IPv6, Home Networking Increasingly Intertwined

BTR_Feature_Art_IPv6 IPv6 and advanced home networking are perceived as occupying two sides of the cable industry's to-do list: The new addressing scheme is a chore that has to be done to maintain the health of operators' broadband businesses. It is not thought of as a direct revenue generator. Conversely, advanced home networks are seen as a future platform that will directly lead to extraordinarily profitable services such as home automation and tele-health.

The two no longer exist on such different planes. The final frontier for IPv6 is in the home. There, it will be a very real and direct key to providing enough IP addresses to support what is expected to be an explosion of home networking services. Thus, though IPv6's technical status hasn't changed, it now is more directly tied to potential revenue.

The Internet of Things, as it is called, needs two things that IPv6 provides: Enough addresses and the ability for direct connectivity between end points. "IPv4 can't support connectivity for all the devices on the Internet," said John Brzozowski, a Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Fellow and the MSO's chief IPv6 architect. "We are [supplementing] IPv4 and creating the potential for end-to-end reachability."

It's an accepted fact that the cable home of the future will be a complex thing. This is true on many levels - including addressing schemes. The cable industry has settled on the dual stack approach to Internet addressing. In short, for the foreseeable future - indeed, likely decades into the future - cable operators will operate parallel IPv4 and IPv6 networks. That approach is accepted as being the simplest. Experts say that this doesn't change when the final frontier - the home - is reached.

It is, however, a potentially tricky proposition for operators who don't prepare. Engineering staffs must recognize that homes will for decades be a mix of end user equipment - consumer electronics and computing gear - that just runs IPv4 and devices that run both addressing protocols.

The IPv4 portion of the networks still will sit behind a network address translation (NAT) device, while the IPv6 element of the network will be protected by a firewall, Brzozowski said. Comcast has been experimenting with IPv6-based home networks for about a year.

Bringing IPv6 to home networks poses no insurmountable obstacle. It's theoretically an extension of dual stack in other network segments. That said, it clearly requires careful planning. The trickiest element will extend to the minority of MSOs in which home gateway and router functionality is owned by the subscriber and thus is not integrated with DOCSIS functionality.

Some older, consumer-purchased wireless equipment won't support IPv6. A minority of those devices won't be capable of accepting software or firmware upgrades enabling them to do so. If this antiquated equipment is in homes in which subscribers expect sophisticated IPv6-enabled networking, the operator may have dissatisfied customers on its hands.

This requires attention, but is not the end of the world, said Charles Moreman, a principal engineer with Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO). "There may be devices deployed years ago by cable operators from any number of vendors that need to be upgraded or, if they are very old, replaced," he said. "That's just part of the basic blocking and tackling" of rolling out new services.

That seems like a manageable problem and, according to experts, a good example of why most have decided to move to devices in which the DOCSIS router and gateway functions are in some way integrated. The basic premise is that removing subscribers as much as possible from the equation is an increasingly good ideas as home networks grow more sophisticated.

Even newer equipment, if not centrally managed by the cable operation, could cause problems. Stephen Palm, a senior technical director in Broadcom's (NASDAQ:BRCM) broadband communications group, suggested that care must be taken even if consumer gear is new. Essentially, checking the box on the management console that says "Enable IPv6" or a similar term could have unintended consequences. "My fear is that dual stack systems that have been implemented in a less than mass produced way may misbehave or do funny addressing things," said Palm.

Palm added that one benefit of the new IEEE 1905 protocol is that it can provide useful information at the layer 2 - the data link layer - of the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model. Thus, even an IP network that is not functioning can provide valuable feedback to network operators.

None of these problems appears insurmountable. It is important to remember, however, that sophistication - and the challenges that accompany it - will grow over time. Comcast sees a day when a home will look a bit like an enterprise. Brzozowski said subnets could be established for entertainment, guests, the kids, home security, telehealth, home automation, the home office and other specific groups or functions. This is very promising - but strongly suggests a high level of sophistication and planning.

