IPv6 on Mobile Devices


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The Use of IPv6 on Mobile Devices


The need for mobile computing devices in the market today is increasing. These devices have the ability to connect with other devices, but in other to do this, a mobile routing protocol is required such as mobile IP. IPv6 was designed by the IETF to provide some enhanced functionalities that is required by the current and future market. This paper presents the advantages and some disadvantages of the IPv6 in relation to mobile devices.


IPv6, IPv4, MIPv6, MIPv4, CoA, Subnet, Mobile IP

1 Introduction

The increase in the popularity of mobile devices such as mobile phones with internet access, laptops, PDA's as brought about a need for a reliable and more efficient mobile IP. Mobile users continue to grow and they expect to have the same standard in the quality of service compared to the LAN users. As mobile users continue to grow, there is a need to support IP based real time service like IP telephony, video conferencing, video streaming, this is of more convenience especially when they can be accessed ubiquitously. Host mobility is therefore very important because of the need to have continuous connectivity while a mobile user moves from one network to another. This implies that datagrams intended for the mobile node has to be redirected to the new point of attachment. This paper describes the use of the IPv6 on mobile devices. IP is the protocol that provides the routing of packets and ensures there delivery for the internet. The internet engineering task force designed Mobile IP to take care of the problems caused by handover. Mobile IP is the protocol used in addressing mobility management. Packets are addressed to mobile host, which are then delivered using IP routing to a temporary address that has been assigned to a mobile host. Mobile IPv6 is the most current version of mobile IP. It was designed by the IETF as a replacement to the existing mobile IPV4 protocol [1]. Mobile IPV6 was designed for mobility support and also for overcoming some of the problems with the mobile IPv4 protocol.

In other for the IPv6 to work on a mobile device, MIPv6 was developed to be integrated with the IPv6 protocol since packets routed to a mobile node which is far away from its home IP subnet might not be able to reach it. It allows mobile nodes to move within the network without having to be disconnected. It is expected to be the future mobility management protocol for the future mobile systems. The mobile internet protocol is responsible for routing message from one host on the network to another on the network. Considering the fact the node is moving around within the network. In the sense that a node has 2 addresses. [2]The first one the home address by which it is identified on the network. A mobile node's home address stays the same regardless of the location of the node on the network. The home address has an IP subnet which is referred to as the home subnet. A packet to be delivered to a certain node is usually delivered to its home subnet. The second is a temporary address also called the care of address (CoA) which provides information about its current location on the network. The care-of address is registered with the home agent. The home agent is responsible for routing IPv6 packets to care-of address from the home address. The mobile node sometimes inform other IPv6 nodes about its current care-of address by sending a binding update (the association between the two addresses).[1][2] The care-of address is usually acquired by the care-of address through IPv6 address configuration in the foreign subnet where it is located at that moment[4]. When a mobile node is away from its home IP subnet, the home agent keeps a record of its binding in the binding cache. The home agent then sends packet on the home IP subnet addressed to the mobile node away from home by tunneling the packets to the current care of address. Tunneling uses the IPV6 encapsulation, and a tunnel is path through which packet goes when encapsulated. [2]

2 Overview of IPv6

This section summarizes the characteristics of IPv6, while focusing on the important mobility protocols.

The limitations of the existing protocol IPv4 was what brought about the introduction of an IPv6 protocol. The IPv4 will not be able to handle the growth of the next generation of mobile devices, and vendors are pointing out that there is a need for more IP addresses. The most visible difference between the IPv4 and IPv6 protocol is the enhanced address space. While the IPv4 has 32bit address space, the IPv6 has a 128bit address space. A small part is reserved for the current IPv4 address within this space, and another small bit reserved for link local address[2][1].

A lot of focus is usually placed on the addressing generally that other important issues are usually not talked about such as automatic address configuration, route optimization, knowing fully well that nodes are always continuously connected.

3 Current solutions of IP mobility

3.1 Mobile IPV4

Mobile IPV4 was a solution proposed for supporting mobility in the existing global internet in the current IPV4 network. It's mode of operation is to make sure mobile users have continuous connectivity over the network. Mobile IPV4 has a 32bit long type of address which is represented in dotted decimal format [9].

