IPv6 or Internet Protocol Version 6 is the next generation protocol for the Internet. It’s designed to provide several advantages over current Internet Protocol Version 4 (or IPv4). Both IPv6 and IPv4 define network layer protocol i.e., how data is sent from one computer to another computer over packet-switched networks such as the Internet.
IPv4 has served the internet well, but the world has to shift to IPv6 – and soon. Mobile networks need to be among the first. Fortunately, there are good mechanisms available to ease the IPv4 to IPv6 transition.
Why IPv6? IPv6 addresses the main problem of IPv4, that is, the exhaustion of addresses to connect computers or host in a packet-switched network. IPv6 has a very large address space and consists of 128 bits as compared to 32 bits in IPv4.
The internet has outgrown the limits of its current IPv4 address space. IPv6 solves the address space problem, but migrating to the new version still requires some effort and a set of IPv4 to IPv6 transition mechanisms. This article presents mechanisms for providing IPv6 connectivity, and discusses their benefits, applicability and the challenges facing different phases of the transition, particularly for mobile networks.
Dual-stack, whereby IPv4 and IPv6 operate side-by-side, is the recommended model for IPv6 migration. If dual-stack is not possible, tunneling mechanisms can be used to provide both IP versions to users. While the number of hosts accessible with IPv6 has historically been low and the connectivity unreliable, initiatives such as World IPv6 Day are improving the situation. While a lot of work remains to be done on IPv6 support for various applications and devices, it is already possible to live and work with an IPv6-only network.
Toward an IPv6 world in mobile networks – mechanisms for IPv4 to IPv6 transition by Ari Keränen, Jari Arkko, Suresh Krishnan and Fredrik Garneij (Ericsson News on IPv6)