Having begun its rollout of IPv6 services for enterprise, government and wholesale customers via its internet backbone that is now fully dual stacked, Telstra will still only commit to its broader Bigpond and NextG mobile access networks being compliant with the latest standard “over time”.
Telstra’s Transport and Routing Director, David Robertson, told the audience at this week’s IPv6 Summit being held in Melbourne that delays in deploying IPv6 are due to its determination to “remain flexible” to both standards as the industry grows and Telstra battles to keep the internet experience of its customers the same for the large installed IPv4 internet.
“We made a conscious choice on how we deployed our IPv6 products,” Robertson said. “We chose to offer a dual stack of IPv4 and IPv6 because this allows our customers to introduce IPv6 while still having full access to IPv4.
“Initial services are opt-in which allows customers to add IPv6 when they are ready. IPv6 is still relatively immature around the world, so we may change our offerings once we see how our dual stack deployment pans out.”
In terms of when IPv6 will be available for Bigpond and NextG mobile, Robertson could only say that “we are working on it but can’t say anything yet”.
Robertson said that with IPv4 addresses now exhausted in the Asia Pacific region, the telco giant has been planning for IPv6 for many years with strategy being driven from the highest levels of the CTO Group. Transitioning its core infrastructure to IPv6 compatibility is an expensive exercise that is drawing funding from “a range of buckets” but it is deemed a high priority and “it will cost the customer nothing”.
Telstra is matching industry standards and best practices to the extent that they have emerged to date and has deliberately proceeded cautiously.
“The industry still has many issues to settle and we will continue to participate in resolving many of those challenges," Robertson said. “Telstra will remain flexible on our IPv6 product features while the whole industry continues to evolve.
“We know that we can’t just turn it on one day and it all works. Consideration of careful integration of IPv6 into our existing networks and products is always at the forefront of our mind. IPv4 will remain relevant for many years to come and we have to ensure there is no disruption to products or networks servicing our very large customer base.”
One of the hardest pieces of integration has been around testing, according to Robertson with change management also proving to be a challenge.
“We have had to test across multiple products and multiple domains and this has all added cycle time to deployment but it is an important component that we have to complete thoroughly,” he said. “Change management has also been a big challenge as has the task of educating a large customer base and the industry as a whole. It has not been easy.
“We are trying to achieve all of this transition as Internet usage doubles year-on-year and in the face of the NBN distraction. It is a big challenge to make IPv6 interesting or sexy to our customers.”