Verizon: We Have Plenty of IPv4 Addresses

Verizon Business says it has enough IP addresses using the current version of the Internet Protocol, known as IPv4, to support its U.S. business and government customers as they transition to the next-generation standard, IPv6.

"We're not running out of IPv4 addresses anytime soon," assures Jason Schiller, senior Internet network engineer with Verizon Business. "But we still think it's important to deploy dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6. We want to get a lot of IPv6 out there before the first organization is forced to go all IPv6."

Verizon won't say how many IPv4 addresses it has left, claiming that this information is "proprietary."

[BACKGROUND: 6 biggest misconceptions about IPv6]

But Stephan Lagerholm, author of the www.ipv4depletion.com Web site and senior DNS architect at Secure64 Software, estimates that Verizon has received more than 19 million IPv4 addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) in the past three years.

It's hard to say how fast Verizon will use up its share of IPv4 addresses, which are handed out as new customers or new devices join its networks. In its latest earnings call, Verizon said it added 955,000 net customers for its wireless services, 197,000 for FiOS Internet and 182,000 for FiOS TV during Q4.

John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN, says that no U.S. carrier really has "enough" IPv4 addresses. "They might have enough for 2011, but what about 2012 or 2013?" Curran asks. He points out that ARIN is only delegating IPv4 address space to carriers for needs they can demonstrate three months into the future to prevent hording of this precious Internet resource.

Verizon's share of IPv4 addresses is significant because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses and must migrate to IPv6. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) announced in February that the free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses had dried up.

Created 40 years ago, IPv4 has a 32-bit addressing scheme and can support approximately 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, features a 128-bit addressing scheme and can support vastly more devices -- 2 to the 128th power. Carriers and enterprises must upgrade their networks to support IPv6 because it is not backward compatible with IPv4.

Verizon says it is flush with IPv4 addresses at a time when other carriers around the globe are hurting. China Telecom recently said it will need 30 million IPv4 addresses in 2010 and that it only has 10 million.

Nonetheless, Verizon Business is encouraging its customers to deploy IPv6.

"We're encouraging content providers and application developers to do IPv6," Schiller says. "If things don't change, if there is still a large gap between the IPv6 and IPv4 Internet, then the first organization that has to go IPv6 only won't be able to do much. They'll have to go through a translation box such as IPv4 carrier-grade [network address translation] or IPv6/IPv4 translation services that are not going to perform well."

COMPARISON: IPv6 vs. Carrier-Grade NAT

Last week, Verizon announced that it had upgraded its high-end Internet access services in Europe and Asia to support native IPv6 traffic, dual-stack configurations with IPv6 and IPv4 running side-by-side, and IPv6 tunneled over IPv4 networks. Verizon plans to offer these same capabilities in Canada and Latin America by year-end.

"This gives us a much more global capability with IPv6, which is becoming more important with the IANA announcement of IPv4 depletion," says Kevin Mardis, Internet Dedicated Services product manager at Verizon.

Since 2007, Verizon has offered tunneled and dual-stack IPv6 services in the United States based on a transition mechanism known as 6PE, which runs IPv6 over an IPv4-based Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network.

"A few years back, we deployed 6PE, which leverages MPLS in the core of the network to carry IPv6. We did that for our initial deployment because we wanted to gain more of a comfort level with IPv6. We didn't want to go ahead and put it in our core," Schiller explains. "Now that we've gotten a much higher comfort level, we plan to roll that out to the U.S. core as well, probably by the end of the year."

IPV6 TUNNEL BASICS

Verizon said it will offer comparable features, usage and flat-rate pricing for IPv6 services that it already offers for IPv4 services. One difference is that Verizon is not yet offering quality-of-service capabilities for IPv6.

Verizon said it has hundreds of IPv6 customers, including content providers and government agencies, in the United States.

"A lot of customers who host their own content or applications, or customers that are interested in cached content, are now looking at IPv6," Mardis says. "We see them starting to acquire and adopt IPv6 on some circuits as they test it out and determine how they are going to deploy IPv6."

Mardis says Verizon upgraded its backbone network in Europe and Asia Pacific to enable IPv6 due to demand from both U.S.-based multinational corporations as well as businesses in those regions that are looking for IPv6-based connectivity.

Verizon said that the number of existing IPv4 customers who are inquiring about IPv6 has doubled in the last year.

"Government agencies, telecom carriers and content providers are definitely adopting IPv6 in a much more serious way over the past six months than they have historically," Mardis says. "U.S. enterprise customers are concerned about supply chain management" if they have suppliers in Asia where carriers are running out of IPv4 address space.

Another driver: World IPv6 Day, a 24-hour trial of IPv6 that is scheduled for June 8. Sponsored by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Day has attracted some of the largest Internet content providers and high-tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and Juniper.

[BACKGROUND: World IPv6 Day]

World IPv6 Day "is piquing people's interest," Mardis says. "This is completely anecdotal ... but it's triggering them to want to have an IPv6 circuit or two up so they can test on World IPv6 Day."

Verizon says it is seeing more demand for IPv6 services from its enterprise customers than its residential customers. The carrier held a small trial of IPv6 services on its all-fiber FiOS network in northern Virginia last spring.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

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