IPv6 Gains Momentum; Comcast Leads

BTR_Feature_Art_IPV6_12-9-13 The recent news from the Internet Society that Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) deployment of IPv6 is the largest in the world came as no surprise to John Brzozowski, Comcast fellow and chief IPv6 architect.

"We have been very active in the space and vocal about the work we are doing," Brzozowski said. "With all the planning we have done ... especially over the past four or five years, we knew at some point we would be able to increase the rate of (enabling) IPv6 to our customers."

He attributes the most recent spike in growth, however, to two specific factors: IPv6 support for the Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) uBR10000 CMTS and the release of an IPv6 software upgrade for more than 4 million deployed ARRIS (NASDAQ: ARRS) TG852/862 wireless gateways.

"The beautiful part about it was that we could remotely upgrade all these devices in a way that was seamless to customers and straightforward for us to do," Brzozowski said.

The upgrades and configurations are done during the course of natural activities that cause the device in the consumer home to reset. "(For example,) if the user turns off the cable modem every night or a dog pulls the plug, we take advantage of things that are naturally occurring in everyday life," Brzozowski said. "The elegance of the approach is the simplicity behind it."

More than 25% of Comcast's broadband customer base is actively provisioned with IPv6, and Brzozowski expects this to double in 2014. While 75% of Comcast's broadband network supports IPv6, the company expects to expand this to 100% early in 2014.

Two other cable companies made the top 10 in the Internet Society's November list of IPv6 deployments: Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) came in seventh (3.38% of its customer base), while Liberty Global (NASDAQ: LBTYA) was No. 9 (2.24% of its customer base). In comparison, Comcast has at least 32 autonomous system numbers (ASNs) deployed; TWC has seven, and Liberty has four.

"They (TWC and other MSOs) started offering IPv6 later to their user base," said Phil Roberts, technology program manager for the Internet Society. "It takes a while to roll out. Everybody expects the numbers to increase."

While growth always could be greater, it has been moving pretty rapidly, Roberts said. In June 2012, only 70 networks were being measured. Now there are three times as many. "The percentages have grown for the networks pretty consistently."

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) measures the percentage of its users that access it using IPv6. This number is three times as large as it was in June last year. "Even though the number is still fairly small, it is a real number now with over 2% of traffic arriving at Google with IPv6," Roberts said.

Moving forward, ARRIS said that although its announcement about the wireless gateways was specific to Comcast, it is also working with other MSOs. Providing IPv6 support for its CMTS and wireless gateways is 99% similar across operators with considerations taken for specific network configurations. "These are very minor and minute," said Eli Baruch, ARRIS' senior staff solutions architect.

The other side of the coin is the enabling of IPv6 by content distribution networks ( CDNs) and hosting companies as well as consumer electronics companies. "Many of the big players have launched support by default .... But there is a whole host of content that could be IPv6 but is not," Brzozowski said, noting that owners of websites, both personal and professional, shouldn't have to "jump through hoops" to receive the benefits of IPv6.

Indeed, IPv6 is climbing the list of top 1,000 websites as provided by Alexa International, which tracks more than 30 million global sites. The five largest English language websites in the world have IPv6, including YouTube, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Google and Facebook, Roberts said.

"That is a positive story," Roberts said. "Hosting is fairly complex and is different in different parts of the world .... (For example,) the three major hosting companies in Germany had enabled IPv6 for all their websites. Not everybody can do that, (although) it would be great if they could."

Roberts also noted that the various percentages also have to be read with the understanding that consumer electronics do matter. In his own home, he has seven gadgets that are Internet-capable, but only two or three of those can use IPv6. So while a company like Comcast may have enabled IPv6 to the home and Google is IPv6, consumers may still be using devices that are not IPv6-capable.

"The Internet Society has been integral in bringing many players to the table," Brzozowski said. "We hope that in 2014 and beyond, we will look to them to carry the torch and move things forward with CDNs and hosters and consumer electronics companies."

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at mcmhern@yahoo.com.

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