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Have Virgin Media enabled IPv6 yet?

Answer: NO 😢

We've been asking since March 2010... We think it's time!

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Virgin Media like many UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have not yet deployed IPv6. While this isn't breaking news because loads of ISPs suffer from IPv6 deployment lag (since December 1995), Virgin Media UK has an interesting IPv6 story which is why I felt I needed to create this page, to inform others who may be looking at IPv6 (or the lack of) and happen to be a Virgin Media customer.

It’s time for Virgin Media to deploy IPv6!

This website is meant to be an informative resource (with an admittedly somewhat sarcastic tone) and raise awareness of the lack of IPv6 on Virgin Media UK Broadband services along with additional information around specific issues with IPv6 tunnels and other areas (it is quite a fun ride). The domain name is a bit of a cheeky dig to see if the marketing team at Virgin Media are watching. Let’s find out!

All this information relates to Virgin Media UK Broadband services. I am a Virgin Media Broadband customer myself. This in no way makes me more qualified, but I thought I’d just throw that out there.

Notable IPv6 events

A summarised list of key IPv6 related events with Virgin Media.

The IPv6 story

Searching for “Virgin Media IPv6” will probably bring up many of the resources linked above and articles I’ve likely written or commented on, given I’ve been quite vocal about the subject for a while now.

DS-Lite

While Virgin Media hasn’t deployed IPv6 officially in the UK, it has in the past trialled IPv6 through DS-Lite. DS-Lite is something Liberty Global (parent company of Virgin Media) have regularly deployed in other countries and seems to be their preferred IPv6 deployment technology. In contrast, Virgin Media Ireland (Formerly UPC) does in fact have IPv6 through DS-Lite live right now. So Virgin Media have technically deployed IPv6, just not for the UK customer base. However, on a personal opinion level DS-Lite is horrible for consumers, so even though the objective is to get Virgin Media to deploy IPv6, preferably, it should be a dual stack approach, not DS-Lite. There are rumours to suggest that DS-Lite might have been abandoned a while ago for the UK, but no one knows for sure, given Virgin Media doesn’t like to talk about IPv6. So it is all speculation at this point.

Issues with DS-Lite

Why is DS-Lite seen as “bad”, it is after all standardised and used by various providers right? Here are some key issues with DS-Lite from a consumer basis which might catch a lot of people out and possibly a reason why it was rumoured to be abandoned.

DS-Lite provides you a native IPv6 prefix (GOOD!) with IPv4 translated through CGNAT (BAD!). This is why the preferred approach is dual stack, yes it is more complex to maintain two protocols, but since Virgin Media has boasted in the past that its IPv4 space was plentiful, they’ve most likely got the address space to do it. Two of their biggest competitors in the fixed line broadband space (BT and Sky) both use a dual stack approach.

IPv6 tunnels

If you have a reasonable understanding of networking or have a technical background, you’ll likely know that just because some ISPs don’t have IPv6, doesn’t mean you can’t get IPv6 another way. Many ISPs not deploying IPv6 means users who want it turn to other solutions, one common method is a 6in4 tunnel. If it wasn’t insulting or frustrating enough to not have native IPv6 from your ISP, Virgin Media has a troubled history with the 6in4 protocol on its network, leading to a bit of a checkmate scenario.

It has long been known and more recently documented that running a 6in4 tunnel from a provider such as Hurricane Electric results in horribly slow speeds that exhibit a “capped” behaviour on Virgin Media connections. Virgin Media will state there is no speed caps on any protocol on the unlimited broadband services, but some customers call shenanigans. I myself decided I’d investigate the issue and decided to document my findings below.

Read my technical analysis

If you don’t want to read the full article above, these are the main findings

  1. When a 6in4 tunnel is pointed at any Virgin Media IP, the speed is very poor. (This also includes Virgin Media Business lines as well)
  2. If you encapsulate 6in4 over something like UDP, suddenly the problem goes away
  3. If you have a 6in4 tunnel pointed to a non Virgin Media IP, you will not experience any problems

Two key findings stand out from this

  1. Something on the Virgin Media side is the problem
  2. Encapsulating 6in4 within another protocol seems to avoid or circumvent the performance issues

Any protocol such as L2TP, UDP, OpenVPN, Wireguard you name it, if you send 6in4 inside them, you’ll not see the same performance problems. So about that not throttling traffic thing…

The main theories of why this is the case are widely debated:

The alternative theory which Virgin Media itself seems to think might be the case is it’s their CPE causing the performance problem for customers. This however is also debated as the issue has been proven to occur on the first version of the SuperHub and up.

