Update on IPv6 Plans for Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Plusnet and Vodafone – ISPreview.co.uk

IP Address Illustration

A number of our readers have been asking for an update on the progress being made by several major UK broadband ISPs, including TalkTalk, Vodafone, Plusnet and Virgin Media (VMO2), toward the deployment of the “new” IPv6 internet addressing standard. Sadly only one provider was able to give a rough launch date.

Internet protocol (IP) addresses exist to help connect you and your devices or software with others around the online world – like an ID number for your connection. Unfortunately, the IPv4 address space could only handle 4 billion addresses and that supply has been exhausted (except for the resale of existing address pools), which means that in the future ISPs will need to use the new IPv6 standard in order to continue adding new connections without compromise (e.g. IP address sharing / CGNAT is a compromise that can cause problems).

Sadly, the longer form IPv6 addresses are not directly compatible with older IPv4 addresses and so the two will need to be run side-by-side for many years to come (i.e. until the vast majority of the world has enabled IPv6). Happily, there are various ways to resolve this challenge, but some providers have been dragging their feet for years.

At present many of the market’s smallest ISPs have already adopted IPv6 as a seamless part of their networking and, at the larger end of the scale, BT and Sky Broadband enabled it a long time ago. By comparison, TalkTalk, Vodafone, Plusnet and Virgin Media seem to have struggled and this week we sought an update. Just for fun, we’ll include both the 2019 comment from each ISP below and their latest comment.

Virgin Media

Back in 2018 it appeared as if VM were set to adopt the Dual Stack Lite (DS-Lite) approach to running IPv4 and IPv6 side-by-side (here) and the first customer trials began by around the middle of that same year (here), although DS-Lite does have its downsides and some of those may have occurred during the trial.

In 2019 some of our sources indicated that VM had opted to put on hold or scrap DS-Lite and go with a full Dual Stack approach instead, but after two years of waiting.. well, we’re still waiting.

A VM Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in 2019:

“We are currently setting out our IPV6 deployment plans and will provide an update at the appropriate time.”

A VMO2 Spokesperson told ISPreview this week:

“We are continuing to plan our IPV6 deployment having tested several solutions and intend to introduce IPV6 for our customers in future.”

Vodafone

During late 2019 Vodafone seemed confident that they would be able to fully implement IPv6 by the spring of 2020, which was no doubt hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s now 2021 and the pandemic is no longer an acceptable excuse. The good news is that they now expect fixed broadband connections to get IPv6 support in 2022, at some point.

A Vodafone Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in 2019:

“We are well into planning and will have fully implemented it by late spring next year.”

A Vodafone Spokesperson told ISPreview this week:

“The role out of IPv6 has taken longer than we initially anticipated – it is now scheduled to be fully implemented next year.”

Plusnet

The fact that Plusnet still doesn’t have support for IPv6, despite being a part of the BT group and using the same hardware (routers etc.), has always been somewhat of a peculiarity. Not to mention that in 2011 they were one of the first ISPs in the UK to trial it and even urged the rest of the industry to follow their lead (here). All of that now seems rather comical.

In 2019 Plusnet, much like Vodafone above, predicted they’d be ready to launch IPv6 in the spring of 2020, but due to the pandemic that never happened. Today, the ISP that first trialled IPv6 a decade ago, says there are still “a few more things we need to do” before it goes live, and they don’t seem able to give a clear indication of when that will be.

A Plusnet Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in 2019:

“We’re committed to the roll out of IPv6, as this an important evolution for our networks and the service we provide our customers. We’re in a good place with our internal testing which means we are hoping to start making this available to customers in Spring next year.”

A Plusnet Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk this week:

“There are a few more things we need to do before we can enable IPv6 on the Plusnet broadband network. We are still committed to the roll-out and hope to make good progress over the coming year.”

TalkTalk

Historically, getting any kind of IPv6 update out of this ISP has been incredibly difficult and, until 2019, they often gave us the silent treatment whenever we asked. Not much has changed. We nudged TalkTalk several times for a comment last week and, despite receiving and acknowledging our messages, they could not provide a response. Instead, here’s what they said in 2019.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk in 2019:

“TalkTalk is committed to transitioning to IPv6. To minimise any potential impact to our customers and services, the transition will be phased over the next few years as we roll-out new products and services such as fibre to the premises.

We continue to work closely with our network and systems vendors to ensure all new equipment is fully IPv6 compliant. In fact, our network already operates as dual stack, using IPV4 compliant addresses while the major network components are IPV6 ready.”

Take note that most of these ISPs still retain a sizeable pool of spare IPv4 addresses, and so may not feel as much pressure to adapt. Meanwhile, others may try to stretch this out by adopting IP address sharing (e.g. Carrier Grade NAT), although that approach is rarely desirable given the problems that it can sometimes create with internet connectivity and security.

In terms of consumers, most rarely pay much attention to how their internet connection works under the hood and so would have little reason to demand IPv6 support from their ISP. Suffice to say, broadband ISPs like those above will not be feeling any particular pressure to adapt, even though it does give the impression that their systems may not be particularly cutting edge.

Source of this news: https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/11/update-on-ipv6-plans-for-virgin-media-talktalk-plusnet-and-vodafone.html

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