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What effect will IPv6 have on Wi-Fi?

Hi, Lisa. I'm glad to see the long awaited arrival of the 802.11i standard and hope it will pose less of a problem than previous 802.11 standards.

What effect do you think the uptake of IPv6 will have on the Wi-Fi arena with its ability and use of encryption? Could it be of use in situations where large amounts of now legacy equipment will not be upgradeable to the new IEEE 802.11i standard?

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Both IPv4 and IPv6 packets can be secured (authenticated and encrypted) with IP Security (IPsec) extensions. IPsec is heavily used with IPv4 today to meet wireless security needs where WEP is insufficient or impractical. I expect IPsec usage to continue with IPv6 much as we've seen with IPv4.

How will 802.11i impact use of IPsec over wireless LANs? In situations where IPsec is being used within a single subnet simply to overcome WEP limitations, I expect to see companies move to 802.11i. For example, companies now using IPsec for internal connection to the local intranet might prefer using AES at the link layer instead of the network layer.

IPsec is also being used today across multiple network hops to provide end-to-end protection and authenticated access to private networks. In this case, 802.11i cannot functionally replace IPsec, and IPsec will continue to be used. For example, users at a wireless hotspot can't use 802.11i to protect data sent across the Internet, and they can't use 802.1x to authenticate to the company at the far end of that tunnel.

I agree with you that IPsec will continue to play a role as an alternative to WEP where legacy equipment cannot be upgraded to either WPA or WPA2 (802.11i).

This was first published in August 2004

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