In response to a question that gets raised from time to time, the following attempts to explain why gaming consoles sometimes have trouble playing online games. The issue really stems from the use of NAT on the University network.
Possible NAT types seen on consoles
- Open, Moderate, Strict
- Info on Nintendo NAT types
- Open, Moderate, Strict
- Info on Xbox NAT types
- Play Station:
- Open (type 1), Moderate (type 2), Strict (type 3)
- Info on Play Station NAT types
What is NAT?
NAT is a network technology that allows multiple devices to share a single IP address. An IP address is required to be able to access anything on the internet. At UTC there are many thousands of devices connecting to the internet at any given time. However, UTC does not have enough public IP addresses for every device to have its own. The University uses NAT to permit sharing of address space. Without NAT, only a small subset of the connected devices would be able to access the internet at a time. At home, an internet provider only assigns one address for everyone on the home network to share. Home routers use NAT just like UTC does, but on a much smaller scale.
What can be done to change the NAT type?
At home, a user can change the NAT type manually or the gaming console can change it automatically through the use of UPnP. However, those changes will make it so that only one gaming console will have an “Open” NAT type at a time. Also, UPnP is strictly designed for home use and is not a feature available on enterprise level networks. Requiring an open NAT and utilizing UPnP demonstrate that gaming consoles are designed to be used on a home network where it is the only console trying to use the internet. The only way to change the NAT type in an enterprise level network where there are hundreds of game consoles active at the same time is to make sure that every device on the entire network has its own, non-shared public IP address. The real limitation is on how the game consoles are designed to work and not by the University blocking anything.
Can you get more public address space?
Well, no. And also yes. It’s an interesting topic. The internet operates using IP (Internet Protocol). Up until recently, the majority of the internet has used IP version 4. However, the version 4 address space is small and is completely used up. As a result it is not possible for the University to purchase more public address space. However, the last few years has brought on the new version of IP, IP version 6. Version 6 has a much more massive address space. IPv6 can be used to help remedy the NAT type problem with gaming consoles on campus. UTC has applied and been approved for IPv6 address space, however, the acquisition is not quite complete. Once this part is complete, the University can start building out an IPv6 network. This will take a long time as it involves building a whole new network on top of the currently running one. It will also introduce more challenges and won’t immediately fix all game console issues, but will fix a large majority. That is a topic for another post.
UTC is very aware that the network is an important resource for education and entertainment, including online gaming. The University has done all that it can do on this topic for the time being and is actively working toward the next step.