Mobile Devices and BYOD are Driving IPv6 Adoption

A mobile population needs IP addresses to communicate

In 2013, it is expected that the number of mobile devices will exceed the number of people. Each of these devices will need an IP address to reach content on the Internet. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is driving the need for more ubiquitous connectivity to support a mobile workforce. Even though some content providers have deployed IPv6, the vast majority of content remains reachable over IPv4-only. As more global communities join the Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow the availability of IP addresses will become critical.

Mobile Device Population Explosion:

At a Colorado Internet Society (CO ISOC) IPv6 event in August 2012, Cricket Liu of Infoblox, mentioned that the world population is now over 7 billion people and the global Internet population is still growing. He mentioned that APNIC is home to approximately 60% of the world population (~4.2 billion people) and they have an Internet penetration of approximately 26%. Therefore, there are still approximately 3.1 billion people in that region who may connect to the Internet and APNIC has been out of IPv4 addresses for about 2 years now. IPv4 only provides for ~4.2 billion addresses so we anticipate that these users will join the Internet as IPv6-only users or at least through a Carrier Grade NAT/Large Scale NAT (CGN/LSN) system. The APNIC region users are also heavy users of mobile phones and the world's mobile phones have passed the 6 billion mark.

Just like more and more computer operating systems now come with IPv6 enabled by default, more mobile devices are coming standard with IPv6 capabilities. This WikiPedia table of "Comparison of IPv6 support in operating systems" shows that most desktop and mobile operating systems are now using IPv6. However, the issue is that the vast majority of end-nodes are on IPv4-only access networks. Even still, these IPv6-capable operating systems attempt to use tunneling techniques like Teredo and 6to4 to help the user reach IPv6-enabled content on the Internet. As more and more service providers enable IPv6 access for their subscribers, there will be more native IPv6 traffic on the Internet. In a recent Akamai blog on the anniversary of World IPv6 Launch, their data shows that a large number of IPv6 requests are coming from mobile devices.

The reality is that the only way to connect billions of mobile and wired devices is with IPv6. The mobile service providers are all looking for a way to allow their subscriber's dual-protocol mobile devices to connect to the dual-protocol Internet. To accomplish this, each "bi-lingual" mobile device would need both an IPv4 and an IPv6 address. If they could find a way to give the mobile devices only an IPv6-address yet still allow the subscriber to access IPv4 Internet content then this would remove any limitations on the number of subscribers they could have. Moving away from IPv4 would allow the service providers to dramatically scale their operations. LTE (3GPP) requires mobile carriers deploy IPv6 and some providers like Verizon Wireless have excelled in this area. Other mobile operators are also looking at solutions like NAT64/DNS64 and 464XLAT (RFC6877).

NAT64/DNS64 allows an IPv6-only system to access IPv4-only applications on the Internet using a DNS proxy and some addressing trickery. T-Mobile had an early IPv6 beta trial that used NAT64/DNS64. The 464XLAT technique uses a client-side translator (CLAT) and a provider-site translator (PLAT) to allow mobile nodes to access IPv4 client/server applications on the Internet over an IPv6 service provider core network connected to the dual-protocol Internet. There is a Google site that explains more about 464XLAT and there is a video presented at the World IPv6 Congress Paris on this technique.

Regardless of the path these service providers take, they will undoubtedly eventually have to deploy a fully IPv6-capable core network. However, one of the other factors that is affecting mobile users from taking advantage of IPv6 is the fact that Skype does not support IPv6 yet. If Microsoft made Skype operate in a dual-protocol environment, then more Skype connections would be taking place over IPv6 transport.

The Internet of Things:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term for the changing way the Internet is used. For the most part, the Internet is used for connection-oriented application protocols like HTTP and SMTP. However, over time there are devices connecting to the Internet that are not used by an end-user to access client/server applications. These devices communicate between themselves and to other control systems. This Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications does not follow the typical unicast traffic models and typical exchanges are small amounts of event-driven data.

