Today the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) announced it has distributed two IPv4 address blocks to the Asian-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), and is poised to release its remaining IPv4 address supply to Regional Internet Registries. It is anticipated by some experts that the last IPv4 addresses that these registries can allocate to any ISP requesting additional addresses will run out later this year.

Cable operators have recognized that the ultimate solution to the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses is the ubiquitous implementation of IPv6 protocol technology. However, during the transition to IPv6, they have developed strategies that will enable them to continue offering IPv4 service while the transition to IPv6 is completed.

The cable industry is well positioned to transition to IPv6 as the addresses available from the current protocol, IPv4, nears exhaustion, said Dr. Paul Liao, president and CEO of CableLabs, in a statement. ??CableLabs and its cable system operator members have been working on this transition for more than six years, he added.

Comcast has established a site for consumers with information on the protocol transition at http://www.comcast6.net/.??

Time Warner Cable signed up its first commercial customer using native IPv6 over its fiber access product last year, and expects to begin residential IPv6 trials this spring.

At the request of its members, CableLabs began updating its specifications in 2004 to account for IPv6 usage. DOCSIS 3.0 has supported IPv6 addressing from the start, while also allowing for IPv4 compatibility. Backward compatibility is also written into the preceding DOCSIS 2.0 specification, which accommodates the IPv6 protocol through upgraded (3.0-compliant) cable modem termination systems.

Likewise, PacketCable 2.0 includes support for IPv6. These steps, plus the expectation for continued allocations of IPv4 addresses from the Regional Internet Registries until such time as the registries exhaust their address pools, should allow cable broadband subscribers uninterrupted service during the transition to IPv6.

CableLabs and its members plan to participate in “World IPv6 Day” on June 8, 2011, an Internet Society (ISOC)-sponsored event where websites will be offered over IPv6 to “test drive” the new protocol for a 24-hour period.

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