IPv4 vs. IPv6

The Internet Protocol (IP) is one of the most significant communication protocols in the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS). It’s used to route and address packets for networking devices like computers, laptops, and fiber switches over a single network or a network of interconnected networks. IPv4 (IP version 4) and IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) are the two current versions of the Internet Protocol (IP version 6). 


What is IPv4?


IP addresses have been considered the backbone of the Internet and what it means to “be connected.” The IP addresses most of us use today are called IPv4 addresses or Internet Protocol version 4. It was adopted in 1982 by the Internet Engineering Task Force.


IPv4 is an arrangement of four sets of decimal numbers separated by periods (xxxx.xxxx.xxxx.xxxx). It is responsible for addressing, delivering, and routing your online requests precisely. It attaches an “electronic return address” to all your online requests and activity for you. The address it uses is the IP address for your connection.


Under IPv4, the internet is capable of handling nearly 4.3 billion unique addresses. Yet, because IPv4 was introduced in 1982, nearly all 4.3 billion addresses are being used up. In America alone, there are almost 400 million people with an average of ten devices per household, therefore, our country alone would take up almost all the IPv4 addresses.


The good news is there is a way of sharing IP addresses to provide more space! This is called Network Address Translation or NAT. NAT is a method of mapping an IP address space into another. It does this by modifying network address information in the IP header of packets while they are in transit across a traffic routing device. Carrier-Grade NAT or CGNAT adds an additional translation layer, aiding in an IPv4 address talking to an IPv6 address and vice versa. NAT and CGNAT work to add additional sectors of space to the already useable amount of IPv4 addresses so that the entire world could be connected.


The increasing end-users connected to the Internet leads to the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. That’s also why the new Internet addressing system, IPv6, is being deployed to fulfill the need for more Internet addresses.


What is IPv6?


Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 was launched on June 6, 2012. Google, Comcast, Yahoo!, and AT&T are some of the ISPs or Internet Service Providers which have enabled IPv6 since then. Instead of four sets of decimal numbers, xxxx.xxxx.xxxx.xxxx, IPv6 restructures its functionality and has corrected the limitations and flaws of IPv4.

IPv6 has 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses or 2 to the 128th power worth. With this many IP addresses being accessible, under IPv6, there will always be an abundance of addresses. An IPv6 address is 128 bits long, which a bit is the smallest unit of measurement for information, and is arranged in eight groups, each of which is 16 bits. Each group is expressed as four hexadecimal digits and the groups are separated by colons:


An example of an IPv6 address could be: 0291:0A95:0000:5F3C:00B2:91C1:7025:000C.

IPv6 is critical for the long-term viability of the Internet. The Internet will have a substantially larger pool of IP addresses if it switches from IPv4 to IPv6. Instead of being concealed behind a NAT router, each device should have its own public IP address. While IPv4 and IPv6 are already coexisting, they were never intended to be compatible. IPv4 addresses may continue for a long time due to the expense and compatibility concerns with IPv6. However, IPv6 addresses will eventually become the standard.