Task Force aims to get carriers to commit to IPv6

* North America IPv6 Task Force works to get carriers on board with IPv6

How will ISP consolidation affect the development and deployment of next-generation Internet technologies such as IPv6? That's the question I posed to IPv6 experts and here's what I found out.

IPv6 is an upgrade to IPv4, the Internet's main communications protocol. Developed by the IETF, IPv6 promises easier administration, tighter security and an enhanced addressing scheme over IPv4.

Despite its promise, IPv6 has failed to catch on in the U.S. Only one ISP - NTT Verio - offers commercial IPv6 service here. And the only major U.S. organization to commit to IPv6 deployment is the Department of Defense. 

Complicating the deployment of IPv6 is the fact that all of the leading U.S. ISPs are in a state of flux. SBC has purchased AT&T. Sprint is merging with Nextel. And both Verizon and Qwest are bidding on MCI.

I wondered what effect these ownership changes in the ISP community will have on IPv6 deployment here in the U.S., which already lags behind Asia and Europe. But IPv6 proponents remain optimistic.

"The people who are working on IPv6 at Sprint or MCI or AT&T are not going to change because of a merger," predicts Jim Bound, CTO of the IPv6 Forum and chairman of the North American IPv6 Task Force. "What's driving these carriers is concern about the 3G market. ...We've seen no diminishing of interest since the mergers were announced."

"I'm not worried that the mergers are going to disrupt IPv6 deployment. I have to believe it's on its course," agrees Yanick Pouffary, IPv6 Forum Fellow and technology director of the North American IPv6 Task Force. "I do believe that convergence will allow the carriers to move forward. They're going to have to converge to cut costs, and they're going to converge on the next generation technology."

Until now, SBC, Qwest and Verizon have had little or no involvement with the IPv6 community. None of these carriers is involved in Moonv6, the world's largest native IPv6 backbone, which is operated by the North American IPv6 Task Force.

"We've never worked with SBC, so that's all new," Bound admits. He says the Moonv6 project has approached Verizon but hasn't signed up the carrier yet.

To change this situation, the North American IPv6 Task Force is reaching out to ATIS, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. Based in Washington D.C., ATIS creates standards to address the carriers' technical and operational needs.

"We're trying to develop a strong relationship with ATIS so we can get to SBC, Verizon, Nextel and Qualcomm. They all work within ATIS," Bound says.

Bound points out that the former Baby Bells are likely to be purchasing IPv6-ready routers and other network gear as they roll out MPLS-based infrastructures. "IPv6 will run through that core," Bound says.

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