What is Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)?

With the rise in the number of devices using Internet, the current IPv 4 is bursting at the seams. The world is now switching to IPv6 to accommodate billions of addresses. Let us know more about IPv6

Internet | Internet technologies | Smart devices

Khalid Anzar  | 
New Delhi 

About three decades ago, computers were limited to government institutions and universities. They were bulky and expensive. Over the years, the advancement in technology has made them small, affordable and obviously ubiquitous. They are in billions now. And their numbers are swelling as we talk.

Internet Protocol, or IP in short, manages the huge traffic of information between these billions of devices. It attaches an “electronic return address” to all online requests and activity. This is called the IP address of your connection.

Even the websites such as www.business-standard.com is an IP address masked behind Domain Name Service (DNS), which translates numbers into the name for internet users to navigate the web conveniently.

In technical terms, Internet Protocol (IP) is the network layer communications protocol for relaying datagrams across network boundaries.

Currently we are using the fourth version of Internet Protocol which is known as IPv4. Launched more than three decades ago, it has several limitations — including its capacity to cater to billions of addresses.

IPv4 is a 32 bit numeric address, written as four numbers separated by periods. Each group of numbers is called octet.

It has a limit to accommodate 4.3 billion addresses. This number might look huge, but it is not. The Internet is quickly running out of addresses.

So the world is now adopting the sixth version of Internet protocol.

The main difference between the IP version 4 version 6 is the length of the address. The IPv4 address is a 32-bit numeric address while IPv6 is a 128-bit hexadecimal address. Hexadecimal uses both numbers and the alphabet in the address.

IPv6 can produce 340 undecillion — which is 340 trillion trillion trillion –addresses. So you might have guessed, it is enough for the foreseeable future. The IPv6 also addresses security shortcomings of the IPv4 by enabling end-to-end encryption.

Other benefits of the new Internet Protocol include connecting with different networks simultaneously with a unique address on each network, and the ability to combine multiple enterprise networks without readdressing.

India is also upgrading to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). In November 2021, the Department of Telecom (DoT) released a circular revising the transition timeline, setting December 2022 as the deadline for internet service providers (ISPs) to make changes to their network as required by the latest internet protocol. The circular has set 30th June 2022 as the last date for government organisations to complete the transition to IPv6.

The IPv6 clearly has many advantages over the IPv4, but upgrading to the new Internet Protocol cannot be done in a hurry simply because replacing old IPv4 equipment would be expensive and disruptive. And so, IPv4 is being slowly phased out giving way to gradual adoption of IPv6.

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First Published: Fri, February 11 2022. 08:45 IST


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