Addressing IPv6 opportunities
IPv6 the right address for Sprint
Each device connected to the internet must be assigned an IP address in order to communicate with other devices. However, a connected device today means much more than a phone or a tablet – increasingly, anything that can benefit from a connection is being connected. As a result, the number of available addresses is shrinking fast – and as one of the largest operators in the US, Sprint needed a solution that really pushed the envelope.
"Five years ago we thought of the internet as something that our phones and PCs used," says Iyad Tarazi, Head of Network Development at Sprint. "Five years from now, we’ll think of it in terms of our kitchen appliances or cars. The more connections, the more addresses we need. We’re running out, and we’re running out quickly."
Finding an answer
The dominant internet communication protocol today is IPv4. But by providing an almost unlimited number of new IP addresses, the new IPv6 protocol allows many more devices to be connected, supports the launch of new services and ultimately underpins the continued growth of Sprint’s business. However, IPv6 does not provide backward support for IPv4 and IPv4-based applications will be used for some time to come. The evolutionary process from IPv4 to IPv6 must therefore be a gradual one.
"IPv6 allows operators to simplify the network. This means we can pass better performance and flexibility onto our customers and reduce our cost structure," Tarazi says. "But if you get it wrong, then you create massive blockage and performance issues."
Sprint’s plan was simple – introduce a native IPv6 service on their fixed network as an overlay stack of their existing IPv4 protocol. This would enable the delivery of both IPv4 and IPv6 services while maximizing Sprint’s return on investment on their existing equipment.
The right partner
"Sprint needed a strong partner who could execute quickly with minimal customer impact. Ericsson was the right choice for Sprint at every stage – from initial engagement, assessment, and analysis and design through to implementation and lifecycle management," says Ajit Bhatia, Head of Marketing and Business Development for Ericsson’s Sprint Customer Unit.
"It was critical to have a partner like Ericsson with a proven track record of managing complex technical projects that require a disciplined systems engineering approach," Tarazi says. "We run a multi-vendor environment and the Ericsson team showed enormous flexibility by bringing in the competence that was needed."
Reaping the benefits
With engineers working around the clock, the project was not only completed on budget, but in time for World IPv6 Day 2012. And the benefits for Sprint and its customers will be even more long-lasting.
"Leveraging our business partnership with Ericsson resulted in great performance and flawless execution," Tarazi says. "Our customers now have access to a network that can handle new and innovative ways of connecting their devices to the internet, allowingthem to grow with us as their needs evolve."
Sprint is North America’s third-largest carrier. The company has an enviable track record of innovation, offering the first wireless 4G service from a national US carrier, as well as unlimited data plans for its smartphone users. By the end of 2011, Sprint was serving more than 55 million customers. Its leading prepaid brands include Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile.
The company has won a number of customer satisfaction accolades and in 2011, Newsweek ranked Sprint no. 3 in its 2011 Green Rankings – listing it as one of the USA’s greenest companies.