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Open Mic - Cable Leads the Way On IPv6 Transition

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 8:20pm
William Check, Senior Vice President of Science & Technology, and Chief Technology Officer at the NCTA

Join us on this transitional journey.

It has been a busy year for the cable industry, and it is not slowing down. Operators are continually introducing engaging interactive applications, faster broadband and fresh ideas that are keeping cable in the forefront of innovation. However, as growth and advancement progress across our footprint, we must consider the looming transition to Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6.

William CheckWhat is the IPv6 transition? The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – the coordinating body that manages the worldwide distribution of IP addresses – announced earlier this year that it had run out of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses. This isn’t a surprise. In fact, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) predicted this inevitability back in the ’90s and developed the IPv6 protocol as a solution. Since IPv6 isn’t backwards-compatible with IPv4, at least not without some workarounds, the solution is for the Internet to transition to IPv6 so that everyone is using the same addressing system.

While this transition is primarily handled by companies behind the scenes, there is a potential consumer impact if all contributors to the Internet community aren’t on board. This includes ISPs, website owners and manufacturers of consumer electronics equipment. The IPv6 protocol must be supported and implemented by all of these stakeholders.

Thankfully, the cable industry has been working behind the scenes for the last few years, planning, testing and implementing support for IPv6 across our platforms. Our ultimate goal is to minimize the transition’s effects on our customers and ensure cable’s continued excellent customer experiences for the broadest range of devices. The industry has spent significant time and effort preparing for IPv6, and we are well positioned for this transition.

Here are a few examples of how cable has been leading the way for the transition:

• The DOCSIS 3.0 specification for high-speed broadband over cable has supported IPv6 addressing from the start, while also allowing for IPv4 compatibility.

• Since 2009, CableLabs has held interoperability and certification programs, helping equipment manufacturers ensure they can support the cable industry with effective solutions for the transition.

• CableLabs has co-authored Internet specifications describing the implementation of IPv6 on home gateways.

• The industry has hosted several summits to educate MSOs, programmers, retailers and consumer electronics companies and has encouraged all groups to work together on transition plans.

• The NCTA has presented a series of webinars for retailers, describing why they should carry and promote IPv6-capable electronics.

• Cable operators have been involved in reaching out to various inter-industry organizations. Comcast and Time Warner Cable were among the first ISPs involved in planning the June 8 World IPv6 Day. MSO representatives have presented on IPv6 to the North American Network Operators' Group (NANOG), the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, the Internet Society (ISOC) and the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).

• Finally, Comcast led the way for the cable industry and began IPv6 trials on its networks more than a year ago.

Cable’s continued focus on IPv6 will be even more evident during the IPv6 Summit at The Cable Show in Chicago this month. Just about a week after World IPv6 Day, the summit will help foster understanding and ongoing collaboration around the IPv6 transition for cable operators, programming executives, senior managers, technologists, and other leaders and stakeholders.

The IPv6 Summit will provide a detailed examination of the Internet’s transition to the new IPv6 addressing protocol – and what it means for cable providers, Internet devices, content producers, consumers and others. It will truly be a forum for supporting an informed, collaborative approach to IPv6 and its associated demands.

The IPv6 Summit joins executives and professionals from inside and outside the cable industry to participate in panel sessions and networking opportunities. John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN, will begin the day by providing keynote remarks. And to conclude the summit, Tom Powers, chief of staff at the NTIA, is scheduled to speak at the luncheon session.

The IPv6 transition is just beginning. It requires additional work and partnership from all of those who utilize the Internet or provide broadband access. Future success depends on collaboration among all of these players.

Cable has spent decades upgrading and configuring our networks to meet the ever-changing demands brought about by technological advancement and consumer demand. The IPv6 transition is just one more way we’re working to create the best experience for our customers. Cable is proud to take a leading role, and we’re excited for our friends in the “Internet ecosystem” to join us on this journey.

E-Mail: wcheck@ncta.com

Next month’s column will be written by Jorge Salinger, Comcast’s vice president of access architecture.

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