IPv6 Launch Promises Better VoIP

by Stuart Zipper

The world is only days away from the formal launch of IPv6, the new protocol that’s destined to become the Internet standard over the next several years. June 6 has been designated by the Internet Society as the big launch day (Get it? That’s 6/6 for IPv6).

The implications of IPv6 (which stands for Internet Protocol version 6) are tremendous for just about every Internet user, VoIP … or perhaps I should say VoIPv6 … users included.

One of the biggest issues is Quality of Service (QoS). The currently-used IPv4 does not have formal QoS technology built in. The result is a series of QoS issues – latency, jitter, echo – that can seriously degrade VoIP phone service. If IP voice packets are lost or delayed at any point in the network between VoIP users the quality of the call is noticeably degraded. It only stands to reason that the further the distance between those VoIP users, the more likely one will hit one network glitch or another. International calls are particularly vulnerable, although the trade-off between the low cost of international VoIP and occasional service blips is tolerable, at least in the short term.

With IPv6, those issues will almost magically disappear because IPv6 implements QoS standards. (For the Nerdish set:  IPv6 uses QoS marking, with a traffic-class field (8 bits) in the IPv6 header and a 20-bit flow label…information I gleaned from the IPv6.com web site.)

As if that wasn’t enough other IPv6 benefits, of interest to business phone users in particular, are an architecture that’s far more difficult to hack. Communications security is, of course, of major importance to just about any business.

For now, only a small portion of the web is going to become IPv6 enabled, and in just about all cases both IPv4 and IPv6 will be supported simultaneously, for the somewhat obvious reason that there’s tons of hardware out there that won’t support the new protocol. The transition will take years, if not a decade or more. But momentum is clearly building for the transition. Last year, for instance, on World IPv6 Day more than 1,000 outfits fielded IPv6 test versions of their sites, starting with big names such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo! The group also included a handful of VoIP providers and equipment manufacturers, ranging from major industry players to garage-based VoIP hackers (and remember, some pretty big tech companies were started in garages) and bloggers.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.