The importance of IPv6 could at last be getting through to ISPs and their business customers, a survey from the Number Resource Organisation (NRO) has found.

The recent snapshot by the NRO (an organisation representing Internet registries) of 1,600 ISPs and businesses across the globe underlines that IPv6 is still a small part of the Internet. But IPv6 advocates inhabit a wing of the Internet industry where even tiny changes can seem important.

Eighty percent of respondents reported either no use of IPv6 or a usage level so small it barely registered, with a small percentage reporting usage of between 1 percent and 2 percent.

Despite that, more than half of the ISPs reported that their customers were now interested in using IPv6, with only 7 percent of this base showing no interest at all. Twenty-seven percent of ISPs had yet to deploy it.

Only around half of ISPs see a lack of demand for IPv6 among users, while most ISPs claim to promote its takeup.

The barriers to use were overwhelmingly technical rather than cost-related with 47 percent of customers mentioning a lack of vendor support and another 40 percent worried about a lack of trained staff to deploy and support its use.

In summary, customers feel only a modest urgency to deploy IPv6 despite the doomed nature of IPv4, mainly because vendors have been slow to support legacy equipment. But at least the customers are now showing interest - older surveys have found almost no enthusiasm beyond the technical community.

ISPs, as would be expected, generally like the idea of IPv6 because it is the protocol that will help them drive more valuable services.

"It is fantastic to see a rapidly growing number of the world’s ISPs committing to IPv6 adoption. In many respects, ISPs are a key driver of IPv6 success, as they are responsible for services delivered over IPv6,” said NRO chair, Raúl Echeberría, putting a positive spin on the survey results.

It seems likely that IPv6 will continue its underwhelming showing until the point where the remaining stock of IPv4 addresses starts to deplete sufficiently that prices start to rise. At some point, IPv6 will be embraced simply because it makes long-term economic sense.

IPv6 is still in better shape than expected a year ago, only months after the publicity-grabbing World IPv6 Day, held on 8 June this year. Use of the protocol rose to measurable levels for 24 hours for the first time ever but then fell, monitors reported.