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Broadcast industry must face up to IPv6 migration at last
20 Feb 2012

The prospect of migration from IPv4 to IPv6 has been casting a shadow over the Internet for well over a decade, and yet only recently have there been signs of much urgency among broadcasters and pay TV operators. The subject continues to receive remarkably little attention given its relevance for broadcasting, probably because it has been rumbling on so long with progress so slow. Things did pick up during 2011, when on June 8 major Internet related companies led by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Akamai Technologies, and Limelight Networks staged World IPv6 Day, when they enabled their web sites for IPv6, primarily to raise consciousness and at the same time assess problems interworking with IPv4.

Now we are seeing some pay TV operators start making the transition, with Belgian cable operator VOO this week announcing it has selected Cisco’s dual-stack technology across its network, so that it can move towards parallel running of IPv4 and IPv6 as a prelude to an eventual full switchover in some years time. This dual-stack strategy is likely to be adopted by many broadcasters and operators, allowing IPv4 and IPv6 to coexist across the network, so that the transition can be gradual and transparent for the end customers, with no impact on operational systems or Quality of Experience.

IPv4 dates back to the mid 1970s when it became the first protocol governing routing of data across the Internet, then just an academic network. It comprises a data packet addressing scheme using 32-bit numbers often expressed as four octets in “dotted decimal” notation (e.g. 192.0.2.53). The IPv6 protocol was then developed in the mid-1990s to correct IPv4’s shortcomings, most notably the fact that a 32 bit address space can only support about four billion devices without reuse of addresses. The exhaustion of addresses that has now just occurred was anticipated then.

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