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IPV6 and digital explosion within Telco Operators

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IPV6 Context

IPV6 is not a new technological stream, it is more a technical solution waiting its opportunity, and it seems this is coming up.

IPV6 was born in 1998, trying to answer the IPV4 final forecast. Testing process started in the early 2000 around Tier 1 Telco Operators, and… nowadays 94% [1] of Internet traffic worldwide is still over IPV4 worldwide.

Along these 15 years, from 2000 to now, to overcome the IPV4 limits, different technologies, and workarounds have raised with good, efficient, and low cost results:

  • NAT (Network Address Translation) is a method to translate or modify network address information in IP datagram packet. We can find NAT 44 to translate two IPV4 addresses, and NAT64 to translate one IPV4 address to other IPV6 or vice versa.
  • DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is a communications protocol that lets network administrators centrally manage and automate the assignment of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Nevertheless, we are living the digital explosion era, with a growing digital density. This means a lot of new kind of intelligent end points is rising. These new end points enable new kind of services that grants new kind of logical connections. These connections, in turn, are creating the new digital economy (with new business models). This new economy needs, to grow, more physical connections, so new end points are needed.

CSPs are in the middle of this economy revolution. They have to take a decision. What kind of strategy they want or need to deploy? Are they going to grow in value chain to the service layer? What tools a CSP have to take advantage of?


IPv6 challenge

So, is IPV6 an opportunity? What is its role on this? Is it worth to invest on IPV6 infrastructure evolution? How long a CSP can keep on launching new services over IPV4?

CSPs have deployed and invested over the last 10 years on new network infrastructure that granted them to create new services from their Core. One example of this is the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystems) to be able to launch new kind of services (multimedia one), by taking advantage of their network infrastructure, in an easy and value added way.

All CSP try to take advantage of their powerful infrastructure, trying to create new services over it, by extending its capabilities. They have to integrate these new services within their current IT systems (BSS and OSS), that in many cases is quite complex due to legacy systems.

This situation brings an specific time to market that in the 2Ks was acceptable, but nowadays is one of the main CSPs concerns. How to reach the market in a faster, cheaper, and more effective way.

On the other hand, we can find, within the Digital landscape, a lot of new Over IP services, launched by new kind of small and agile companies all around the world. These services relay on the Internet Protocol and CSP infrastructure. These services grant them to reach final clients directly, in a best effort, with a new time to market (more speed), and cost effective mode.  All full IP services.

IPv6 features a bigger addressing scheme, so it can handle vastly more devices connected directly to the Internet than its predecessor, IPv4. However, IPv6 is not backward-compatible with IPv4, which means website operators, carriers, and enterprise Operations teams have to upgrade their network equipment and software to support IPv6 traffic. And rather than move to IPv6, many carriers are building carrier-class NATs that means that your IPv4 Internet access will be hidden behind multiple translation layers.

This IPv6 and IPv4 not compatibility does not mean that CSPs have to change their entire infrastructure (at least not full infrastructure change), but change its design and configuration (a tough process). All new generation network equipment is able to deal with both, IPv6 and IPv4 protocol, so the physical investment has already done.

This near future design and deployment in the physical layer ”speaking” IPv4 and IPv6 (parallel run), is important to be taken into account if we are going to move to a virtual network. Both, SDN (Software Define Network) and NFV (Network Function Virtualization) relay on the physical layer, and any change on its architecture and technology will impact in the virtual one.

The service (either CSP infrastructure or OTT approach) user plane is peer-to-peer in nature, and sessions between mobile devices in different private IPv4 address spaces become highly complicated. This is why public IP addresses are required. The only solution (long term wise) is provided by IPv6. IPv6 makes the multi-access case much easier.

But what kind of benefits IPv6 brings?

  • A higher number of unique IP addresses. The latest version of the Internet protocol that provides unique IP addresses for tracking each connected device’s activity on networks. IPV6 uses 128 bit addresses, allowing 2 128, or 340 sextillions addresses. IPV4 is based on 32 bit, so it allows 4.3 billion addresses.

    IPv6 in a Nutshell

    IPv6 in a Nutshell

  • Native Security. In IPv6, IP security (IPsec) is part of the protocol suite. It is mandatory. IPsec is a set of security specifications originally written as part of the IPv6 specification. Due to the strong need for security in the current IPv4 Internet, IPsec was also adapted for IPv4. However, support for IPsec in IPv4 is optional and “proprietary solutions are prevalent”. IPsec in IPv6, on the other hand, provides end-to-end security, i.e. data is secured from the originating workstation/host (through the various routers, etc. of the Internet) to the destination workstation/host. In IPv4, IPsec typically provides security between border routers of separate networks.
  • Native QoS. Can be implemented by using Flow label field. This is a very important feature for Service Management.
  • Auto-configuration capabilities. It provides the ability for stateful and stateless auto-configuration of IP addresses. Stateful auto-configuration utilizes the stateful Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), in which static tables are maintained to determine the IP address to be assigned to a newly connected node. Stateless auto-configuration occurs without the use of DHCP.

But, is this enough for investing, and changing all CSP networks? It depends on the strategy designed. Is the CSP committed on growing on the service layer? Is the CSP going to move to the Virtual Infrastructure? These are the points.

With all previous technical stuff, you can guess that if a CSP is using an IPv4 approach, nowadays the communication between their services and the final customer is just in one way, starting it from the client. This means that the Service provider cannot start the communication, and it has to wait for the service activation in the customer side. This is because of NAT use; all final customers are behind the IPV4 “workaround” and you cannot reach them.

Imagine any kind of company just waiting all their customers to call them… crazy?

IPV6 enables a bidirectional communication just because of you can track your customers. They have a unique address.

Disruption and Services

We are living in the Disruption era. All kind of services (digital) are being launched around the world. Only some of them are from CSPs. M2M and IoT (Machine to Machine, Internet of Things) are here to stay.  It is starting the Engagement stage.

All previous trends are based on physical end points, not only mobile devices (smartphones), but also any kind of device as sensors, wearables, glasses, stickers, drones, cars, shoes… and who knows what more will come up in the next months, years. We can include, as well, current radio technology (LTE) is full IP, and next 5G will continue being it (with a full virtual way of working).

All these physical endpoints need, and will need an IP Address, since we are living the Digital era (included “Internet” of Things), and bidirectional “conversation” is needed.

So IPv6 itself is not the only lever to take into account, but without it, a CSP that aims to be a Digital player will not be able to compete if it cannot support this technical hop. IPV6 will energise the near disruptive future, full of physical and logical connections, with more, better, and intelligent services.

How can IPV6 be monetized? Through services, bringing new business models, better quality of service, more security (everybody is concerned about this), and less operational costs. It is the base to continue building up a new future that we are just starting to imagine.


[1] Cisco 2015 ( By western countries Deployments %: Belgium (48.48%), Norway (39.78%), USA (34.57%), Germany (38.74%), France (30.22%), Canada (23.14%) Italy (18.75%), Spain (18.54%).

[2]Google Statistics 2015 (


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