Two companies have announced a partnership to create a large IPv6 test centre.

The goal is to create the world's leading IPv6 testing facility, said Spirent Federal Systems, one of the partners in the project. The centre, which will be used to test networks and products for IPv6 compatibility, will focus on serving US government agencies, said Ellen Hall, president and chief executive officer of Spirent Federal.

Teaming with Spirent Federal will be v6 Transition, the consulting and training arm of IPv6 Summit, which organises IPv6 conferences. IPv6 Summit is led by Alex Lightman, one of the leading advocates of the widespread transition to IPv6.

The test centre, to be located in northern Virginia, will be operational "very soon," Hall said. While details about the size of the centre are still being finalised, it will be large enough to conduct IPv6 tests for "several agencies at one time," she said.

Hall called the partnership with v6 Transition a "significant" pairing, combining v6 Transition's expertise on implementing IPv6 with Spirent Federal's contacts with U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Defense.

"We already have really good relationships with government agencies," Hall said.

The Defense Department has set 2008 as a target for making its computer systems compatible with IPv6. The White House Office of Management and Budget announced in June that US government agencies must be IPv6 compatible by June 2008.

Backers of IPv6 call it a major improvement over IPv4. IPv6 has several advantages, including built-in security, multicasting functionality and better support for mobile devices, backers say. More use of IPv6 could lead to better Internet TV, videoconferencing and military-grade security.

In a separate announcement, the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory, joined by 10 companies and the US military, tested several IPv6 functions on the Moonv6 network, the world's largest multivendor IPv6 network. Testers successfully made international VoIP calls, as well as testing some security and mobility functions. The VOIP calls, between New Hampshire and South Korea, tested IPv4 equivalency using an IPv4/IPv6 tunnel.