Internet of things won’t happen without a broader move to IPv6

12 Nov 2014

BASKING RIDGE, NEW JERSEY – Telcos will need to move from IPv4 to IPv6 in order to cope with the quantity of IP addresses that the internet of things will require, Comcast network boss Kevin McElearney said today.

Comcast, which is about to undergo a proposed merger with Time Warner and which has been engaged in a war of words with Netflix over Net Neutrality, is one of the largest cable operators in the US.

McElearney, who was speaking at the Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium 2014 said that currently on a daily basis Comcast delivers 15m on-demand videos to households, including 72,000 hours of linear TV programming and 180m phone calls.

He said that there is an explosion in video content with overall demand rising by 40pc to 50pc each year.

“That means we have to double capacity every 24 months and we can’t do that by just throwing capital at it. It’s about how do you deliver smart traffic.”

He said that the evolution to the internet of things, a network of machines that are engaged in continuous conversation with other machines, will present the entire telecoms and hardware ecosystem with a unique set of challenges that no one thinks about.

“If you analyse the average home router there is a baffling number of devices in the home. The capability of every device will be an I/O device, which will present traffic challenges.

“Think of it as mainframes being broken into thousands of little things,” which he said presents a massive scaling challenge for networks, especially since the world is running out of IP addresses for IPv4.

“We have made 100pc of our infrastructure IPv6 ready,” he said. “Currently 30pc of customers are using IPv6 and that will reach 50pc next year. Currently 10pc of traffic is IPv6.”

The advantage of IPv6 are clear – as the internet of things and M2M arrives the number of IP addresses available for each home will jump to 18 quintillion.  With that fact, how would you design things differently?

McElearney said that operators need to manage the move to IPv6 and that consumers don’t need to know about it, paraphrasing a famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Bandwidth tsunami

Basil Alwan, president of IP Routing and Transport at Alcatel-Lucent confirmed the explosion in video and the growing number of IP-connected devices in the home.

“75pc of peak internet traffic in North America is streaming. 65pc of that peak-time traffic is Netflix.”

Alwan said that even before the internet of things kicks in operators are already facing a bandwidth tsunami.

The scary thing he said was: “The reality is HD video has not even hit the major networks yet.”

He said the current growth of IP, wirelkss and fixed not to mention the explosion in apps is contributing to a doubling in bandwidth every 18 months.

“The internet as we know it is a living organism. For operators to keep up it is a bit like trying to fix an airplane while it is still flying.”

Bandwith image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years