Since mobile users are always moving around within a network. It is observed that the IP address of the mobile devices changes when it is in a new location, thereby making IP packets that are meant for the mobile device on the former IP unable to get to it. For these packets to be able to get to it, they have to be re-routed to the point of attachment of the mobile device.

In order to solve this problem, some new entities were added to mobile IPV4. They are the home agent, foreign agent, and the mobile nodes [9]. The home agent is normally resident on the home network and responsible for the maintaining of the information of the mobile nodes. When there is a movement of the mobile nodes from their home network, there is a need for a new address. This is called the care of address (CoA) The care of address is usually provided by the foreign agent through automated configuration. The care of address (CoA), is used for the identification of the mobile node while on a foreign network [8].

Whenever a mobile node desires to communicate with a correspondent node, the foreign agent broadcasts a router advertisement message. The mobile node if located within the subnet of the foreign agent receives the message, and in turn sends back a binding update message to its home agent. The home agent then updates the binding cache with the mobile nodes new care of address. The foreign agents then sends back a message to the mobile node [8]. The name of this process is called binding.

3.2 Mobile IPV6

Mobile IPV6 was designed based on the experience and concepts of mobile IPV4 to facilitate the movement of the IPV6 nodes from one subnet to another [8]. And as a result of this, many of the problems connected with the mobile IPV4 have been resolved. In mobile IPV6, a mobile node has 2 addresses, the home address and the temporary address. The home address is one through which the node is addressable. It is often referred to as the global identifier, while the temporary address also is called the care of address which provides the new location of the mobile node.

The association between the home address and the care of address is known as binding. And it is the responsibility of the mobile nodes to update the binding when there is a change to the care of address. Mobile IPV6 introduces three new destination options. They are binding acknowledgement, binding update, and the home address option [8] [9].

In mobile IPV6, the mobility of nodes is noticed as a result of the access routers broadcasting router advertisement message and nodes detection mechanism. Due to the new functionality, nodes do not need any special support to operate in a new location [2]. This is caused by the employment of the stateless address auto-configuration. It can also use possibly the DHCP which really is not necessary [8].

When a mobile node gets a new care of address, it sends a binding message to the home agent and the corresponding nodes, after which there is an update in the binding update list. This list helps in the route optimization in IPV6.

When a correspondent node wishes to communicate with a mobile node, the binding update list is first checked to ascertain if there exists the address. If not, the address is then added, and an acknowledgement message is sent back as to specify if it was a success or if it failed. For the correspondent node to communicate with the mobile node, an update message has to be sent to all the nodes informing them of the mobile node's new location, and thereby ensuring that delivery is guaranteed.

3.3 Comparison between MIPV4 and MIPV6

Here is a summary of the major difference between the Mobile IPV4 and MIPV6.

The thing first that is always talked about as the difference between these two protocols is that while the mobile IPV4 was not initially planned alongside the IPV4, but just as an attachment when a need for it was discovered, the mobile IPV6 on the other hand is integrated into the IPV6 protocol making it have many more improvements.

Mobile IPV6 cannot be talked about without mentioning the route optimization that helps in solving the problems of the triangle routing. The time taken for IP packets to travel from one end to another is now much shorter, since packets can now be sent from the correspondent node to the mobile node without having to tunnel it through the home agent.

Address automated configuration is also another notable feature of MIPV6. Foreign agents can now be neglected or removed since there is no need for any special routers brought about by the use of larger address space. Stateful or stateless DHCP address is now used to obtain addresses [9].

Another important thing to note between the mobile IPV4 and mobile IPV6 is the difference between there headers. These headers are the routing header and authentication header. Rather than the routing header using the home agent as destination, it uses the care-of address as the destination which makes it possible to use lesser bytes and reduce the packet delivery overhead [9].

4 IPv6 Mobility

Mobile IPV6 helps to solve the problem of mobile nodes moving from one subnet to another without having to change the IP-address used by the node in communicating thereby allowing the free flow of packets without disruption [7]. Mobile nodes are only able to communicate with correspondent nodes after there has been a change to its link-layer point of attachment. Mobile nodes while at home can directly receive IP packets at its home address since its care-of address is the same as its home address. But when the node moves completely from its home address, there is a need for a care-of address through which packets can be routed to it. Between the home address and the care-of address is a tunnel through which both communicate. A combination or association of this two address is called binding. The binding is always updated whenever there is a change of address. When mobile nodes move away from their home network, they become transparent to the higher layer protocol.

