also go some way to tracking down 'spammers' or 'fraudsters' who are behind many Internet based 'scams'.

IPv6 has been adopted globally, though some of the early thrust for the technology came from Asia. For example, Japan sees IPv6 as one of the ways of helping the country use the Internet to revive its economy.

Although IPv6 appears to be superior to IPv4 in many respects, it is a common opinion that the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 will take a long time – perhaps more than a decade – and will be difficult. Many organisations have made an enormous investment in IPv4 technology and are not yet ready or willing to speed up the transition. IPv4 is a well-known and thoroughly tested technology; its reliability and widespread use represent a major slowing factor in the development of IPv6.