IPv6, or Internet Protocol version 6, is the most recent iteration of the protocol which allows computers on the internet to communicate with each other.

IPv6 looks set to take over from IPv4, which has been the online standard for decades. And with good reason, because IPv6 was introduced when IPv4 address exhaustion started to kick in. If we don’t migrate to the new protocol, the whole internet could seize up.

However, IPv6 hasn’t become mainstream just yet. According to Google, around 20% of users rely on IPv6. And the answer to where is IPv6 being used currently isn’t promising. Only 49 countries have a take-up rate of over 5%. So there’s work to do.

This quick guide to what is IPv6 will look at the future of web connectivity in a bit more detail.

How IPv6 works?

IPv6 works by assigning a unique 128-bit IP address to every computer or digital device that is connected to the internet.

If you’re wondering why IPv6 is better than IPv4, the main answer is that IPv6 allows for vastly more unique addresses. But it is also better adapted to peer-to-peer connectivity and streaming, and comes with IPSec encryption as standard. In theory, it should make packet processing, routing and network configuration simpler as well.

We don’t exactly know the answer to when will IPv6 be standard across the world, but within 10 years is a reasonable guess.

IPv6 address range

Compared to IPv4, the types of IPv6 address are vast. The answer to how many IPv6 addresses is actually 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 – a number that means nothing to most people.

The range is so vast thanks to the IPv6 address length, which includes 128 bits (not 32 bits with IPv4), spread across 32 separate digits. So, IPv6 address examples might include something like 2001:0dc8:75a3:0000:0000:6a2e:0470:7534 – much longer than with IPv4.

The first half of an IPv6 address is the “network address”, and the second half is a “unique host ID”. So, how are IPv6 addresses assigned? Well, not unlike IPv4, they are granted to Regional Internet Registries in blocks, who send them down to ISPs and private networks. At the top of the pyramid, the IANA maintains a central register of all IPv6 addresses.

And don’t worry. The IPv6 private address range is so vast that exhaustion won’t be an issue.

IPv6 problems

Common IPv6 problems include no network access, connections dropping at regular intervals, migration issues for larger organizations, lack of compatibility with VPNs, and potential security issues as well. So let’s run through some IPv6 issues to give you a heads up about what you might encounter.

IPv6 no network access

When you adopt IPv6, there’s a chance of encountering IPv6 no network access errors. If you are unlucky enough to receive an IPv6no internet access notification, the solution could be as simple as downloading updated ethernet drivers. So try that first.

When playing online games or streaming movies with your IPv6 connectivity no internet access can be a crippling issue. If driver updates don’t work, try the “troubleshooter” in Windows Internet Connections module. You might also try using the start menu to run ncpa.cpl where you can disable and then re-enable your network adapter. That sometimes does the trick.

IPv6 security issues

In theory, there should be fewer IPv6 security issues than with IPv4 because it incorporates IPSec routinely. This means that all traffic sent using IPv6 is encrypted.

However, there may be security issues relating to the migration to IPv6. For instance, some security issues with IPv6 relate to improperly configured firewalls, which don’t cater for the new standard. And not all VPNs work with IPv6, as we’ll see.

Then there are possible problems relating to dual stacking, when both IPv4 and IPv6 are in operation. In those cases, both protocols need to be secured, but not all users are aware of this.

IPv6 DNS issues

Users have also flagged up some important IPv6 DNS issues, which isn’t surprising, as adopting the new standard requires a totally new way of Domain Name System processing.

In most cases, this is simply an issue with users not updating to the latest version of BIND, which caters for IPv6 domain names. And in almost all instances, you can detect any DNS problems via a publicly accessible IPv6 DNS test.

IPv6 migration issues

Sometimes, users encounter IPv6 migration issues, when switching to the latest IP standard. This is particularly common in business settings, where network managers struggle to sell the cost of migration to senior executives.

Complex organizations also need to pay attention to IPv6 address allocation for all of their users and devices, and seamlessly transfer from IPv4 communications. They need to think about security issues, whether to use proxies or dual stack systems, and to train staff in migration from IPv4 to IPv6.

Individuals don’t tend to have so many problems, although as we’ll see VPNs can pose some difficulties.

VPN not supporting IPv6

If you try to use a VPN with IPv6, you may well find your VPN not supporting IPv6. In this case, you simply won’t receive any protection and your IP address will be totally unchanged.

If you are committed to making the switch to the latest standard, find out before you buy whether there’s a problem with IPv6 not hidden by VPN services that you want to try.

And if you have any doubts about whether yout IPv6 address is protected from leakage, be sure to use IP checking tools regularly.

Disable IPv6

IPv6 can cause issues when using many VPNs, which can only handle IPv4 addresses. For instance, ExpressVPN haven’t upgraded to IPv6 as yet, and recommend that users disable IPv6 whenever they run the ExpressVPN client.They aren’t alone. The following leading VPNs also recommend turning off IPv6 when you use their services:

  • NordVPN
  • PureVPN
  • ProtonVPN
  • CactusVPN
  • SonicWall

You can disable IPv6 fairly easily by changing the Windows 10 Network Adapter settings. A quick run through can be found here.

However, some leading VPNs like CyberGhost have made the step up to IPv6. So if you want to use IPv6 and a VPN, it’s far from impossible.