However, with all this raises the issue of security because there is a need to prevent the misuse of registration. Between the home agent and the mobile, this might not be needed since they both operate under the same authority and an IP security is in place [7]. But with the correspondent node and the mobile node, there is a need for authentication. Authentication being the process of verifying whether a node is liable to receive packet at the home address to which it belongs. Then a check is performed both at the home address and the care-of address to prevent flood attacks as a result of redirection. Authentication is checked on the message informing the nodes about the new care-of address of the mobile node. If there is no authentication in place, it could result in what is called remote redirection which is a situation where another host can intercept a packet that was intended for the mobile node [7].

The IETF designed the MIPv6 to integrate into the IPv6 protocol and as a solution for the mobility of IPv6 nodes to move around the network. The mobility works across both subnets of homogenous and heterogeneous media. MIPv6 simply allows nodes to move from sections of the Ethernet segments to another.

When mobility is mentioned with relation to IP or the wireless world, two things come into mind. The first being movement of a user within a network and second administration

A node might want to access a resource on a different or foreign network and while doing it still want to appear visible to the home network to which it belongs. The third generation mobile system offers smooth mobility supports, but behind it are complex network infrastructure which does not have the required flexibility since it is built on MIPv4. The MIPv6 has had some improvements made to it to reduce some of these limitations. [1]

- Less administration is required on the IPv6 as well as it using IPSec for its security requirements

- Real time characteristics are enhanced due to reducing of the overhead of mobile IP and payload tunneling is not required

- Re-routing is a major obstruction to real-time services but in IPv6 there are standardized support of functionalities that deals with it.

- Mobile IPv6 has support to enable it function properly in an environment with firewalls

5 Mode of operation in MIPV6

For a mobile node to be able to move between different subnets or networks, three entities are involved. The home address which is the permanent address, and some time called the global identifier. The link-local address is the address through which nodes on the same link communicate [7]. The third one is the care-of address, the address also through which the mobile node is known while away from its home subnet on a foreign subnet. Whenever a mobile node moves to a new point of attachment, a care-of address is auto-configured. This care-of address is then sent to the home address of the mobile node for registration. The process of registration is shown in figure 2. Without registration the binding cache cannot be updated and that means the home subnet is not aware of the new location of the mobile node. The registration remains in the binding cache for a time duration. Once it is observed that the care of address has expired, the mobile node simply searches for a new care-of address either from the same foreign agent or with a new one. The care-of address is usually assigned by the foreign agent where the mobile node is resident. In order for packets to be sent to a mobile node, the packet is sent to the mobile node's home address. The home agent then re-routes the packet to the mobile node's care-of address through the foreign agent. Before the foreign agent sends the packet to the mobile node, the packet is first de-capsulated, since it was encapsulated by the IPV6 encapsulation after which the packet is forwarded to the mobile node. If the mobile node wants to communicate with a correspondent node, the packet from the mobile node has to be sent through the foreign agent that allocated its care-of address, and then the message is forwarded to the correspondent address [7] [8].

A mobile node will not be able to receive packets meant for it until it has registered with its home agent. The home agent then links the care-of address with its home address in a process called binding. The home agent simply keeps the binding of its mobile node in a foreign address in a binding cache. It is therefore the responsibility of the home address to manage the packets of its mobile nodes. With mobile IPV6, there is a process known as binding update which is used by the correspondent node to determine the current location of a mobile node through locating the care-of address and then updates its binding cache. With binding update, the problem of triangle routing is completely removed which is called route optimization. Figure 2 illustrates triangle routing.

In other for a correspondent node to send information to a mobile node, the correspondent node first checks the destination address from its binding cache. If the address of the mobile node has been registered and its destination address is found, the correspondent node then sends the packet to the care-of address of the mobile node, since triangle routing problem has been completely eliminated. The routing is done using the IPV6 routing header. When the correspondent node checks for a destination address and does not find it, the packet is sent without the aid of the routing header and so the packet has to be intercepted by the mobile nodes home agent before it is then tunneled down to the mobile node [2][7].

