While most network operators have been diligently preparing their own infrastructure for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6, it turns out the question of how customer premises equipment (CPE) might play in the new environment was being neglected.

The industry will be catching up on that issue at a week of interop testing scheduled for mid-April at the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL).

One thing about IPv6 has long been clear: Unanticipated technical issues keep popping up. Eighteen months ago, operators began to realize that that was certainly true of CPE, as well. They turned to the IOL, as one of the very few organizations with an appropriate test bed, to help organize the testing.

At the time, the outlook for CPE makers’ preparedness for IPv6 was pretty bleak, said UNH-IOL senior manager Tim Winters. “But it’s getting better, and it’s getting better quickly.”

The test event at IOL is for gateways: any device that acts as a bridge between any broadband connection and any Internet-enabled device – a router, a game console, etc.

The lab has been testing gateways for some time, including versions for DOCSIS, DSL and Ethernet. Thus far, the lab has verified implementations from Cisco, Actiontec, Broadcom, D-Link and Lantiq as being interoperable.

Four or five companies have signed up to have gateway implementations for the upcoming interop, and Winters said he expects as many as a dozen may end up participating.

The lab is currently checking gateways for interoperability. Winters said that by next November, the lab would like to begin offering a service in which gateways that pass IPv6 compliance testing would receive an official “IPv6 Ready” sticker or logo.

The upcoming test event will be held April 16-20 at the UNH-IOL. The deadline for companies to register for the test event is April 9. Additional information is available on the lab’s site.

Winters described one of the unanticipated issues that popped up with gateways that the lab helped identify and address. The issue was with stateful options when the gateway was acting as a DHCP client. The operator might have IPv6 addresses available but not ready to be assigned, he explained. The problem was that the server ended up getting an enormous volume of service requests it was in no position to respond to.