Are service providers in the U.S. behind on implementing IPv6, and, if so, could that hurt their enterprise customers?
Some of the largest service providers in the U.S. -- like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- are executing well on their IPv6 enablement strategies. AT&T has several million broadband customers enabled for IPv6, while more than 45% of Verizon's mobile traffic is currently going over IPv6. These providers started the IPv6 enablement process several years back, and the preparation is now paying off.
Most smaller providers, however, are far behind in implementing IPv6, and they will have to catch up quickly. These providers typically did not commit to a good IPv6 strategy and choose to hedge using stop-gap solutions like carrier-grade NAT. The American Registry of Internet Numbers is expected to run out of IPv4 address space by the end of 2014 or early 2015, and more enterprise customers are starting to demand IPv6 service. The laggards will face steep learning curves, early equipment refreshes, aggressive process changes and significant challenges -- all of which translate into higher enablement costs.
Multiple studies have shown that enterprise customers expect their providers to help them through the IPv6 transition and provide the necessary services. The IPv6 enablement plans of enterprises are gated to a significant extent by their service providers and managed service providers. Today, there are enterprises waiting for their providers to upgrade gateway routers and provider edge routers to provide IPv6 connectivity at the same level of performance as IPv4. Enterprises are looking for professional services and support from their service providers to assist with an effective IPv6 transition. So at this time, IPv6 readiness is a differentiator for telecom providers.
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