AT&T builds $23M IPv6 network for US military

AT&T is building a production-quality IPv6 data network for the US Army in Germany that will cost approximately US$23 million when it is completed next year.

IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, known as IPv4. While IPv4 has a 32-bit addressing scheme and can support around 4 billion individually addressed devices, IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and can support a virtually limitless number of devices on the Internet.

IPv6 adoption is on the rise, due to network industry predictions that the Internet will run out of IPv4 addresses within three years. At that time, all backbone and corporate networks will need to support IPv6.

The Army is ahead of the curve with its new state-of-the-art data network, which will support its operations in Grafenwoehr, Germany -- the home of the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Center (JMTC).

AT&T is installing and testing a new campus data network, which will support Army personnel at 600 JMTC buildings. AT&T says the installation will be complete in January 2010.

"This is a Layer 2/Layer 3 data network for a campus,'' said Carl Tegen, Director of Defense Networks at AT&T Government Solutions. "We will basically install switches and routers in end-user buildings and...a network to distribute Layer 2/Layer 3 connectivity around the training area.''

Tegen said the training center's previous network didn't support IPv6, which is now mandated for all US military telecommunications equipment purchases. The entire US federal government is upgrading its network infrastructure to support IPv6.

"IPv6 is required, so we have to give them that capability,'' Tegen said. "We're also giving them much more throughput. The new network operates at gigabit speeds."

AT&T wouldn't identify the hardware or software suppliers involved in the Army's new IPv6-enabled campus-area network. Nor would it explain the applications that will run over the network.

"We will just install the network and turn it over to the customer," Tegen said. "The network will be owned and operated by the US Army."

AT&T won the US$23 million Army network deal last summer, but the US telecom giant disclosed the award on Monday.

To win the German network deal, AT&T competed against other vendors participating in the Army's Infrastructure Modernization (IMOD) program, a 10-year, US$4 billion effort to modernize the fiber optic cable and wireless communications at Army bases worldwide. The 10 IMOD vendors include AT&T, Avaya, Lucent and Siemens -- all of which were awarded umbrella IMOD contracts in April 2006.

The US Army isn't the only organization rolling out IPv6. The five regional Internet registries -- which distribute IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to ISPs and corporations -- announced in December that they are seeing an acceleration of IPv6 activity and production deployments across the Internet during the last two years.

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