June 18, 2009, 4:47 PM — Comcast made big strides toward transitioning to IPv6 this week by announcing that it was making IPv6 transit available for any wholesale customers that connect to the company’s fiber network.
In addition to offering transit to wholesale retailers, Comcast also “demonstrated end-to-end network readiness” for the transition to IPv6 during a meeting of the North American Network Operators Group in Philadelphia this week. John Leddy, who serves as Comcast’s senior vice president of network engineering, says that his company’s advancements on IPv6 this week represent “an important milestone in the testing and integration of IPv6 across Comcast’s network and systems in preparation for IPv6 addresses and content becoming more widely available in the future.”
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is known as IPv4. It was designed to be a next-generation Internet layer protocol by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to solve the problem of IP address depletion under the current system. John Curran, the chairman of the board of trustees at the American Registry for Internet Numbers, said at FutureNet earlier this year that available IPv4 addresses will be depleted within the next two years if they continue to be used at their current pace.
Comcast says that its moves toward IPv6 do not mean that the company will stop supporting IPv4 addresses anytime soon, as the company “has been working with the members of the Internet community to develop transition solutions that will provide continued communication with existing IPv4 address alongside the IPv6 addresses.”
Although the IETF has long been pushing for carriers and businesses to upgrade their systems to IPv6, individual businesses have consistently said that they don't see the logic in investing time and money in IPv6 deployment during a recession where they have far more pressing and immediate needs. Or as Curran put it at FutureNet, “People don't see what they need before they actually need it.”
Comcast’s IPv6 announcements this week may give the protocol and additional boost, however, as they are a major Internet provider in the U.S. that serves an estimated 15.3 million Internet subscribers. Additionally, Verizon announced last week that any manufacturers who want their devices to work on the carrier’s upcoming Long Term Evolution network will have to give them the ability to support IPv6.