Upgrade Early and Often:
The end-of-year holidays seem to be a great time for buying new technology or upgrading your existing gear. However, there are unexpected events that can occur when devices fail and you need a replacement. I recently encountered this situation. Most of us don’t want to needlessly spend money trying to keep up with the latest technologies but some people believe that they absolutely must have the latest Apple iPhone model. When it comes to home networking equipment, you probably already have a broadband Internet access router, but you might desire to have a faster router with new features.
On the other hand, there are those people who are electronic cheapskates and avoid upgrading at all cost. Examples would be those people you see still using a flip-phone or carrying around a portable CD-player in their front-facing fanny-packs. There are those among us who have continue to use the same DOCSIS 1.0 cable modems and broadband routers they purchased when they first got residential Internet access back in 2001. This can be frustrating to a cable MSO who may want to get their subscribers to upgrade their modems to DOCSIS 3.0 and upgrade their home routers in order to help move toward IPv6. I often wonder if the cable MSOs wished they had a way send an electrical spike through the Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) network, frying the power supply of the old Customer-Premises Equipment (CPE), in an effort to help speed up refresh of legacy devices. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if that is in-fact what happened the last time my cable modem failed.
Growing Adoption of IEEE 802.11ac:
When you go to refresh your residential broadband Internet router you will probably do so with the goal of obtaining IEEE 802.11ac wireless connectivity. The IEEE 802.11ac specification allows for 5GHz wireless LAN communications at speeds up to 1Gbps. Currently, most 802.11ac systems use the Wave 1 frequency channel width, but Wave 2 devices are coming that have nearly double the throughput as a result of doubling the channel frequency width. This becomes more useful as broadband Internet service speeds continue to increase and most home routers have gigabit Ethernet interfaces.
If you have purchased a laptop, smartphone, or tablet in the past year or two, it likely already has an 802.11ac radio inside. In 2014, devices like Apple MacBooks , Google Nexus, and Samsung Galaxy S5 started to come with 802.11ac radios. In early 2015, the Apple iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, and Samsung Galaxy S6 also now have 802.11ac radios. If you have an older wireless router in your home, it probably supports 2.4GHz 802.11b/g and perhaps 802.11n. To obtain 802.11ac wireless connectivity to the Internet for devices in your home, you will likely need to upgrade your home router hardware.
As more mobile devices contain 802.11ac radios and more Wireless Access Points (WAPs) are upgraded, more devices will start using this faster wireless medium. The industry is now starting to see increased 802.11ac market adoption in enterprises and for Internet users. ABI Research predicted that a tipping point has occurred and that after 2015 more mobile devices would support 802.11ac than 802.11n. There seems to be a slight delay between when an end-node supports a wireless technology and when it gets implemented in the access network infrastructure. Infonetics predicts that 2016 will be the year when 802.11ac starts to surpass 802.11n in wireless access points.
It is also likely that all of your mobile devices support IPv6 by default on their wired and wireless interfaces. It is equally likely that the devices with the 802.11ac wireless connectivity are also some of the newest devices and as such, have IPv6 connectivity already built in. The graphs of the number of 802.11ac devices predicted to be shipped and the number of IPv6-enabled networks look remarkably similar.
IPv6 CPE Standards and Certification:
As residential broadband CPE gets upgraded, it provides a prime opportunity to purchase CPE that supports IPv6. There are two IETF standards that come into play where residential network equipment is concerned. IETF RFC 7084 (formerly RFC 6204), Basic Requirements for IPv6 Customer Edge Routers specifies how a CPE device should behave when connected to an IPv6 service and offers IPv6 downstream to the home devices. This RFC also suggests that CPE should implement IETF RFC 6092, Recommended Simple Security Capabilities in Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) for Providing Residential IPv6 Internet Service. Consumers would benefit from these basic stateful security behaviors from their IPv6 routers.
