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Three years since World IPv6 Launch: strong IPv6 growth continues

It is now three years since World IPv6 Launch, and solid growth in global IPv6 adoption continues at a steady pace.

With over 17% of the country's end-users actively using IPv6, the United States continues to be a dominant force in IPv6 traffic levels and adoption, with the top three U.S. broadband operators and all four of the top U.S. mobile operators actively rolling out IPv6 to their end-users. Other countries including Germany, Belgium, Japan, and Peru continue to have solid IPv6 traffic growth, and network operators in additional countries including Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Estonia, and Greece have started large-scale IPv6 deployments to end-users.

In the past year, we've also started to see announcements of companies moving beyond just dual-stack, with IPv6-only solutions being used to solve real-world problems by companies such as Facebook, Comcast, and T-Mobile US.

The North America Internet registry (ARIN) is also almost certain to exhaust their supply of freely available IPv4 addresses sometime in the coming months (or weeks!).

Akamai has also seen continued progress in our customers dual-stacking their Web sites and applications (to be directly accessible over both IPv4 and IPv6). Akamai now servers deployed with working IPv6 connectivity in 95 countries around the globe in over 1,500 locations and connected to 590 different network providers.

Taken all together, it is well past time to start actively deploying IPv6 for your content and your end-users.
End-User IPv6 Adoption

Akamai's measurements of end-user IPv6 adoption look at hundreds of billions of daily requests against dual-stacked customer Web sites delivered on our global platform. The percentage of HTTP(S) requests arriving over IPv6 to the total for any given country or network provider gives an approximation of their level of IPv6 adoption. This is also a useful metric as it provides a direct indication of how much traffic will arrive over IPv6 when a customer enables IPv6 for a Web site.

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We see that global and regional IPv6 adoption is dominated by stories of individual network providers. For example, the growth in the United States of America (over 17%) is heavily driven by strong IPv6 adoption on broadband providers such as Comcast (32%), AT&T (45%), and Time Warner Cable (15%), as well as mobile providers such as Verizon Wireless (71%) and T-Mobile USA (41%). Smaller providers, corporations, and universities also factor into local adoption numbers.

During the past few months, AT&T Wireless and Sprint have also started deploying IPv6 to some of their Android handsets. In fact, all four of the top US mobile carriers launched Samsung's Galaxy S6 flagship phone with IPv6 turned on by default.

Belgium (34%) has the highest IPv6 end-user adoption percentage of any country in the world thanks to coordinated deployment by a number of network providers including Telenet, Belgacom, and Brutele/VOO.

A similar story is seen in Germany (15%), with Deutsche Telecom, Kabel Deutschland, and Liberty Global all actively rolling out IPv6 to their end-users.

In some countries, even a single network provider rolling out IPv6 can have a major impact on IPv6 adoption for that country and can cause a rapid change in deployment numbers. Recently we've seen some networks rapidly roll out IPv6 to significant portions of their customer base over the course of weeks or months. For example, recent roll-outs by the Saudi Telecom Company reached 10% over just two weeks. Significant IPv6 deployments in Brazil by NET Servicos de Comunicacao, Global Village Telecom, and Telefonica Brasil have also started in the past few months.

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Given the state of IPv4 address depletion, it is likely that many other network providers are undertaking internal IPv6 roll-out programs and will continue to bring IPv6 to an increasing number of end-users over the coming year.

We're often asked for a single global IPv6 adoption figure, but any such number is heavily biased by the end-user geographic distribution for any given Web site or customer. We've seen many dual-stacked sites with global IPv6 adoption numbers in 5% to 15% range, with mobile-oriented sites with a strong U.S. presence reaching 20% and above.

For more measurements on IPv6 adoption, see:

Using IPv6-only to Solve Real Problems

For most of the Internet, rolling out IPv4 and IPv6 alongside one another in a dual-stack configuration has made the most sense due to a lack of compatibility between the two. The idea had been to turn up both users and services with dual-stack and have traffic sift over time to IPv6. This however requires that limited IPv4 addresses be used and managed. While private IPv4 "RFC1918" addresses can be used in some scenarios, that address space is limited as well. Even medium-to-large companies run into problems with needing to manage overlapping private address space, owing to poor network planning, large end-user populations, or mergers and acquisitions.

To get around these challenges, we've seen a number of companies speak publicly about deploying IPv6-only environments at scale.

In the mobile space, a number of carriers led by T-Mobile US are deploying IPv6-only to many of their handsets, leveraging NAT64+DNS64 and 464xlat functionality to enable access to legacy IPv4 services. This means that many modern Android and Windows 8.1 handsets only have external IPv6 addresses, and IPv6 traffic goes directly out to the Internet with no address translation. Requests for IPv4-only resources are routed through NAT64 gateways. Since even in a dual-stacked deployment IPv4 traffic would typically have used NAT44 gateways from private RFC1918 address space to the public Internet, this results in reduced complexity by not needing to assign IPv4 addresses to handsets. Internal IP services such as VoLTE for voice can communicate entirely over IPv6. The primarily limitation of this approach is that Apple iOS does not yet have 464xlat CLAT support which is needed to provide compatibility for legacy applications that hard-code IPv4 addresses. A number of other mobile providers (SK Telecom, Orange Poland, Telenor, and others) have also followed the lead of T-Mobile US and have started to deploy IPv6-only handsets. It would not be surprising if this becomes the dominant way to deploy mobile 4G LTE networks, especially if Apple implements 464xlat support for iOS.

In the broadband environment, Comcast has announced that they are moving to IPv6-only for both Xfinity Voice as well as their Xfinity X1 connected set-top box platform. This allows them to greatly reduce their reliance on private IPv4 addressing within their network since they have control over both ends of communications in most situations. As they open up the Xfinity X1 platform to broader Internet content, content providers will need to dual-stack their content with IPv6 to ensure the best user experience.

In the datacenter environment, Facebook has built out many of their datacenters to be IPv6-only with well over 90% of their internal traffic utilizing IPv6. This has significantly reduced the complexity over other options given that not enough private IPv4 address space is available to meet their needs. As more people gain experience deploying IPv6 at-scale, it may make sense for enterprises beginning large infrastructure build-outs to consider whether they too can start off with IPv6-only from the start.

IPv6 traffic on the Akamai Network

Akamai is routinely serving over 50 billion IPv6 requests per day, with traffic peaks exceeding 1 million IPv6 requests per second.

IPv6 delivery support has been available in many Akamai products for well over three years now. Over 250 Akamai customers have opted in to deliver content over IPv6 by dual-stacking many thousands of hostnames, including on many major Web sites across a wide range of industries. Hundreds of thousands of additional Web hostnames are dual-stacked on Akamai by resellers and cloud provider customers who have enabled default dual-stack delivery for SaaS properties and smaller Web sites.

What Comes Next?

It seems inevitable that more networks will continue to deploy IPv6 and that existing networks will deploy IPv6 to more and more of their end-users. As pressures from IPv4 exhaustion grows and as IPv6 is used to solve real-world business problems, it is likely that there will be increasing benefits to deploying IPv6 for both content and end-users. An open question is whether IPv6 deployment will continue at the rate that we've seen over the past three years or whether it will accelerate or slow down. With double-digit adoption of IPv6 in many parts of the world, and especially in the growing mobile space, production-quality operation of both IPv4 and IPv6 has become the norm now and will be for the foreseeable future. As such, companies would be well-advised to be making sure that IPv6 works well with their products and Web properties.

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