Certain steps need to be followed in other for a correspondent node to receive a binding update. The correspondent node must have trust in the sender of the message. When a mobile nodes care-of address changes as a result of it moving away from the initial subnet, the registered care-of address located in the binding cache of the correspondent address expires and as such, packets meant for the mobile node might not get to it, since it has been sent to its previous address. So in other for this to resolved, the former foreign agent begins to act as a temporary router for the period of time which the binding cache has not been updated. This is called smooth handoff and will be discussed later.

5.1 Binding Update Message

Mobile nodes send notification to correspondent nodes to inform them of their current mobility binding. This is the binding request message. In return, the correspondent node sends back a binding acknowledgement to the foreign agent [10]. This process occurs when a mobile node has moved from its previous care-of address. A binding update message contains information such as the new care-of address and the home address of the mobile node. This is then updated in the binding cache of the correspondent node. When a binding update message is sent, another thing that goes with it is the lifetime field for the binding, which shows the expiration of the binding. Although there are cases where the lifetime of the binding does not expire i.e. it is set to infinity. Since binding update message can be intercepted, and this is a security risk, packets are always attached with authentication header so as to prevent a remote redirection [2].

There is an identification field that can be present to make sure binding updates are used as presented since they appear to be different from timestamps. This however may not be used if the binding update is a smooth handoff. A care-of address is considered void when it is observed that the mobile nodes care-of address is the same as its home address. As this means that the mobile node is now back to its home address, therefore any binding cache entry of the care-of address will be deleted without the creation of a new one [10].

5.2 Mode of operation of the binding update

In an event that a mobile node moves to another subnet, a new care-of address is auto-configured but its home address is not informed of this new change. For the new care-of address to be registered with the home agent, a binding update message is sent. The binding update usually contains 2 bits. The home agent (H) bit, and an acknowledge (A) bit which is used to request an acknowledgement that the binding update has been received [2] [10]. In a situation where the mobile nodes new location is its home address, then a message has to be sent to other correspondent nodes to update them of its new care-of address. The corresponding nodes then update their binding cache. Therefore packets meant for the mobile node are sent directly to its home address which is its new care-of address [10].

5.2.1 Security issues with binding update

Several security issues follow the use of the binding update in mobile IPV6. And from earlier discussion that binding update enables the transfer of packets to be done in a shorter time and with lesser bytes [10]. In order for it to be secure, when a mobile node is in association with a correspondent node, an authenticated binding update has to be sent to the correspondent node. When the correspondent node receives it, it is registered in the binding cache. If there is no authentication then the packets are subject to threats such as denial of service attack which could happen by nodes been flooded with fake binding updates. Another type of attack that can happen is the man in the middle attack [2]. The threat simply positions itself as the router through which the mobile node and the correspondent node communicate.

Some solutions however are being researched in other to be able to solve this problem. This is one of the major issues why the IPV6 has not been rolled out. One of the very first method thought about to solve this problem, is the use of public key infrastructure (PKI). The public key infrastructure would have been the best solution to this problem but for one thing. The Mobile IPV6 is going to be used globally and having to store all public keys in a single location might be a problem, as this alone might bring with it other issues. Such as the issue of trust, who is going to maintain the central database and so on. A better alternative however, was suggested. This method is called return routability procedure (RRP) [7]. With this method, 2 keys will be generated by the correspondent node, one is sent to the home address, and the other to the mobile node through 2 different secure tunnels. When a binding update is sent to a correspondent node, the correspondent node checks the authenticity with the home address to verify if the two key match. Cryptographically generated address is also another method that can be used to deal with issues with security. With this method route redirection attack is going to really difficult since mobile nodes are provided with two keys [15]. The public and the private keys. The public key will be hashed and for an attacker to find a key that matches will take loads of time. However with this method, not all type of attacks can be prevented from happening. One attack that this method is likely to fail against is the bombing attacks [15]

5.2 Binding Acknowledgement

A mobile node's home agent send a receipt of notification called binding acknowledgement on receiving a binding update message. For the node to send a binding acknowledgment the acknowledge (A) bit has to be set. If the value is set to non-zero, then it means the acknowledgement is negative. Apart from the acknowledge (A) bit, there are also other bits like the identification (I) bit that shows if an identification filed exists in the binding update message this is used to check if there is a match between the binding update and the binding acknowledgement. There is also the presence of the generic routing encapsulated in the minimal exception (M). There is also a lifetime field that shows the expiration of the binding acknowledgment in the binding cache [10].

