6 signs that the U.S. is overtaking the world at IPv6

Having invented the Internet 40-odd years ago, the United States has had the first-mover advantage when it comes to selling products and services that run on this ubiquitous communications platform. Now the United States is pulling ahead of its global rivals on next-gen Internet services built around the emerging IPv6 standard.

During the last two years, U.S. ISPs, network hardware and software vendors, and Website operators have made major investments in time and capital to upgrade their offerings to support IPv6. As a result of this widespread effort, the latest IPv6 statistics indicate that the United States is the global leader in several categories, including the amount of IPv6-enabled users, Web content and networking products.

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IPv6 is an upgrade to the Internet's original addressing scheme, which is called IPv4. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and can support a virtually limitless number of devices: 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 is necessary because the Internet is running out of IPv4 addresses. However, IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4, requiring network operators to support both protocol at an added cost.

The United States is currently leading the world in these six categories of IPv6 deployment:

1. Users

The United States has more IPv6 users than any other nation in the world. There are 4,193,587 IPv6 users in the U.S. as of Sept. 19, according to APNIC. This compares to 3,717,564 IPv6 users in China and 2,411,587 IPv6 users in Japan. Romania, France and Luxembourg have a higher ratio of Internet users with IPv6 enabled, but the U.S. retains the lead in the total number of IPv6 users.

2. Content

U.S. Websites that drive the most page views are also the leaders in IPv6 deployment. Of the 10 most popular Websites on the Internet, five support IPv6. All five of these Websites - Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Wikipedia - are run by U.S. companies. Overall, the U.S. generated 13% -- or 399 -- of the 2,999 Websites that participated in the Internet Society's World IPv6 Launch Day in June.

3. Carriers

Akamai reports that six IPv6 access networks account for 86% of its IPv6 requests. Three of these networks -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Comcast -- are U.S. companies. The other leading IPv6 access networks are France's Free, Japan's KDDI and Romania's RCS & RDS, Akamai says. Akamai also reports that 73% of the IPv6 addresses that it sees are from the United States, a sign of carrier progress.

4. Traffic

North America is driving more IPv6 traffic than any other region of the world, according to Akamai. Here are the peak traffic volumes reported by Akamai for each region:

Region Peak IPv6 Traffic Volume Date

1. North America 92,891 hits/sec 9/11/2012

2. Europe 48,488 hits/sec 9/11/2012

3. Asia 14,540 hits/sec 7/8/2012

4. South America 549 hits/sec 8/24/2012

5. Africa 152 hits/sec 8/23/2012

5. Products

U.S. vendors have the most IT products that have been approved by the IPv6 Forum's IPv6 Ready program, which runs conformance and interoperability tests. U.S. companies including Cisco, HP and Juniper have run 425 networking products such as routers and hosts through the IPv6 Ready process. This compares to 350 IPv6 Ready products from Japanese vendors and 250 from Taiwanese vendors.

6. Government Leadership

The U.S. government established milestones for agencies to deploy IPv6. In June 2008, they had to pass IPv6 packets across their backbone networks. In July 2010, they had to start buying IPv6-Ready IT products. In September 2012, they must support IPv6 on their public facing Websites. While only 42% of federal Websites are making progress on the latest deadline, according to NIST, this is more progress than other nations have made. For example, 258 U.S. federal domains had operational IPv6 Web service for the Internet Society's World IPv6 Launch Day in June. This represents 8.6% of the Websites participating in that event.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In fairness, the U.S. isn't leading every IPv6 metric. In APNIC's world rankings of nations by the number of Internet users that prefer IPv6 traffic over IPv4 traffic, the U.S. is fifth, behind Romania, France, Luxembourg and Japan:

Country IPv6 Preference

1. Romania 11%

2. France 4.27%

3. Luxembourg 2.98%

4. Japan 2.38%

5. United States 1.70%

Source: APNIC

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