Blog Post

BT's 21 Century Network Is So…Last Century

Ready for a little Friday humor? Well there’s this British carrier called BT (s bt) that’s spending £10 billion ($17 billion) to build out an all-IP network that would handle the massive influx of converged data, voice and video traffic coming over the next few years on one network. They’ve been trashed and mocked, as so many visionaries often are, but they’ve kept on building, with the goal of finishing the network by 2011. Only they apparently didn’t build it to talk to the next-generation protocols, which is like spending £10 billion for a machine that translates spoken Latin.

BT told a high-speed broadband provider in the UK that it doesn’t support IPv6, which is a protocol backed by the Internet Engineering Task Force. There are all sorts of dire warnings explaining how as more devices connect to the Internet (like your digital picture frame or thermostat), we’re going to run out of IP addresses to give them. That means we need to upgrade to IPv6 before we’re forced to share IP addresses or take other measures. This requires a big effort from equipment vendors and site owners who have to build and host IPv6 sites. With the doomsday predictions saying IPv6 IPv4 addresses will run out some time in 2012, it would appear that the BT 21 Century Network will be finished just in time to become obsolete.

12 Responses to “BT's 21 Century Network Is So…Last Century”

  1. Stacey Higginbotham

    Diane, good to know that BT is considering support for IPv6. If you click through to the blog we reference, you’ll see the ISP’s response from BT that states:

    “Thank you for your enquiry concerning IPv6. I can confirm that BT currently supports IPv4 on it’s Broadband products and does not support IPv6. If you believe this will be a requirement for you going forward I would ask you to submit a formal Statement of Requirements, to enable BT to formally evaluate the same. We will of course offer you any support you need in submitting an SoR.”

    Sounds like at least one communication providers will take BT up on that offer of support.

  2. The suggestion that BT does not plan support for IPv6 is misinformed. BT currently supports IPv4 on both 20CN and 21CN, and has developments in place to consider bringing IPv6 to our 21CN platform. BT continues to listen and respond to the needs of its communications provider customers around the introduction of 21CN. If communications providers have a requirement for IPv6, we will work closely with them to ensure that requirement is supported on 21CN, which is fully capable of supporting IPv6.

    Note: BT Diamond IP IPAM products have supported IPv6 since 2003 and continue to evolve support with increasing customer interest/demand.

  3. IPv4 vs IPv6 and running out of internet addresses — the problem that keeps crying wolf.

    I sat in a machine room above a Chinese restaurant in early 1994 and heard the doom-sayer systems guy proclaim that the Internet was going to hell and run out of IP addresses if we didn’t start rationing. And that was in ’94, before prolific broadband, before prolific MOBILE broadband, before prolific cable modems or DSL or FiOS.

    Hell, the highest “backbone” speed on the Internet at that time was OC-3. Yes, OC-3. You were a big swinging richard if you had a T-3 into the Internet in those days.

    So It’s been over a decade plus and now we’re back to “We’re running out of addresses.”

    Forgive me if I don’t run out and scream at this particular piece of carp.

  4. Stacey Higginbotham

    The ISP says it appears to be a bug that BT isn’t fixing so far, but that BT told them they are not supporting IPv6 at this time. I found that statement rather ironic given the IPv4 predictions, so wrote it up to offer a little levity on such a grim day.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled financial crisis.

    And thanks, Victor, for the clarification.

  5. Daniel Golding

    The market is crashing and you’ve got this? IPv6 is supported in all of BT’s gear. They will switch it on when they need to. While some hardware does not support v6 (some firewalls, etc), everything considered carrier-class does. The predictions that we will run out in 2012 aren’t doomsday, either. Those are the conservative ones.

  6. Andrew Fort

    Victor’s right – as long as they run a modern IGP (OSPFv3 or IS-IS), and have 6PE on their roadmap, this isn’t a big deal.

    The real message is that V6 edge deployments on existing networks are non-trivial, and though a lot of work has been done (by both content networks and NSPs), there’s still a lot of tricky work left to do until ISPs can offer both v6 and v4 services (particularly if they’re on the same edge).

  7. 24 Hour News Cycle

    “With the doomsday predictions saying IPv6 addresses will run out some time in 2012”

    You mean IPv4.

    Also, I think that a bug that is preventing them from fully supporting IPv6 *today* is different from them having built a $17B physical network that cannot and will not support IPv6. I give their designers, engineers, and vendors the benefit of the doubt on this.

  8. Supporting IPv6 routing and offering v6 services to customers are two very different things. Sounds to me like you are confusing them. While it is necessary to support v6 routing to offer v6 services, you can also support v6 routing and NOT offer v6 services.