5.3 Binding Request Message

When a mobile node's foreign agent begins to realize that the mobile node is nearing its period of expiration, the home agent sends a binding request message to determine the current care-of address of the mobile node. If it remains the same, or if has changed. The binding request message has contents such as the home address to which the mobile node belongs, and a 64bit sequence number which is like a security measure for the receiving node to be able to use to match its requests with the answers that come back [10].

6. Smooth Handoff

When a mobile node moves from one subnet to another, it's care-of address changes and then it sends a binding update which allows packets meant for it to be tunneled to its new address. If the home agent is not informed of its new care-of address, the packet gets sent to its old care-of address and this can cause the packet to be lost. However with smooth handoff, mobile nodes can still receive packets at its old care of address even in situation where a binding update has been sent to its home agent. When a mobile node moves to a new subnet, it does not know that it is in a new location. The mobile node can only realize via the advertisement message from the access router. This is possible if the mobile node does not receive an advertisement at the original rate specified by the access router. In a situation where the mobile node does not receive and advertisement at all, the mobile node then sends a solicitation message in other to get a new care-of address. The mobile node can either get the same care-of address if the old foreign agent replies else a new care-of address is assigned to it [2]. With route optimization, packets meant for the mobile node of its old care-of address can then be forwarded by the old foreign agent to its new care-of address. A packet can be sent by the correspondent node to the mobile node regardless of whether its binding has expired.

All the fact about a mobile node sending a binding update depends on the method by which the care-of address of the mobile node was configured. The auto-configuration address types are the stateful and the stateless address auto-configuration. If the mobile node was configured by a stateless address sever, then the new care-of address is sent immediately. But in a case where it was set by the stateful address server, the mobile node does not have to update its home agent binding cache with its new care-of address immediately since it can still make use of its old care-of address while at its new location [8] [9].

In order for smooth handoff to be considered secure, when a mobile node moves from its old location to a new one, the current foreign agent sends a registration request message to the mobile node's previous foreign agent. The previous foreign agent then has to send back a binding acknowledgment message that is checked by the new foreign agent to determine the authenticity of the message by checking if there is a match between the mobile node and its previous foreign agent.

6.3 Procedures in smooth handoff

Address auto-configuration

Mobile nodes addresses are normally configured in either stateful or stateless auto-configuration. In the case of the stateless auto-configuration, a mobile node listens for a router advertisement message prefix and on receiving it, a new address is assigned. A mobile node is identified by an interface. In trying to determine the uniqueness of an address, detection is carried out to verify this [9] [15].

Movement detection

Mobile nodes are able to determine a change to their IP address as a result of them moving from one subnet to another by using the movement detection method. For this to happen, mobile nodes use the router discovery by listening for advertisement messages [2]. On receiving any, the on link network prefix is analyzed. A mobile node can keep sending packets continuously to its default router until it receives a packet from it. When in an attempt to reach the router it fails, then the mobile node sends out a solicitation message. Movement detection alone however cannot be completely relied upon to determine a node location because a router's advertisement message may not contain a complete set of prefixes [10] [11].

Mobile IPV6 registration

Binding can be said to exist between a care-of address and a correspondent node when a mobile node has registered its newly auto-configured address with its home agent. Registration can be done by the mobile node sending a binding update message to its home agent, which the home agent then stores in the binding cache. On receipt of the binding update from the mobile node, the home agent sends back a binding acknowledgement message. Registration is one thing that makes route optimization successful in mobile IPV6. Although there could still be some security issues with it, authentication can be used as a solution to this problem [15].

6.4 Data handling

When a correspondent node wants to send packets to mobile node, the packets are first sent to the home agent of the mobile node which then checks all its registered mobile nodes to determine if a mobile node with that care-of address exists. If a match is found, the home agent simply tunnels the packet to the foreign agent that auto-configured that care-of addresses [10]. When the packets arrives at the foreign agent, the foreign agent checks its binding cache if there is a mobile node with that care-of address on its subnet. If a match can be found, it is the responsibility of the foreign agent to determine if the mobile node supports paging. Paging is always done by mobile nodes since IPV6 does not provide support paging support. If a paging can be found on the mobile node, the foreign agent checks if the paging bit is set. If paging is set on the mobile node, the foreign agent then decapsulates the message and delivers it to the mobile node [2].

