IPv6: Europe 'ahead' in new net address scheme

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Norway is leading the way in preparing for the move to the net's new addressing scheme, a survey has shown.

The survey comes a month before World IPv6 day that will see many v6 websites permanently activated.

The new IPv6 scheme is needed because the older system, IP Version 4, is about to run out of addresses.

Compiled by Europe's net address overseer, Ripe Ncc, the report found Norway was ahead of Asian nations where IPv4 addresses are no longer available.

The UK sat just outside the top 20 of nations as only 17.3% of its networks can work with IPv6 traffic.

Every device attached to the internet needs what is known as an IP address to ensure data reaches the right destination.

Version 4 of the scheme defining the format of those addresses was drawn up in the 1970s. It made available a pool of about four billion addresses.

The rapid growth of the net and the web has rapidly drained the pool and exposed a need to move to IPv6. This has an effectively inexhaustible supply of addresses available.

Traffic tops

To see how far the world has got in converting to the new scheme, Ripe Ncc, which oversees IP addresses in Europe, has been logging which networks have announced that they can handle IPv6 traffic.

It found that 49.3% of Norway's networks could route this traffic. Holland was in second place (43.5%) and Malaysia third (37.1%).

Top 20 IPv6 nations

  • Norway - 49.3%
  • Netherlands - 43.8%
  • Malaysia - 37.1%
  • Japan - 32.5%
  • Sweden - 31.9%
  • Germany 30.9%
  • New Zealand - 29.7%
  • Belgium - 29.2%
  • Singapore - 29.1%
  • Ireland - 28.7%
  • Finland - 28%
  • Denmark - 27.7%
  • Austria - 27.3%
  • Switzerland - 26.7%
  • Portugal - 25.9%
  • France - 22.3%
  • Taiwan - 21.2%
  • Slovenia - 21.1%
  • Hong Kong 20.4%
  • South Africa - 20%

"The move to IPv6 is definitely picking up," said Daniel Karrenberg, chief scientist at RIPE. "Though it's still slower than I as an engineer would like."

Neither China nor the US, which have the two largest net using populations, made RIPE's Top 20 list.

While many networks in these countries were starting to be able to handle traffic for the old and new addressing schemes, only a handful of end users were using the protocol, said Mr Karrenberg.

"There's a lot of deployed equipment," he said. "Some of it can be upgraded but some of it will need to be exchanged."

The migration to the new scheme was going to be helped, he said, by the fact that router and modem makers were producing hardware that could handle both IPv4 and IPv6.

There was more use of IPv6 in Asian nations, he said, because there were no more IPv4 addresses available to allocate to that region. To continue expanding and adding new customers, web firms in Asia had to adopt IPv6.

He predicted that Europe's stock of IPv4 addresses would run out later in 2012, and said all firms should be getting on with the job of adopting IPv6.

"Whoever is only now just getting stuck into the planning stage is going to be late," he said. "They really need to get on with it."

World IPv6 day is due to be held on 6 June and is intended to be a way for firms to test how they work with the new protocol.

In addition, many big net names, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft's Bing, have pledged to turn on IPv6 versions of their sites and leave them running.

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