NetworkNetwork: Guides

IPv4 vs IPv6: What’s The Difference?

ipv4 vs ipv6

Two versions of IP addresses exist, the IPv4 and IPv6 (version 4 and 6).

In this article, we’ll get you acquainted with their relative merits and individual significance, finally culminating in a consideration of:

  • IPv4 vs IPv6’s speed differences
  • IPv4 vs IPv6’s security
  • and a comparison of IPv6 vs IPv4 for gaming.

A Primer On Internet Protocol Addresses

“IP” means Internet Protocol. An Internet Protocol (IP) address is used for identifying all unique computers and devices (or the network hardware, essentially) giving each device in the world status as a separate “user” of the Internet.

The Internet Protocol address is a numerical label, the type of which usually defines the method of communication and the technical format of the packets used to do so.

There’s also something called the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) which goes further than simply assigning an address by establishing a direct virtual connection or link between two hosts (a destination and a source) so as to facilitate easier communication.

All of this achieves smoother and faster global communication for everyone using the Internet Protocol, and the two versions of the Internet Protocol, IPv4 and IPv6 are currently the most popularly discussed and widely known ones.

Drawing A Line: IPv4 Explained

What is the main difference between IPv4 and IPv6? IPv4 vs IPv6, what’s better, pound for pound?

IPv4, formulated practically decades ago, postulated a certain number of all possible combinations of IP addresses that would be needed for the Internet to work.

IPv4 recognizes the hosts from IP addresses and works at the Internet layer (of the TCP/IP model) to route data packets where they need to go, amongst the same or however many networks.

An IPv4 address is 32-bit (more on that in the next section). That makes it pretty easy to read; a hierarchical scheme is present, with every 8 bits containing information of the networks, sub-network, and host, respectively.

It’s a little bit more complex than this, of course, but the crux of the complexity is that we ultimately ended up using NAT, a translation process, to convert these IPs originally intended for Intranet into public IPs.

IPv4 was, and remains, an ingenious technology, using unicast, broadcast and multicast modes of addressing to deftly provide solutions to various amounts of problems it saw and foresaw.

Why, then, are we here, about to talk about something called IPv6?

(And where did IPv5 go?)

IPv6 vs IPv4: Why The Need For IPv6?

To put it very simply, we ran out of IPv4 addresses at a certain point, facilitating the need for more. A lot of even budget Wi-Fi routers out there are currently using IPv6, already having made the switch. But why?

We mentioned IPv4 having a 32-bit address. This means that the number of possible addresses is 2 raised to the power of 32, translation to a little over 4.3 billion addresses or devices or connections.

This, of course, is not nearly enough with the growing amount of Internet connections in our world today. Think of something as simple as a Wi-Fi extender which is pretty much a necessity in most places today.

IPv6 makes up for this by having a total number of 3.4 by 10 raised to the power of 28 (with 128-bit addresses). This means that IPv6 gives us a total number of – deep breath here – 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.

IPv6’s 128-bit addresses are also more efficient in how they’re used, in addition to being considered more secure than IPv4 by many.

IPv4 vs IPv6: Security And Speed

Right off the bat, IPv4’s QoS feature has been deemed largely inferior to IPv6. IPv4 also doesn’t support auto-config, a big turn-off for lots of those who have the know-how of how this kind of thing works.

The auto-configuration feature simply means that IPv6 network adapter cards can allocate themselves an IP address when triggered (using something called ICMPv6 messages, along with mechanisms such as AAAA or DHCPv6), utilizing whatever standard prefix is appended to its MAC address, automatically configuring themselves!

In terms of speed, the difference in most high-quality broadband connections in countries with a developed Internet network might be negligible – but go to any speed test site and you’ll see that the data shows that IPv6 just is faster. This is because of more direct routing, more efficiency, the removal of Network Address Translation requirements, and a combination of similar factors.

IPv6 routers also require IPsec support and use other similar authenticating protocols present in their built-in suite for authenticating all conforming IPv6 sessions. This, compounded with the lack of the need for NAT and DCHP as is present in IPv4, means more transparency, and ultimately, translates into a host of benefits over IPv4, such as:

  • IP host mobility
  • Flexible extensions
  • Simpler header format
  • Simpler routing processing
  • 20-bit flow label field / true QoS
  • No danger of duplicated or colliding private IP addresses
  • Better and easier network configuration
  • More efficient multicast routing
  • Efficient packet processing
  • Built-in privacy support

We weren’t trying to clickbait you with the mention of IPv5 before, by the way, and nor was it some shockingly embarrassing failed experiment that Big Data hid from you.

The simple fact is that an Internet Protocol Version 5 was developed and used for the transmission of A/V in the 70s in something called ST2. That exclusivity stayed there, as “IPv5” was just essentially used for something else.

Conclusion: IPv6 vs IPv4 In Gaming

From all that we’ve presented, you can see that the gaming experience, at least on paper, would stand to gain from having an IPv6-enabled router and connection. At the same time, the difference shouldn’t be noticeable unless all other factors are also very fine-tuned, and you have a keen professional eye for this sort of thing.

And yet, at the same time, it’s a near-official recommendation for the Xbox from Microsoft to enable IPv6 for the “best experience”!

We recommend enabling it if you have the option, and between deciding on IPv4 vs IPv6 routers – it’s a no-brainer. Go IPv6.

About author

A finance major with a passion for all things tech, Uneeb loves to write about everything from hardware to games (his favorite genre being FPS). When not writing, he can be seen in his natural habitat reading, studying investments, or watching Formula 1.
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