Monday, 31 January 2011

Consumer broadband IPv6 routers

We are finally seeing some consumer broadband IPv6 routers, at last, so worth explaining where it is at...

Consumer routers are the last bit in the jigsaw puzzle that is IPv6 deployment. The consumer kit (PC, phones, iPad, etc) does IPv6. The core networks do it. ISPs can do it reasonably easily. What is missing is the bit in the middle. The bit on the end of that phone line.

We have been nagging manufacturers for years, and finally some progress...

1. CISCO: There are (expensive) CISCO DSL routers. Have been around for years. Pricey but generally work. One or two quirks still. Not in consumer market really.

2. Broadcom chipset - Comtrend. Nice small router with 4 port switch, WiFi, 3G dongle host USB port, sensibly priced but not quite entry level.

3. Same chipset we think - Billion. Chunky, 4 port switch, separate Ethernet WAN as well, Wifi. Bit pricey.

4. Zyxel - not yet, but expect single port as well as a 4 port with wifi soon. Will have to be competitive pricing. Maybe this will be the entry level box we are after. We'll see

5. PPPoe Modem(s) and FB2700. Obviously very nice, but not consumer market either.

What we need is a router that is cheap enough for consumer market, and ideally cheap enough to be the give away router with new service, but does IPv6. It is also crucial the IPv6 has a basic stateful firewall - i.e. "at least as good as the one you get as a side effect of NAT on IPv4" by default.

The new broadcom chipset boxes look quite sensible. They are not quite there yet, but damn close. We have things like "edit the config and it turns off IPv6", and "no IPv6 option on PPPoA", and "only works with a /48", but apart from quirks like this which they should fix, they do work!!! Notably they do:-
  • Autoconfig IPv6 prefix from ISP (not DNS) using DHCPv6 (yuck)
  • Router announce the prefix on the LAN
  • Firewall incoming IPv6 sessions (by default)
  • Allow firewall config (reasonably simply)
  • NAT and non-NAT IPv4 also with firewall
  • Seemingly decent DSL modem including annex M
So sounds like these will be what we get for now, assuming they can fix a few quirks.

Zyxel were also interesting. For a start, thanks to them for coming to a meeting with us, and we hope our feedback gets to the right people. They are a tad behind, but are doing their own thing not just re-using the same broadcom chipset.

They did seem a tad surprised we were saying "dual stack" not "IPv6 only". We explained this to them.

At one point they nearly uttered "IPv6" and "NAT" in the same sentence and the 2x4 was on standby. That was explained very forcefully.

We also explained a few details, like usable PPPoA/PPPoE relay to PPPoE on LAN, and baby jumbo for full 1500 MTU PPPoE, and things like DNS on DHCPv6 and on router announcements too. I think they took it all in.

So, watch this space on zyxel...


  1. Were you able to suggest to Zyxel that they might consider a web interface which wasn't utterly, completely, totally shite?

  2. And also suggest that if they're going to have a GUI, to allow everything to be configured through it.

    Alternatively, if they are going to require the EU to access a CLI, at least ask them to make it a nice, friendly and well-documented environment.

    Allowing provisioning by a really simple means (say TFTPing XML?) would also be fantastic.

    Oh, don't forget the moon-on-a-stick and the pony.

  3. Apple equipment - as you'd expect - supports IPv6. Price-wise though, it's only just consumer-grade CPE!

  4. Needless to say we asked all sorts of sensible questions on simple config using one file, and so on, yes.