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CableLabs: Cable ready for IPv6

Tue, 02/01/2011 - 7:55am
Brian Santo

The cable industry is well positioned to transition to IPv6, CableLabs assured today.

The organization pegged its declaration to the news of another depletion of the few remaining Ipv4 addresses. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) distributed two IPv4 address blocks to the Asian-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) and is poised to release its remaining IPv4 address supply to Regional Internet Registries.

Although many service providers will have reserves of addresses to allocate that might see some of them into 2012, common expectation is that new IPv4 addresses will run out this year.

Cable operators have recognized that the ultimate solution to the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses is the ubiquitous implementation of IPv6 protocol technology. However, during the transition to IPv6, they have developed strategies that will enable them to continue offering IPv4 service while the transition to IPv6 is completed.

CableLabs and its cable system operator members have been working on this transition for more than six years. CableLabs CEO Paul Liao said, "Cable operators will minimize the effects of the transition on end users, and ultimately to ensure superb customer experiences over the widest range of devices."

Comcast CTO Tony Werner said, "We have been planning for years and are currently deploying IPv6 resources, so our customers will not be impacted." Comcast yesterday said it implemented the preferred approach for the transition, a native dual stack.

"Time Warner Cable has long been preparing for the eventual end of IPv4 address availability. We've decided that the best architecture for ensuring the level of performance our customers expect is 'dual stack,' which supports both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols," said Mike LaJoie, CTO of Time Warner Cable.

LaJoie continued: "We, along with other MSOs, have been working with CableLabs, the NCTA (National Cable & Telecommunications Association) and the SCTE (Society of Cable & Telecommunications Engineers) in a multi-industry effort to adopt the IPv6 protocol and are hopeful that companies in the CE (consumer electronics) and vendor communities begin to offer new equipment and provide firmware upgrades that ensure the devices in our customers' homes support IPv6. Time Warner Cable signed up its first commercial customer using native IPv6 over our fiber access product last year, and we expect to begin residential IPv6 trials this spring."

At the request of its members, CableLabs began updating its specifications in 2004 to account for IPv6 usage. DOCSIS 3.0 has supported IPv6 addressing from the start, while also allowing for IPv4 compatibility. Backward compatibility is also written into the preceding DOCSIS 2.0 specification, which accommodates the IPv6 protocol through upgraded (3.0-compliant) cable modem termination systems.

Likewise, PacketCable 2.0 includes support for IPv6. These steps, plus the expectation for continued allocations of IPv4 addresses from the Regional Internet Registries until such time as the registries exhaust their address pools, should allow cable broadband subscribers uninterrupted service during the transition to IPv6.

Liao further noted that CableLabs has reached out to content owners and consumer electronics manufacturers that also must transition to IPv6. "The Internet is a highly complex and connected network, and the impact of this transition will be minimized by a move to IPv6 throughout the Internet, including by content providers, CE manufacturers and all ISPs," Liao said.

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