7. Mobile Nodes

Mobile nodes send binding updates to their home address in other to register its care-of address and receives a binding updates acknowledgement saying its binding update has been received. Binding updates are only sent by the mobile nodes when they move away from the home address. When the care-of address is the same as that of the home address then there will be no need for a binding update and binding acknowledgement. A mobile node is able to recognize if it has moved to another subnet by using the IPV6 neighbor discovery protocol. A mobile node normally waits for the router advertisement message to determine its current point of attachment. In a situation where there is no advertisement message, the mobile node sends out a solicitation message. A mobile node can have different router lists to which it is attached, it normally has one as its default router. When the node changes from its default router, then it has to get a new care-of address and registers it with its home agent [10]. A mobile node can determine if it is still connected to its default router by using neighbor un-reachability detection. This can be used in a case where a mobile node is trying to forward a packet to a correspondent node and the router cannot be reached. In a situation where its default router becomes unreachable, the mobile node simply sends a solution message continuously until a communication can be established [2].

Processes of a mobile node

Agent discovery

This is a process where the mobile node tries to determine its current location. Is it's care of address is the same as that of the home address, or if it is different [15]. For this to be checked, there must be a router advertisement message. If it receives any response, it checks its router list to determine if it can connect. And in a case where there is no advertisement message, it sends out a solicitation message [2].

Registration process

When a mobile node determines its current location, a care-of address is auto-configured and then it is the responsibility of the mobile node to send a binding update to its home address informing it of its new care-of address which is then registered in the binding cache. In return, a binding acknowledgement is sent. The process of registration helps a mobile node to receive packets belonging to it at its new care-of address [10].

Tunneling process

Tunneling process in which packets are transmitted between two nodes. When for example a correspondent node determines to send a packet to a mobile node, the correspondent node sends the packet to the home address of the mobile node. The home agent then encapsulates the message and tunnels it to the foreign agent that de-capsulates the message before it is delivered to the mobile node.

8. Route Optimization in MIPV6

Route optimization is a way of overcoming one of the main problems with the existing mobile IPV4 protocol, which is the triangle routing problem. Due to movement of nodes from a subnet to another, there is an effect on its IP address [2]. This is because every time it moves, a new care-of address has to auto-configured by the new foreign agent. But with route optimization, when a node moves, it notifies it has to notify correspondent nodes by sending a binding update telling them of its new care-of address.[10] When this is done, the mobile node can receive while away at its new location. In other for route optimization to take place, two things have to be considered.

1) There has to be an update to the binding cache of the correspondent nodes since the correspondent nodes have to always verify the mobile nodes address from it. For the binding cache to be updated, a binding update must be sent by the foreign agent of the mobile node informing the correspondent node of the mobile node's new care-of address. In this case, a binding acknowledgement message is not needed from the correspondent node [13].

2) The mobile node needs to inform its previous foreign agent telling it of its new location. the foreign agent then updates the binding cache. After this, the correspondent can decide to either remove its resources or leave it. When a packet belonging to the mobile node goes to its previous foreign agent, the foreign agent then tunnels it to the mobile node's new location.

9. Conclusions

In this paper, an evaluation was carried out on the efficiency of mobile IPV6 protocol handling the mobility of mobile devices. A look at many different functions that make the protocol deployable has been discussed in great details. This protocol is expected to allow a much better flow of traffic over the network and ease congestion. This is done by the use of binding updates and authentication which allows for route optimization one of the main advantages of the mobile IPV6 over the existing protocol. Modes of operation of the mobile nodes were also analyzed such has the use of binding updates, binding acknowledgement and how mobile nodes get to detect movement. Furthermore, procedures of smooth handoff that enables mobile nodes to register with their home agent were also discussed. This protocol should be a success and a good replacement for the existing mobile IPV4. All that is just needed is for the IETF to allow the protocol to be deployed.


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