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BLOG: Mobile Devices and BYOD are driving IPv6 adoption

Scott Hogg | June 25, 2013
A mobile population needs IP addresses to communicate.

In 2013, it is expected that the number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people. Each of these devices will need an IP address to reach content on the Internet. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is driving the need for more ubiquitous connectivity to support a mobile workforce. Even though some content providers have deployed IPv6, the vast majority of content remains reachable over IPv4-only. As more global communities join the Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow the availability of IP addresses will become critical.

Mobile Device Population Explosion:
At a Colorado Internet Society (CO ISOC) IPv6 event in August 2012, Cricket Liu of Infoblox, mentioned that the world population is now over 7 billion people and the global Internet population is still growing. He mentioned that APNIC is home to approximately 60% of the world population (~4.2 billion people) and they have an Internet penetration of approximately 26%. Therefore, there are still approximately 3.1 billion people in that region who may connect to the Internet and APNIC has been out of IPv4 addresses for about 2 years now. IPv4 only provides for ~4.2 billion addresses so we anticipate that these users will join the Internet as IPv6-only users or at least through a Carrier Grade NAT/Large Scale NAT (CGN/LSN) system. The APNIC region users are also heavy users of mobile phones and the world's mobile phones have passed the 6 billion mark.

Just like more and more computer operating systems now come with IPv6 enabled by default, more mobile devices are coming standard with IPv6 capabilities. This WikiPedia table of "Comparison of IPv6 support in operating systems" shows that most desktop and mobile operating systems are now using IPv6. However, the issue is that the vast majority of end-nodes are on IPv4-only access networks. Even still, these IPv6-capable operating systems attempt to use tunneling techniques like Teredo and 6to4 to help the user reach IPv6-enabled content on the Internet. As more and more service providers enable IPv6 access for their subscribers, there will be more native IPv6 traffic on the Internet. In a recent Akamai blog on the anniversary of World IPv6 Launch, their data shows that a large number of IPv6 requests are coming from mobile devices.

The reality is that the only way to connect billions of mobile and wired devices is with IPv6. The mobile service providers are all looking for a way to allow their subscriber's dual-protocol mobile devices to connect to the dual-protocol Internet. To accomplish this, each "bi-lingual" mobile device would need both an IPv4 and an IPv6 address. If they could find a way to give the mobile devices only an IPv6-address yet still allow the subscriber to access IPv4 Internet content then this would remove any limitations on the number of subscribers they could have. Moving away from IPv4 would allow the service providers to dramatically scale their operations. LTE (3GPP) requires mobile carriers deploy IPv6 and some providers like Verizon Wireless have excelled in this area. Other mobile operators are also looking at solutions like NAT64/DNS64 and 464XLAT (RFC6877).


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