IIJ to offer IPv4/IPv6 connectivity on the same line

Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) will begin offering from Thursday a new service that allows customers to send and receive both current and next-generation IP (Internet Protocol) packets over a single connection, the company said Monday.

The IPv6/IPv4 Dual Stack Service will require the use of an operating system that supports IPv6 and a special router that supports the dual stack system, but is expected to go some way towards easing the transition from IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) to IPv6, or at least allowing users to operate in both environments.

"Users will have to install a router that supports dual stack technology and be using a dedicated line to connect to our network center," said Junko Higasa, a spokeswoman for IIJ. "We have both IPv4 and IPv6 routers so when the traffic arrives at IIJ we will determine which it is and route it on to the appropriate network."

To coincide with the launch of the service, IIJ is offering an updated version of its own router, an in-house d, which has its own device.

"We think this will really ease the burden on end users because they don't need to install an IPv6-dedicated line or put a heavy burden on their IPv6 routers," said Higasa. "IIJ does not see IPv6 overcoming IPv4 but maybe a situation where they will be mixed will prevail for a certain period of time."

One of the major benefits of IPv6 is the vastly greater Internet address space that it offers. As each device that is connected to the Internet requires its own unique address, a larger pool of addresses is seen as an urgent requirement given the strains on the current IPv4 system and the dreams of developers that see all manner of devices connected to the network someday.

IIJ's new service neatly demonstrates the expansion of address space: While users are offered either 4 or 16 IPv4 addresses, each contract allows up to a trillion trillion (1,000,000,000,000 trillion) IPv6 addresses. And while that's a lot of addresses, it is only a fraction of the total number of addresses available in the IPv6 address pool. Some 340 trillion trillion trillion (34x10 power 38) addresses are available in total compared to 4.3 billion for IPv4.

Prices for the dual connectivity service start at 38,000 yen (US$310) for a 64K bps (bits per second) line and rise to 167,000 yen per month for a 1.5M bps connection. Initially the service will be available in Tokyo and the northern Japanese city of Sapporo although the company has plans to spread it to other major cities in Japan as demand dictates. There are no concrete plans to offer the service outside of Japan but IIJ's IPv6 backbone extends to the U.S. so the service could be offered there if requested by customers.

IIJ is a strong backer of IPv6 technology and has been playing a key role in several Japanese government-led research projects focused on the new system. The company first began offering IPv6 connectivity on a trial basis in August 1999 and began offering native IPv6 connections to customers in September last year. A commercial service was launched in April this year.

As part of its work on IPv6 projects, IIJ has connected to five IPv6 Internet exchange points. These include the NSPIXP6 in Tokyo, NY6IX and 6IIX-NY points in New York and PAIX and 6TAP in Palo Alto, California.

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