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Network World - NTT this week disclosed technical details about what it claims is one of the largest, most successful commercial applications of IPv6, the next-generation Internet network protocol.
NTT says Hikari-TV, an IPTV broadcasting and video on-demand service available only in Japan, has been running in production mode across its native IPv6-based, fiber-to-the-home network since March 2008.
Hikari-TV has hundreds of thousands of subscriber households in Japan, where it costs $26 to $36 per month. Operated by NTT Plala, the service offers high-definition and regular TV broadcasts, 10,000-plus video-on-demand titles and more than 13,000 karaoke titles.
"Hikari-TV is the first large-scale, commercially successful application of IPTV service that runs over an IPv6 network," said Cody Christman, NTT America's director of product engineering.
"You have similar offerings like IPTV in other parts of the world, but this one is using a network built from the ground up for IPv6," Christman added. "You see [companies] like Comcast struggling with how to revamp their networks to support IPv6 because we're running out of address space. Hikari-TV is the look of things to come for the U.S."
IPv6 is a long-anticipated upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol, which is called IPv4.
IPv6 is needed because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support approximately 4.3 billion individually addressed devices on the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and can support so many devices that only a mathematical expression -- 2 to the 128th power -- can quantify its size.
Experts predict IPv4 addresses will be gone by 2012. At that point, all ISPs, government agencies and corporations will need to support IPv6 on their backbone networks.
NTT, a pioneer in the deployment of IPv6, is providing details about its IPv6-based IPTV service as a way of encouraging more organizations to adopt IPv6.
"We have not run into any performance problems whatsoever with our IPv6 deployments or applications, with IPTV being just one of them," Christman said.
The Hikari-TV service runs on what NTT calls its Next Generation Network (NGN), a fiber-optic network that the Japanese carrier built using IPv6. NGN services, such as Internet access and VoIP, have been available to Japanese consumers since 2005.
NTT Plala's new Hikari-TV service is putting several features of IPv6 to the test, and so far those features are performing well, NTT officials say. In particular, Hikari-TV is taking advantage of the abundant address space offered by IPv6 as well as its multicast and QOS features.
Each NGN customer receives a block of IPv6 addresses that's known as a /48 -- which is more than 65,000 IPv6 addresses. This massive block of IPv6 addresses allows consumers to hook up numerous devices, such as PCs, cell phones, TVs and household appliances, to the Internet.
With IPv6, consumers can connect devices directly to the Internet without middle boxes, such as network address translation (NAT) devices, making changes to packet headers.