The many theories as to what the specific issue is can be talked about at length. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter as it is worth highlighting that 6in4 is also a transitional technology and shouldn’t be used forever either, so holding out on 6in4 is basically just like not deploying IPv6 anyway. The real “fix” here is to demonstrate to Virgin Media that IPv6 is needed now. Thus resolving the lack of native IPv6 problem and negating the need to use any form of transitional IPv6 technology and indirectly resolving the 6in4 issue by making it redundant.

Alternative IPv6 options

Now you’ve been briefed about the lack of native IPv6 on Virgin Media along with the specific 6in4/tunnel issues you are likely to encounter. What are the potential alternative IPv6 options available? The easiest option would be to simply wait for Virgin Media to just deploy IPv6 themselves, however given it has been over 10 years since the question was first asked and we’re still waiting, that’s not really going to be a quick solution. Below are some alternatives you might want to consider if you cannot wait for Virgin Media itself to deploy IPv6.

  1. Andrews and Arnold L2TP service - Unlike Virgin Media, Andrews and Arnold actually thought about IPv6 a while ago and have had it working on their network for a long time (IT CAN BE DONE!). While not a sales pitch, their L2TP service allows you to have one, or a block of static IPv4 address and at minimum a /48 native IPv6 prefix. The downside? There is a speed cap (either 100 or 200 mbps) and data isn’t unlimited, but if you can configure an L2TP tunnel on a client somewhere, you’ll be in business and essentially have your IPv6 transit from another ISP entirely without having to have another separate broadband line. Having transit from other providers is actually quite common, just not usually from a home consumer sense. Andrews and Arnold have noted that some of their customers do in fact use the L2TP service for this exact reason.

  2. Rent a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with native IPv6 - If you can get a VPS from a provider like Linode, Digital Ocean etc, you can setup your own VPN tunnel with something like Wireguard and provide a IPv6 prefix over the tunnel. You could also do this with 6in4 but if you’ve gone that far, you might as well have native IPv6 to start with. Any VPN solution should likely be based on Wireguard compared to OpenVPN, given Wireguard is more optimised for embedded devices and offers better speed due to being less taxing on CPU with more modern cryptography.

  3. Configure a 6in4 tunnel on another independent WAN link - Multihoming is becoming more common, and it’s not just something in the enterprise world anymore. We know that the 6in4 issues are specifically related to Virgin Media regardless of what the actual true cause is, so there is nothing stopping you from having a tunnel point to an IP address on another internet connection on the same router, if you happen to have multiple internet connections of course.

  4. Switch to another Internet Service Provider - A nuclear option but if IPv6 is absolutely essential and important to you, then changing provider is really the only other viable alternative. There are some ISPs in the UK that have deployed IPv6. To name a few these are, BT, Sky, Andrews and Arnold, EE (Mobile broadband only), Zen Internet, Aquiss. This is by no means a complete list, but highlights that some UK providers do see the importance of IPv6 right now, some having deployed IPv6 for many years.

Aside from switching providers entirely, it is important to note that these alternative solutions will cost you additional money in addition to an existing Virgin Media contract or subscription therefore you will need to weight up how much is it worth to have performant IPv6 and essentially investing a workaround vs not at all. The big question!

Tell Virgin Media what you think

By now you know that Virgin Media have been very resistant to deploy IPv6, otherwise this website wouldn’t exist! The general view and consensus Virgin Media are signalling suggests that they just don’t see any business or customer benefits to do it. While it is true there might not be a strong customer use case currently (which is one of the major IPv6 adoption problem areas). Some of their major competitors like BT and Sky deployed IPv6 years ago with little fuss because they at least are thinking ahead. Equally, Virgin Media will have to deploy IPv6 at some point, because it is the future of the internet, like it or not. IPv4 is technically classified as legacy and holding on to it is just delaying the inevitable. Therefore, the only option we have as perhaps more technically minded customers is to make Virgin Media listen. Perhaps if they get enough noise from customers about IPv6, they might just start to pay more attention, instead of disregarding it as they have done for over 10 years. While a lot of Virgin Media customers won’t know or even care about IPv6, the people that do have a responsibility to at least make Virgin Media listen and convince them that the time is now!

The simple solution to fix all of this complicated mess is for Virgin Media to deploy IPv6, which seems obvious when it is said like that, but it really is!

Time to spread the word! Consider signing the petition and tweet them to raise awareness. Let your voice be heard. Deploy IPv6!