In January of this year, Apple released AirPort Utility 6.0, an updated version of the configuration tool for setting up home networks and AirPort products. With a redesigned interface much like the iOS Airport Utility app, many did not notice support for IPv6—the next version of Internet Protocol expected to follow IPv4—was completely removed. With Comcast now offering IPv6 services to home users in two cities and an official roll out later this month, experts at the North American IPv6 summit in Denver this week expressed concerns over Apple’s decision. NetworkWorld quoted Distinguished Engineer and Chief Architect for IPv6 at Comcast John Brzozowski:
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“Apple has taken the ability to seamlessly support IPv6 away from the AirPort Utility.. It’s a little concerning. We hoped to see more IPv6 support, not less, among [customer premises equipment] vendors.”
The report explained Comcast is now only offering a “conditional recommendation” for using Apple’s AirPort with its home networking services using IPv6. This is opposed to its usual recommendations given to Cisco and D-Link gear. Apple’s AirPort products still support IPv6, but users must download the previous AirPort Utility 5.6 tool to access the settings.
The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory has tested home gateways that meet the requirements of IPv6 ahead of an industry-wide launch scheduled for June 6, 2012 by the Internet Society. Currently, the list includes six products from Cisco, Broadcom, D-Link, and others, but none from Apple. To make the list, devices have to enable IPv6 by default. Apple likely removed the feature from version 6.0 for simplification with the redesigned interface, because the majority of users do not require access to the feature. With a rollout of the standard coming this year, Apple could likely include it in an update to the utility in the near future.
NetworkWorld explained the importance of support for IPv6:
IPv6 is needed because IPv4 is running out of addresses to connect new users and new devices to the Internet. IPv6 solves this problem with a vastly expanded address space, but it is not backwards-compatible with IPv4. So ISPs like Comcast have to upgrade their routing, edge, security, network management and customer premises equipment to support IPv6. The alternative is for carriers to translate between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, which adds latency and cost to network operations.