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IPv6 on home routers and DSL/cable modems: FAIL

IPv6 is still broken, or missing, in most vendors' consumer network gear

By , Network World
March 04, 2011 06:00 AM ET

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However, Cisco isn't sure yet if routers bought prior to 2011 will get IPv6. "We are currently looking into which 'legacy' Linksys product can support IPv6. (There are many things that influence us being able to do it -- including if there is enough memory, as well as other factors.) The engineer teams are working on that," the spokesperson said.

Network professionals are comfortable with "rooting" their home networking gear and can always wipe out the vendor's firmware and install OpenWRT or DD-WRT. But that's not the kind of task an average consumer can or will do, nor is it a saleable tactic for an ISP to recommend and support.

ISPs, in particular, are in a bind. To date, residential ISPs running IPv6 trials have provided the customer router. Service providers offering IPv6 expect that through 2012 they will need to, at the very least, provide customers a short list of tested routers and configuration instructions, Premier Communications' Bulk says. "It's the desire of service providers that big box electronic stores be able to point customers to boxes with 'IPv6-ready' logos. The Wi-Fi Alliance has done a great job in communicating to customers which wireless products will work well -- it's an open question at this time if the IPv6 Forum will be able to replicate that with IPv6."

With the exception of some products by D-Link and Apple's AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme, none of today's CPE can operate using IPv6 well enough for a field test trial, Bulk says.

He, like other ISPs, would like to be installing IPv6-ready gear in customer homes and small businesses right now. "Every day that goes by is one more day we're assisting customers with IPv4-only routers and installing our IPv4-only DSL modems. While we know the amount of IPv6-only content on the Internet is very little today, we want to avoid rolling trucks three years from now to help people with configuring their IPv6-capable router or to replace our DSL modem. And it's not just the cost of the truck roll, but also the gear."

Bulk has tested about a dozen consumer-grade routers and DSL modems that claim IPv6 support and documented some of his test results on ARIN's IPv6 Wiki site.

"In general, it's been disappointing," he says, and he has long given up on firmware upgrades for the installed base of CPE. "Most of the low-cost consumer-grade routers of the last few years have insufficient memory to support an adequate set of IPv6 features, and even those routers that do, it's not in the vendor's best interest to spend development dollars on adding features to an older product with razor-thin margins."

For instance, he says that despite earning IPv6 Forum certification for several of its WNDR products, Netgear's wares aren't ready. Last month he tested the WNDR3700v2, a unit specifically recommended by a Netgear service provider support engineer.

Bulk found bugs with how the devices implemented IPv6 support on the LAN (client) side of the router.

"In our IPv6 trial we hand out a /56 to each router. When I discovered that the PC attached to the Netgear router didn't have an IPv6 address, a little poking around revealed that the router was attempting to perform SLAAC with the full /56, rather than select a /64 out of the delegated prefix. In compliance with IETF standards, the PC wasn't getting an IPv6 address. I can only speculate, but it appears that in its testing Netgear was only handing out a /64 to each router, which likely would have resulted in a successful test. "

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