The Internet has evolved, beyond a collection of web servers and desktop computers with web browsers, to a conglomeration of diverse device types and communications activities. To give IP connectivity to all these numerous sensors requires large amounts of IP address space available with IPv6. IPv6 also facilitates sensor network connectivity using Stateless Address Autoconfiguration (SLAAC). Geoff Mulligan of the IPSO Alliance and Proto6 gave a presentation at the 2013 North American IPv6 Summit on "IPv6 for IoT and M2M applications".

Cisco has announced plans to develop solutions for the "Internet of Everything" (IoE) movement. The video on their site provides a compelling argument for the importance of these solutions and the potential benefits to our lives. There are also some recent Network World articles on the topic of: "The Internet of Things: Coming to a network near you" and "What is the Internet of Things?", and "Indirectly connected to The Internet of Things". There is also an interesting article on Ninja Blocks and "How the 'internet of things' can spark an open source community". Each of these "things" needs an IP address to be able to communicate and therefore, IPv6 is the only viable method to connect large numbers of these nodes to the Internet.


These mobile devices are making their way into enterprise networks. Employees prefer their own devices and the feeling that they are more productive with a device of their own choosing. Enterprises initially tried to fight this trend, but then eventually, enterprises realized that they needed to have a strategy to support these employee-owned devise. Now many enterprises have embraced the BYOD movement and are proactively managing the devices on their networks. Many "Fortune 500" enterprises that have successfully created a BYOD offering for their users have realized that security, data and device management are the keys to success.

IT departments must also recognize that the vast majority of these mobile devices are now dual-protocol capable. If you put an iPad, an iPhone, or an Android device on a dual-protocol WiFi network or on a dual-protocol 4G/LTE network, then they will prefer IPv6 connectivity if it is available. If one of your employees goes on a business trip to an Asian country they might connect to an IPv6-enabled network and possibly encounter a problem reaching a corporate application. Will your helpdesk be able to troubleshoot this scenario? Most enterprises have yet to realize that even if they have not deployed IPv6 internally there could still be IPv6-enabled devices on internal networks that are using IPv6 tunneling techniques to reach IPv6-enabled content on the Internet. Few enterprises are also aware that their mobile workforce may be using IPv6 when traveling or working from their homes.

Therefore, IT departments, user support centers and help-desks need to have the tools to help them manage these BYOD devices. Even if your internal network is not using IPv6 today, your IT staff may need the ability to troubleshoot IPv6-related issues. The question is: Does your staff have the knowledge and the tools to be able to diagnose and correct these problems quickly? On April 18th at the IPv6 Summit, Tom Coffeen, Infoblox IPv6 Evangelist, gave a presentation on the IPv6 and BYOD topic and wrote an article on "DHCPv6 Fingerprinting and BYOD". Yanick Pouffary, Distinguished Technologist and Chief Technologist, Technology Services-Networking, Hewlett-Packard Company, gave a presentation at the 2013 IPv6 Summit titled "BYOD and IPv6 - Are you ready for the flood of Employee Owned Devices?"

Large and medium-sized enterprises are recognizing the importance of having a BYOD policy and a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system that focuses on the security and support of the mobile devices. Solutions like Citrix XenMobile (was Zenprise) provide valuable tools to support a mobile workforce based on the corporate policies. Unfortunately, in my research, I could not find any of these MDM solutions that work with IPv6 addresses.


More Internet-connected devices will make IPv6 a requirement for connecting all these "things" to the Internet of Things. Much of the content on the Internet remains IPv4-only, but many of the largest content-provider's sites have transitioned to using both IPv4 and IPv6. The end-node operating systems are IPv6-capable, but they need native IPv6 connectivity to the Internet from ISPs and mobile operators. The service providers have an incentive to deploy IPv6 because it eliminates the limitations of IPv4 and allows them to continue to grow the number of subscribers and thus grow their businesses. All this takes time, but the growth of mobile devices and the Internet of Things will continue to put pressure on IPv4 addressing. Enterprises need to be prepared for this transition with BYOD and MDM solutions that function in a dual-protocol world.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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