The complexity extends ever further. In response to emailed questions, Victor Kuarsingh, Rogers' (TSE:RCI) senior architect for IP Networks, noted the need to support multiscreen initiatives. "The requirement for supporting a legacy base of IPv4 is not just confined to the standard home network, but also to mobile network environments," Kuarsingh wrote. "An example of this would include a common mode of operation where a subscriber tethers their Internet connection on a smartphone to share with nearby devices."

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor of Broadband Technology Report.  Contact him at carl@btreport.net.

Get the Broadband Technology Report Newsletters Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to email newsletters today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • Video Technology
  • Network Technology
  • Technology Alerts
  • BTR LATAM (Latin America)

SCTE-Cable Tec Expo 2016 Video Show Dailies

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 3

In our Video Show Daily for Day 3 of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy covers trends in distrib...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 2

In our Video Show Daily for the second day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia, BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy highlights furt...

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR's SCTE-Cable Tec Expo Video Show Daily, Day 1

BTR Editorial Director Stephen Hardy reviews the hot technologies and announcements from the first day of exhibits at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016 in P...

Diamond Technology Reviews - 2016 High Scores

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

Diamond Technology Reviews 2016

BTR's Diamond Technology Reviews, now in its twelfth year, is a technology recognition program wherein vendors serving the broadband cable ...

Related Articles

Cable ONE

2 More AZ Towns Get Cable ONE Gigabit

October 7, 2016

Cable ONE (NYSE:CABO) is expanding its GigaONE gigabit Internet footprin...


Comcast Launches Enterprise IoT Trial

October 6, 2016

Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) announced machineQ, a business trial venture focu...


2016 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo Wrap Up

Whether you couldn't make it to Cable-Tec this year or want to see if you missed anything while you were there, you'll want to join BTR editors Stephen Hardy and Ron Hendrickson as they reveal their picks for the...

October 12, 2016
Sponsored by

Counting the cost: Efficiently transitioning from HFC to FTTH

HFC networks are uniquely positioned to provide compelling and competitive services, and are also uniquely positioned to transition to symmetrical FTTH as commercial requirements demand.  This webinar will d...

Date:September 22, 2016
Sponsored by

Maintaining High Quality of Experience in an Adaptive Bitrate System

This webinar will look at the many points in an ABR system where the video is touched.  From ingest (satellite, file, and IP), to egress, each point should be qualified for compliance to help maintain a high...

Date:August 25, 2016
Sponsored by

White Papers & Special Reports

Cable VoIP 2.0: Voice Moves to the Cloud

October 2016

Cable providers led the charge on the VoIP evolution and won customers and market share. Now voice networks are evolving again. The cloud voice platform has ...

Understanding Ultra High Definition Television

October 2016

Over the last 10 years, high definition television (HDTV) has been replacing standard definition television as the expected viewing format for television pro...

Are You Ready for DOCSIS 3.1? The Future of Cable Technology and How to Prepare Your Network

October 2016

DOCSIS 3.1 promises 10x capacity throughput and a range of technical benefits for cable providers and users alike. Are you ready? Discover the technical adva...

BTR Blogs

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

FCC Rethinks Set-Top Plan

September 10, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - The FCC has reworked the "unlock the set-top b...


In Memoriam: Richard Covell

August 18, 2016

By Rob Stuehrk, Publisher - We at Broadband Technology Report were sadde...

BTR Managing Editor Ron Hendrickson

Court Overturns FCC Municipal Broadband Order

August 11, 2016

By Ron Hendrickson - You win some, and you lose some, and the FCC just l...

Featured Hangouts

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this inf...

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

DOCSIS 3.1: A Look Ahead

Watch a 30-minute video chat of experts from a variety of related disciplines discuss how close deployments really ar...

Featured Hangout

4K 4 U: How to Prepare for UltraHD Video

4K/UltraHD video is coming - consumers are buying the TV sets, and more content is becoming available. Watch this informative Hangout on demand by clicking the link above.

Sponsored by Verimatrix.