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What is IPv6?

 

What is the Internet Protocol?

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When you type a website into your browser, such as "www.website.com", you might not be aware but behind the scenes the domain name is actually translated to a string of numbers called Internet Protocol address (IP addresses) that identifies the website on the Internet. Similar to the way a phone number tells the world how exactly to contact you, an IP address is a unique combination of numbers assigned to each and every computer or device so that they can communicate and interact over a network [1]. Right now, the device you're reading this webpage on, whether it's a desktop computer, laptop or mobile device, is accessing the Internet through an IP address, which is shown on the top left-hand corner of this webpage.
 

The current state of the Internet and the issue of IPv4 exhaustion

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Up until now, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) was the main method by which IP addresses were assigned on the Internet. However, the Internet has become completely saturated thanks to its explosive growth and the sheer number of devices needing to access it. IPv4 provides only a limited number of IP addresses (232 or about 4.3 billion [2] - much less than the world's population). Actually, according to the Number Resource Organization, the world was officially allocated its last batch of IPv4 addresses in February 2011[3] , hence the term "IPv4 exhaustion".
 

So, what's IPv6 and is it the only solution?

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To make sure the Internet keeps running smoothly, computer engineers created Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6, another IP addresses system which offers room for trillions of times more addresses than IPv4[4] . The mechanism is similar to how the Hong Kong government introduced a '2' in front of all fixed line numbers in 1995[5] as 7-digit telephone numbers were running out.

The challenge is that, unlike the telephone example, which simply involved dialling a different number to reach someone, IPv6 is not directly compatible with IPv4. For direct communication over IPv6, both the sending and receiving networks must be deploying IPv6.

Therefore, not only will businesses need to upgrade their hardware, users will also need to upgrade their own Internet-accessing devices and software, such as laptops and operating systems, to ensure they are IPv6 compatible. Despite this challenge, the transition of the Internet to IPv6 is the only available long-term solution to IPv4 exhaustion.
 

What are the benefits of IPv6?

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For home users, IPv6 isn't just a mere numerical update to provide more addresses, but will introduce new features to make your Internet experience better, faster and a lot more seamless. The new standard will also support the huge growth in mobile devices and electronic appliances over the coming decades.

Find out more about how you can check if you are IPv6 compliant and how you can upgrade yourself. Don't sit back just because you think it won't affect you - click here to see how you can upgrade yourself to IPv6-ready.

For businesses, IPv6 offers a number of new capabilities which will bring several advantages over IPv4. These include [6]:

  • Auto-configuration - IPv6 devices can automatically configure IP address by themselves;
  • Easy renumbering - allows customers to change ISP without the need to reconfigure IP addresses;
  • Improved network efficiency - enhancing the performance of any network;
  • Quality of Service (QoS) enhancement - faster connection speed for designated applications;
  • Mobility support.
Deploying IPv6 is vital to Hong Kong businesses in order to maintain our edge as the pre-eminent communication hub in Asia. The Internet Society Hong Kong (ISOC HK) is working closely with the Hong Kong government and many other agencies to encourage IPv6 adoption through education, certification and training programmes for both home users and businesses. Click here to find out more about how you can check if you are IPv6 compliant and how you can upgrade yourself. To ignore IPv6 is to risk your medium to long term business viability, so act today!
 

What cool new innovations are being introduced with IPv6?

It's not just about providing more addresses. IPv6 introduces a wealth of new possibilities. Typical examples include business applications such as video conferencing, voice-over-IP (VoIP) , e-health and e-learning applications as well as a range of devices which otherwise won't be available over IPv4 networks[7] .

Manufacturers are also using the functionality of IPv6 to develop new products, such as IPv6-enabled cameras and IPv6-enabled PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), which have been specifically designed to enable you to communicate with all the other IPv6 toys that are coming on the market. Check out SixXs.net's Toy Gallery for a full list.

An example of how IPv6 is bringing advanced technology and communications tools into our daily lives is the World University Games in Shenzhen in 2011 (the "Universiade"). During the tournament, the Universiade Village used IPv6 technology to provide intelligent applications to the athletes in their living quarters. They were able to use an IPv6-based home gateway to remotely control the lighting, curtains, air conditioning, stereo, television and more, all via their mobile phones or PCs. In addition, the athletes could enjoy IPv6-based video intercom and real-time video surveillance, as well as advanced audio and video entertainment services.
 

Are you IPv6-ready?

Users should note that right now there is no ISP in Hong Kong offering IPv6 residential broadband services. However, if you're using Windows Vista or above, or other compatible windows you may be able to access IPv6 websites with some limitations on speed and quality of service. Finding out if your network is ready for IPv6 is just a click away. Simply visit http://ipv6test.isoc.hk/ to test your IPv6 connectivity.
 

What if you don't have IPv6 yet?

Don't panic! IPv6 will co-exist with IPv4 for a long time yet, and services for existing Internet businesses will not be affected when IPv4 addresses are exhausted. If your company is on an IPv4 network and is using a compatible system that supports automatic tunnels (such as Windows Vista or above), you may still be able to access some IPv6 websites (with some limitations). However, making your own customer-facing websites IPv6 ready will help future proof your business by ensuring in the years to come that you're still available to those with IPv6 only addresses. Consider your own circumstances and business IT setup to decide what the benefits of upgrading to IPv6 are for you.
 

Online Quiz: Test your Knowledge!

IPv6 expert or amateur? Test your knowledge here with our IPv6 Quiz!

What's IPv6 Pamphlet

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Footnote:
 1.OGCIO - http://www.ogcio.gov.hk/en/business/tech_promotion/ipv6/
 2.OGCIO - http://www.ogcio.gov.hk/en/business/tech_promotion/ipv6/ipv4_address_exhaustion.htm
 3.NRO - http://www.nro.net/news/ipv4-free-pool-depleted
 4.US IPv6 - http://www.usipv6.com/what_is_ipv6.php
 5.OFCA - http://tel_archives.ofca.gov.hk/en/telecom_fact/milestones/main.html
 6.OGCIO - http://www.ogcio.gov.hk/en/business/tech_promotion/ipv6/ipv4_address_exhaustion.htm
 7.SixXS Net - http://www.sixxs.net/misc/coolstuff/#see

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