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IPv6 vs IPv4

IPv6 the third generation, in mobile computing is set to offer a lot of benefits to operations and end users alike.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit to mobile operators and service providers is the massively increased addressing space that Ipv6 supports. Most of today's Internet is based on Ipv4, a set of protocols that are nearly twenty years old.

IPv6 increases this address space from 32 bits to 128 bits, creating a much greater pool of available addresses. It will provide over 4 million unique addresses per square meter of the earth's surface.

A glimpse of the future
With the IPv6 set to generate more IP addresses and help accelerate the creation of the mobile Internet, security and quality and service are also likely to improve.

Users can look forward to receiving new electronics equipment that already have their own IP addresses. And as the fixed and mobile Internets continue to converge, users can look forward to enjoying the benefits and added value of interconnected electronics equipment, such as in the home environment.

In fewer than five years, the number of Internet users has grown from 16 million to over 190 million. Even so, this phenomenal growth is eclipsed by that seen in the wireless communications sector: the penetration of mobile phones, for example, is increasingly exceeding PC usage throughout the world.

As phones grow inexorably in popularity they are also gaining in power, features and functionality. WAP browsers give a web-like face to this 'mobile Internet', while the adoption of packet radio services, followed by the launch of third generation universal mobile telecommunications systems (UMTS) networks, will provide vastly increased bandwidth capable of supporting new, media-rich information, entertainment and commerce services as well as voice and streaming media.

Integration
Central to the concept of third generation is the integration between mobile communications and the wealth of applications, services and content already delivered by fixed networks. Unconstrained by the physical limitations of a fixed-line connection, mobile connectivity will become an intrinsic part of the Internet itself creating a truly global public network that is accessible to everybody wherever they may be in the world. The mobile Internet is already well on its way towards making our lives easier, at least when it comes to accessing updated information while on the move.

While the mobile terminal is likely to become many users' preferred Internet access device by 2010, the UMTS Forum expects nearly 50 per cent of Internet users to be accessing the Net from two or more devices that will differ significantly in functionality and capability. This shift towards mobile access to multimedia content and services brings a new challenge for mobile operators and manufacturers as well as the Internet and IT communities: to integrate this new population of Net-enabled devices with the other packet-switched networks that make up the Internet today.

To enable the Internet to deliver its promise of efficient networked communications and applications development, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has specified a new version of the Internet Protocol that defines how devices share information over networks. Version 6 (IPv6) has already been endorsed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for introduction into the third generation core networks. It dramatically enriches the scope and functionality of current protocols, and offers features (see Box 2) that are geared toward its implementation in cellular networks in its 'native' form.

Space
Perhaps the most obvious benefit to mobile operators and service providers is the massively increased addressing space that Ipv6 supports. Most of today's Internet is based on IPv4, a set of protocols that are nearly twenty years old.

While it has served us well, Ipv4 has one fundamental limitation: the total number of physical devices it can describe uniquely. Just as every mobile phone user has an individual phone number, every device connected to the Internet whether it's a PC, a mobile phone or a car's onboard geopositioning system needs its own, unique IP address.

With IPv4, these addresses are described by a 32-bit number, and herein lies the issue.

With just 32 bits to play with, the largest number that can be represented is just below 4.3 billion (4,300,000,000) a figure smaller than the number of human beings alive on this planet now. With the total number of fixed and mobile devices connected to the Internet expected to exceed the world's population in just a few years' time, we will quite simply run out of addresses unless a new addressing scheme is adopted and one that is based on future proof all IP.

Pool
IPv6 increases this address space from 32 bits to 128 bits, creating a much greater pool of available addresses. It will provide over 4 million unique addresses per square meter of the earth's surface more than enough for our fixed and mobile Internet access needs for at least the foreseeable future!

With more than enough IP addresses to go round, address allocation can also be improved. Currently IP addresses are assigned to each device or user for only as long as they are needed much like providing hotel room numbers.

The allocation of a unique address, permanently assigned to every mobile device, could eliminate the need to administer dynamically significant streamlining communications between device and network. Ultimately, it could potentially speed up the registration process every time a user logs on setting the stage for the third generation of mobile communications. NM

Information Courtesy: Nokia. For more information, see http://www.3gpp.org/, http://www.ipv6forum.com/, and http://www.units-forum.org/.

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