A worldwide effort to promote the adoption of a new version of the Internet protocol, called IPv6 , has recently launched, according to an individual at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF is an Internet standards body.
More than 20 of the largest telecommunications providers and IT vendors from Europe, Asia and North America have announced the formation of the IPv6 Forum, which will be dedicated to raising awareness and speeding introduction of the new protocol, says the IETF source, who asked not to be identified.
The IPv6 Forum's members include British Telecom, LM Ericsson Telephone, Nokia, Telecom Italia CSELT, 3Com, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Hitachi and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone , according to a preliminary statement from the forum.
Vint Cerf, chairman of the Internet Societal Task Force and a pioneer of the Internet's development, is the group's honorary chairman, the statement says.
"This is not a standards body," says the source. "It's an attempt to drive adoption and raise awareness" of IPv6.
IPv6 has been on the radar of most large companies for some time, but a global push to raise awareness of the new protocol signals a new level of urgency among members of the Internet technical community to update one of the Internet's most fundamental technologies.
IPv6 is intended to solve a number of problems inherent in the current Internet protocol, called IPv4. Chief among them is the need to create more IP addresses to meet the growing numbers of consumers and businesses jumping on the Internet, says Stan Schatt, a research director with Giga Information Group.
An IP address is a unique identifier assigned to each client connected to the Internet. It allows different clients to locate and communicate with each other. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address system, which in theory allows more than four billion unique IP addresses. Inefficiencies in the system of allocating those addresses means the actual number available is smaller. IPv6, in contrast, uses 128-bit addresses which in theory will cater to trillions and trillions of Internet clients.
IPv6 may bring other benefits, including the ability to offer greater security for data traveling over the Internet, as well as better support for quality-of-service applications, real-time communications and better router performance, Schatt says.
No one knows exactly when the supply of IP addresses will run out, although Schatt and others say there is no cause for alarm. Many businesses have found a workaround by assigning their own, non-unique IP addresses within their own networks. The companies then use a program called a "network address translator" to translate those proprietary IP addresses into ones recognisable on the public Internet.
More information about IPv6 is on the Web at www.ipv6.org.