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Difference Between IPv4 and IPv6

Dec 20, 2013

The Internet Protocol version 4, or IPv4, is the defined standard in the world today, but it is being replaced by the more advanced IPv6, to help solve the IP address exhaustion problem that is looming on the horizon. IPv4 uses 32 bits to define each address, which, in total, is roughly four billion addresses. This was a huge number during its inception, but with the internet boom, this address pool is expected to run out in 2010 or 2011. IPv6 uses 128 bits for each address. To put this in perspective, if you take the number of known stars in the universe, and square that number, the result will only be slightly larger than the number of addresses in IPv6.

The problem of IP exhaustion forced people to come up with complex ways to conserve addresses. The complex algorithms can be taxing for routers that need to decipher each packet and determine its destination. IPv4 is also impaired when working with mobile networks, where the device can move from one network to another. IPv6 solves these problems, as the huge number of addresses makes complex algorithms unnecessary.

The difference between the two, which most people would likely notice, is the appearance of the IP address. IPv4 uses four 1-byte decimal numbers, separated by a dot (i.e., while IPv6 uses hexadecimal numbers that are separated by colons. Due to the incompatibility of IPv4 and IPv6, translations have been made to enable their interoperation, which leads to addresses that look like ::ffff:

Another key advantage of IPv6 is the ability to carry larger payloads than the fixed amount allowed in IPv4. This is an optional feature, and IPv6 networks can still remain compliant with IPv4′s payload size. Despite the numerous advantages of IPv6, the incompatibility still blocks its adoption. Only a meager 1% of the world’s networks have converted to IPv6, while the remaining 99% still use IPv4. This will change once IPv4 addresses are totally exhausted, and communication companies are forced to use IPv6 addresses.


1. An IPv6 address consists of 128 bits, while an IPv4 address consists of only 32.

2. IPv6 has a lot more usable addresses compared to IPv4.

3. IPv6 makes the router’s task more simple compared to IPv4.

4. IPv6 is better suited to mobile networks than IPv4.

5. IPv6 addresses are represented in a hexadecimal, colon-separated notation, while IPv4 addresses use the dot-decimal notation.

6. IPv6 allows for bigger payloads than what is allowed in IPv4.

7. IPv6 is used by less than 1% of the networks, while IPv4 is still in use by the remaining 99%.