Canadian ISPs quiet before IPv6 Launch Day

Canada’s biggest Web site operators apparently feel there’s no rush to join the crowd touting their ability to support the IPv6 protocol.

World IPv6 Launch Day is Wednesday, the day arbitrarily set by the Internet Society for Internet service providers, content providers and network equipment manufactures to show they are prepared on a full time basis to handle Web addresses that use IPv6,

However, as of Tuesday night only Telus Communications Co. of the country’s big three Internet providers had listed its readiness on the society’s launch page.

Calls to BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada and Rogers Communications Inc.asking for a statement on their readiness weren’t returned by press time.

Nor did a number of the country’s major ISPs return calls.

A total of 43 Canadian Web site operators are listed with Telus, including Canarie, the national high speed research network; and BCnet, the British Columbia research and education network.

Of the country’s network operators, only FranTech Solutions, a Victoria, B.C. hosted services provider, is listed.

Operators may be ready but haven’t listed with the Internet Society.

By comparison, some of the leading service and content providers have been touting their readiness, including AT&T; cable operators Time Warner Cable and Comcast; Verizon Wireless, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft Bing, andMozilla,

Note that readiness only means a service provider can say at least one per cent of its subscribers can handle IPv6 traffic.

Network equipment makers whose equipment is largely IPv6 compliant include Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks.

For years the Internet has been relying on devices and Web sites using addresses with the IPv4 protocol. The addresses are given out by a number of authorized domain registries around the world. However, IPv4 addresses have been running out as an increasing number of devices ranging from smart phones, electric meters and printers connect to the Internet.

IPv6 has more address space to accommodate millions of more devices. However, networks have to be ready to handle the protocol.

The Internet won’t collapse Wednesday if a manufacturer or Web site isn’t ready. In North America a number of organizations have stockpiled IPv4 addresses just in case. However, as time goes on increasingly organizations will have to have their networks able to deal with both versions of the protocol.

Every Canadian service provider is working on a solution, even though they may not have announced readiness.

Some, like Internet providers who buy connectivity from a big carrier, have their internal networks ready but cannot vouch for the state of home modems used by subscribers. Those modems may or may not be eligible for software upgrades.

Alain Durand, IPv6 expert at Juniper Networks, has been working on the protocol for 19 years for a number of companies. “It has been a long process,” he said. “When we started developing IPv6 in ‘92/’93 the Internet was very different from what it is now. It was something for research institutes, governments.” And while it was foreseen that IPv4 addresses would run out around 2012, he expected organizations to be more prepared than they are now.

But, he said, “we cannot put our heads in the sand and say we don’t need IPv6. This is something that has to be done.”

 “I’m not worried at all,” says Alain Fiocco, senior director for Cisco Systems Inc.’s IPv6 project, who has worked with a number of carriers around the world, including several Canadian cable companies.

Canadian providers he’s talked to say they plan to turn their networks on to handle IPv6 by the end of this year or in 2013.

“All service providers around the world know they have to it,” he said. “It’s a matter of whether they are ready for June 6.”

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has a big pool of IPv4 addresses still to be allocated, he said, so Canada and the U.S. still have time to prepare.

The readiness of organizations depends on a number of factors, he said. For example, preparing a financial institution’s Web-facing online banking platform to handle IPv6 traffic is a priority, he said. On the other hand the ability of the routers and switches on its internal network to handle the protocol can wait for equipment to be refreshed normally if it doesn’t already have the capability.

 “World IPv6 Launch Day is not a goal in itself,” Fiocco said. “It’s the first day of the foundation … To me June 7 and June 8 and July 9 are as important.”

But he noted that as of Wednesday many large content providers will make their networks IPv6 enabled permanently. By his calculation 30 per cent of the global traffic on the Web will be IPv6-reachable.

That means it will be increasingly important for network operators to have their systems IPv6-ready. The good news, he said, is that all of the world’s top ISPs – such as AT&T – will be enabled, and 80 per cent of the top 200 ISPs.

But it will be “challenging” for users because of the modem problem, depending on the country.

Many carriers who say they will be ready for Wednesday have only promised that one per cent of their customers will be able to handle IPv6 traffic, he said. After Wednesday they also promise that every new subscriber will have an IPv6 modem, set top box or gateway enabled by default. That means after June 6 there will be a steady growth in numbers, he said..

Still, as of last Friday, when Fiocco was interviewed, only 0.8 per cent of Internet subscribers in the U.S. who used Google search had equipment that could handle IPv6 according to figures from Google. In Canada, the number was 0.05 per cent. By comparison close to five per cent of subscribers in France could handle IPv6.
(Editor’s note: On June 6 a Rogers spokesman said by email that the carrier is participating in Launch Day. “We’ve been working since 2006 to modernize our network and adopt industry best-practices so that you can seamlessly continue to have world-leading Internet experiences. Over time, we will move customers to IPv6 in a controlled fashion as equipment such as routers, gateways and modems are upgraded,” the statement said. Rogers has an information Web site,
(The same day MTS Allstream issued this statement: “We will proactively assist our customers in their deployment and migration plans as IPv4 addresses become exhausted,” said Mike Strople, chief technology officer, MTS Allstream. “We have implemented IPv6 in our own network and have plans to enable it broadly throughout our product lines. IPv6 is all about looking towards the future.” For more information see )