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IPv6 on home routers: FAIL

Julie Bort | March 4, 2011
When it comes to IPv6 support, consumer home networking gear lags far behind other devices, like enterprise equipment and PC operating systems. Most devices certified as IPv6-compliant by the IPv6 Forum are full of implementation bugs, experts say.

LSN contrasts with the ideal solution: to move all devices to using native IPv6 as quickly as reasonably possible -- not tunneled, not translated, but native. That's difficult to do when it's 2011 and customer premises equipment (CPE) and consumer networking gear don't yet properly support IPv6.

Some, such as Cisco's Linksys consumer routers, don't have IPv6 yet at all, although Cisco has promised to add IPv6 to its new routers by mid-2011. (Ironically, Cisco is otherwise ears-deep in the Plugfests, supplying a DHCPv4/DHCPv6 server for the tests.) A Cisco spokesperson confirmed, "Linksys routers being launched this spring will have IPv6 support -- also the E4200 we launched in January will have a firmware upgrade planned for April."

However, Cisco isn't sure yet if routers bought prior to 2011 will get IPv6. "We are currently looking into which 'legacy' Linksys product can support IPv6. (There are many things that influence us being able to do it -- including if there is enough memory, as well as other factors.) The engineer teams are working on that," the spokesperson said.

Network professionals are comfortable with "rooting" their home networking gear and can always wipe out the vendor's firmware and install OpenWRT or DD-WRT. But that's not the kind of task an average consumer can or will do, nor is it a saleable tactic for an ISP to recommend and support.

ISPs, in particular, are in a bind. To date, residential ISPs running IPv6 trials have provided the customer router. Service providers offering IPv6 expect that through 2012 they will need to, at the very least, provide customers a short list of tested routers and configuration instructions, Premier Communications' Bulk says. "It's the desire of service providers that big box electronic stores be able to point customers to boxes with 'IPv6-ready' logos. The Wi-Fi Alliance has done a great job in communicating to customers which wireless products will work well -- it's an open question at this time if the IPv6 Forum will be able to replicate that with IPv6."

With the exception of some products by D-Link and Apple's AirPort Express and AirPort Extreme, none of today's CPE can operate using IPv6 well enough for a field test trial, Bulk says.

He, like other ISPs, would like to be installing IPv6-ready gear in customer homes and small businesses right now. "Every day that goes by is one more day we're assisting customers with IPv4-only routers and installing our IPv4-only DSL modems. While we know the amount of IPv6-only content on the Internet is very little today, we want to avoid rolling trucks three years from now to help people with configuring their IPv6-capable router or to replace our DSL modem. And it's not just the cost of the truck roll, but also the gear."


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