The IPv6 Ready logo program for CPE exists and includes extensive testing and verification of IPv6 functionality of consumer devices. There are several approved testing labs, such as the InterOperability Laboratory (IOL) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and CableLabs. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) formed an IPv6 Transition Working Group in 2011 to help promote the use of IPv6 in consumer devices. They publish their CEA-2048, Host and Router Profiles for IPv6. One can check out the published testing results to determine if their CPE devices have conforming IPv6 capabilities.
If you are in the market for a new home gateway, then you will need to determine if it has satisfactory support for IPv6 features. Prior to the World IPv6 Launch in June of 2012, there were five vendors that pledged their support to create IPv6-capable CPE for subscribers and help support IPv6 adoption. These five vendors are listed below, along with some of these vendor’s 802.11ac products that support IPv6.
The good news is that there are now many manufacturers who are selling dual-protocol CPE devices. The following are several other vendors that have IPv6-capable 802.11ac CPE.
There are also several open source router platforms that support IPv6.
Carrier IPv6 Device Information:
Before you purchase a new device, you will want to verify that it is compatible with your service provider. Each service provider that offers IPv6 service wants to make sure that their subscribers are using properly-configured CPE devices with the latest firmware that operates properly when connected to their network.
Comcast has had an IPv6 trial since as early as 2010, and Comcast has offered production dual-protocol Internet access since 2013. Comcast also provides a page that shows DOCSIS 3.0 compatibility and, therefore, IPv6 support. Comcast also lists a few devices that they recommend for use as an IPv6-capable home gateway. Comcast’s IPv6 Information Center also provides more information on IPv6 connectivity using their services. After you get everything hooked up and you want to test your IPv6 connectivity, use this site to verify your IPv6 connectivity.
Verizon FiOS has IPv6 connectivity options for customers. Verizon’s web site states that “Verizon Fios Quantum Gateway (model G1100) and Actiontec Gen 2 and Gen 3 Broadband Home Routers (model MI424WR Revisions E, F, G, I) are compatible with IPv6.” Verizon sells IPv6-capable CPE devices through their FiOS accessories site. Verizon recommends that their subscribers test their IPv6 connectivity with the http://test-ipv6.com/ web site.
AT&T offers dual-protocol DSL Internet connectivity to subscribers. AT&T provides a page that shows a “compatibility matrix” indicating IPv6 support in subscriber CPE. AT&T also sells IPv6-capable routers to their customers as well as a test page to validate IPv6 connectivity.
CenturyLink offers DSL Internet connectivity using their traditional 4-wire phone infrastructure as well as a 1Gbps fiber service. CenturyLink’s IPv6 connectivity uses 6rd (dual-stack IPv6 service is not available yet). However, CenturyLink does has a modem compatibility table that includes a column showing IPv6 capability. They also offer a page to help you set up your IPv6 6rd service. If you have a ZyXEL C1000Z modem, there is a separate page to guide you through the configuration.
The above examples are of North American carriers, but there are also numerous International ISPs that offer dual-protocol Internet connectivity. Free is a service provider in France that has offered dual-protocol Internet connectivity since as early as 2008. Free has provided 6rd-capable CPE to their subscribers in an effort to speed up the process of moving to IPv6. Orange offers their Livebox dual-protocol service, and VOO in Belgium, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Nebula in Finland all have dual-protocol connectivity. It is highly likely that your existing ISP already has some form of dual-protocol service for you.
The holidays are rapidly approaching and “tis the season” to treat yourself to dual-protocol Internet access. Black Friday and Cyber Monday might have passed, but you can still get good deals on CPE from your local electronics superstore or preferred online retailer. Before you buy, you will want to check that your service provider supports the CPE you are about to purchase. You will also want to be sure to check the fine-print of your device’s capabilities and make sure it has IPv6 capabilities. You wouldn’t want to purchase a device that lacks IPv6 support and go another 4-to-6 years with IPv4-only connectivity. If you do upgrade your home devices to support 802.11ac and IPv6, then you are set to have many blissful years of blazing fast Internet productivity and enjoyment.