How does IPv6 impact VoIP?

Migrating to IPv6 requires more than flipping a switch. For the ill-prepared, migrating to IPv6 could adversely impact your VoIP systems.  The background of IPv6 is well known. Given how long OS vendors and Cisco have been ready for the change, you would think upgrading VoIP systems would be an easy thing.

The truth is not all VoIP vendors are prepared and it’s up to you to take charge. Let’s look at three critical areas needing consideration to ensure your communications systems are IPv6 ready:

  • VoIP system hardware
  • Security
  • ISP network translation

VoIP System Hardware
Begin by taking an inventory of infrastructure used to support VoIP services. With all hardware, verify IPv6 support and upgrade processes. For hardware or software phones, upgrading will likely require a software patch. Because demand for IPv6 VoIP is fairly recent, your vendor may have only begun to address this process. The second issue is one of logistics. Can your phones be remotely managed? If not, this will add substantial time to any migration.

VoIP servers are easier to upgrade. Server operating systems have long supported both dual stack and pure IPv6 options. Check with the VoIP system vendor for upgrade requirements and processes.

Life behind a NAT, while not 100 percent secure, does obscure the VoIP server IPs from direct Internet exposure. VoIP systems are targeted by hackers, who once they have access to the system place calls at the owner’s expense. In moving to IPv6, the NAT device is no longer needed, which exposes your server’s IP to the outside and increases the likelihood of it coming under attack. It’s important to be aware of this threat and seek protective measures. Read more on VoIP security threats.

ISP and Network Translating
While most of the steps your ISP is taking to support IPv6 won’t have any impact upon service delivery, there are two areas to research.

  1. Does your provider offer IPv6 connections?
    You’ll want to understand the process and timeframe for requesting these connections, as it will directly impact your migration process.
  2. In transition, be aware of potential IPv4 issues.
    Providers faced with an exhausted IPv4 address pool may implement a provider-level NAT sharing one IP with multiple clients. This setup creates the potential for port collisions, which can be avoided by working closely with your ISP and understanding their policies for issuing IPs.

Because IPv6 has been spoken about as being on the horizon for so long, you would think all the concerns have been addressed. But what is still uncertain is the impact of IPv6 on VoIP systems. Only proper preparation will ensure VoIP performs smoothly through the transition. Here are resources to help you plan appropriately:

VoIP in an IPv6 world

Cisco Unified Communications and IPv6

Telnet Networks, would like to thanks Network Instruments for this article


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