Europe moving slow on IPv6 deployment

A European Commission study finds about 92 percent of ISPs don't use IPv6 yet or see little IPv6 traffic

Few organizations across Europe have upgraded to IPv6, the new version of the Internet's addressing protocol, according to a survey commissioned by the European Commission.

Of 610 government, educational and other industry organizations surveyed throughout Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, only 17 percent had upgraded to IPv6. The upgrade is necessary as the number of IPv4 addresses is expected to run out within two to three years.

Broken out separately, ISPs have a worse record. About 92 percent of ISPs are either not using IPv6 or report little IPv6 traffic on their networks, according to the survey.

More than 60 percent of respondents that are members of either the RIPE Network Coordination Center or APNIC -- which are Regional Internet Registries that assign blocks of IP addresses to ISPs and manage other Internet addressing tasks -- said they don't have a business need yet for IPv6.

A majority of respondents that had no immediate plans to deploy IPv6 said cost was another barrier.

The survey's results are not surprising, said Axel Pawlik, RIPE's managing director.

"Obviously, ISPs try to make money, so that means they have to do the most urgent thing first. They don't see that IPv6 is such an urgent thing," he said.

Deployment in the U.S. has also been slow. Research analyst company Gartner has gone so far as to recently tell organizations not to worry about IPv6, given the ongoing economic recession. But the impact could be that organizations will be caught somewhat flat-footed if projections for when IPv4 addresses run out are wrong.

The IPv4 protocol uses 32-bit addresses, enough to support about 4.3 billion unique addresses. But as more computers and devices connect to the Internet, those addresses are running out, with predictions that all will be used by 2012 or sooner.

IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, which exponentially increases the number of possible IP address combinations.

Organizations generally refresh hardware such as routers every two or three years, and new hardware supports IPv6, Pawlik said.

Most organizations say the upgrade to IPv6 didn't cost as much as they thought it would, he said.

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