Industry Thought Leadership

A New Era of Connectivity is Underway with IPv6+

September, 2021
Mark Oliver
Senior Consulting Director, Service Provider


The digital economy is a crucial engine for national economic development and will be critical for post-COVID recovery. With the advancement of digitalization, the adoption of technologies such as 5G and IoT has significantly accelerated given their status as essential technology enablers for the increasingly mobile digital economy. Meanwhile, networks have been facing an incredible surge in traffic as a result of this always-on connectivity. This has brought back into focus the migration of internet protocol from IPv4 to IPv6. We have known for some time now that the IPv4 system has severe limitations. Firstly, there are only 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, and these are nearly exhausted. Secondly, private IPv4 addresses are currently widely used. The Network Address Translation (NAT) for public and private IPv4 addresses also faces ongoing delays and low efficiency. Research firm Omdia predicts there will be 25 billion IoT devices, 2.2 billion industrial IoT devices, 8.6 billion smart home devices, and two billion 5G subscriptions by 2024.

Therefore, there is an inevitable need for IPv6 in today’s 5G and cloud era. Whilst IPv6 adoption is not yet commonplace, commercial deployments are accelerating and governments around the world have issued policies to promote IPv6 migration.

Nonetheless, in order to meet the service requirements of various industries, global industry momentum is also gaining around further IP functionality innovation. For example, according to ETSI1, cloud AR/VR services require high bandwidth and a latency of less than 20ms. Autonomous driving requires a delay of 5–20ms, while industrial automation requires a latency of 1–10ms. Moreover, smart city projects now use ICT to improve efficiency, manage complexity, and enhance citizens' quality of life. Smart cities encompass various initiatives across governance, safety and security, transport, energy, physical infrastructure, and healthcare. In short, the digital revolution has shifted from the “Internet of Everything” to the “Intelligent Connection of Everything”.

This requires a new approach to IPv6, which we refer to as IPv6+. It is an innovation concept based on IPv6, and has a wide range of social, economic, and industrial values. Through the combination of massive address space and advanced technologies, IPv6+ can play a crucial part in smart cities achieving SLAs and helping KPI fulfillment.

IPv6+ can accelerate the commercialization of new Industry 4.0 use cases in smart transport, smart mining, smart manufacturing, and other industries. It does so by creating on-demand and capillary networking through the combination of IPv6 address space for IoT devices combined with IPv6-based network slicing, AR/VR, and other technologies. Benefits for these industries include improved efficiency and safer work environments, increased worldwide competitiveness, and reduced energy consumption.

In addition, IPv6+ allows for new service innovations. This includes selling differentiated quality of service through network slicing and shortening provisioning times to match cloud-application requirements, all through automation and software-defined networking (SDN) control.

There is much more innovation to come as IPv6 and the closely associated technologies of IPv6+ expand and mature. Created in October 2020, the ETSI IPE (IPv6 Enhanced Innovation) Industry Specification Group aims to identify new IPv6-based use cases and specify requirements needed to enable the deployment of IPv6 across new and evolving technology domains, including 5G, AI, and hybrid multi-cloud services. IPE aims to drive full connectivity with IPv6, enabling the vision of "IP on everything."

Ultimately, we must remember that the scale of IP networks is expanding. The attributes of IP connectivity are increasing. The application scenarios supported by IP continue to be diversified. With this in mind, a digital world in which IP is ubiquitous—and intelligence is omnipresent—beckons.

1 ETSI, IPv6 Best Practices, Benefits, Transition Challenges and the Way Forward, ETSI White Paper No. 25, August 2020