Gabon, Togo, Rwanda lead Nigeria as Africa ranks lowest in IPv6 adoption
• India, France, USA top global adoption
• White Paper recommends tax to limit Use of IPv4
Pace of migration from Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to IPv6, especially within Africa, has been ranked lowest compared to other continents.
Specifically, while some of the countries like India (70 per cent), Belgium (66 per cent), the US (53 per cent) and France (55 per cent) have high IPv6 adoption rate, lots of countries, especially those in Africa, including Nigeria have very limited IPv6 deployment.
According to the Africa IPv6 Development White Paper, prepared by Africa Telecommunications Union (ATU) and Chinese technology firm, Huawei, which was released late 2022, it observed that the countries with developed ICT industries tend to have higher IPv6 adoption rates.
With reference to Africa, the White Paper observed that in 2021, 40 per cent of the population has Internet access, and 60 per cent of them access the Internet via mobile phones.
Accordingly, it noted that while the network coverage grows rapidly in those regions, there is still great potential compared to other parts of the world, stressing that this will also bring significant social and economic values.
Referencing the International Finance Corporation (IFC),which estimated that improving Internet access to reach 75 per cent of the population could create a further 44 million jobs, the document said the rapid growth of the Internet requires not only access technologies like 4G/5G, fiber, among others but also IP as the basic protocol.
The document said as the IPv4 address pool is already exhausted and the standards around the version gradually stop evolving, IPv6has become the only choice for sustainable development of the Internet. However, it said not every country is aware of the trend.
The White Paper noted that the deployment in the majority of the countries is still low, and the regional development is well below the world average (13.92 per cent in western Asia and 1.36 per cent in Africa).
Specifically, Gabon (22.60 per cent); Togo (16.26 per cent); Congo (12.63 per cent); Rwanda (8.90 per cent); Zimbabwe (8.87 per cent) while the rest of Africa has an average 1.36 per cent adoption rate.
According to the document, the IP is designed for computers to communicate with each other in a network. It defines the rules that computers should follow when communicating. It unifies the “frame” data of various network systems and devices into the IPpacket format.
With the IP, the Internet has rapidly developed into the world’s largest and most open computer communication network.
The previous generation of IP, IPv4, was released in1981 and used 32-bit (4-byte) addresses to provide 4.3 billion addresses. But with the explosion of computer devices, IPv4 addresses have been allotted. Therefore, the Internet standardisation organisation, IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), began to plan the next generation of IPv4 protocols in1990. In addition to addressing the shortage of IP addresses, the new protocol needs to develop more extensions. In 1994, the IETF formally proposed an IPv6development plan. In 1998, IPv6 was officially released by the IETF.
An IPv6 address consists of 128 bits. In order of magnitude, the capacity of IPv6 addresses is about 8 x 1028 times that of IPv4addresses, reaching 2128 addresses. This not only solves the problem of the number of network address resources, but also provides a foundation for the development of the Internet of Things.
Secretary-General, ATU, John Omo, said providing more addresses is not the only advantage of IPv6, it is also the basis for innovation and security of the Internet.
Omo said in 2016, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) stopped requiring IPv4 compatibility in new or extended Internet protocols. In other words, new protocols for the Internet will be optimized for and depend onIPv6. This means that the IPv4 networks will stop evolving and updating. It also means that the IPv4 networks will be more vulnerable to new security threats.
Chief Technical Officer, ME & Africa Region, Huawei Data Communication Product Line, Ryan Zhao, explained that in the 1980s, IPv4 became the basic protocol of the Internet and promoted the development of IP networks.
Zhao said in the 2000s, the MPLS technology was born, which enhanced the comprehensive bearing capability of voice and video services.
“In the 2020s the 5G and cloud era will drive next-generation IP networks, IPv6 Enhanced is based on massive IPv6 addresses and based on protocol innovation and network intelligence technology innovation.
“IPv6 Enhanced is a comprehensive technical system that comprehensively improves IP network capabilities in six dimensions: ultra-high bandwidth, ubiquitous connectivity, security, automation, deterministic quality, and low latency. It meets requirements for fast service provisioning, user experience optimization, differentiated assurance, and network O&M,” he added.
To upscale migration and adoption, especially in Africa, the White Paper recommended creation of high-level national strategy; setting up compliance goals for service providers and government networks; encourage IPv6enhanced pilots in operator and government network; imposing an IPv6 adoption progress reporting obligation for service providers; tax or limit the use ofIPv4 address sharing and enforce IPv6 requirements for new devices in the market, among others.
It explained that the regulators can build IPv6certification programs and standards requiring equipment compliance for IPv6.It could assist various stakeholders in ensuring that any products with Internet functionality to be used in the national market meet the minimum capabilities to support an IPv6 ecosystem. This approach has been applied by countries like Malaysia and Brazil.
Also, the White Paper explained that although IPv4address sharing relieved the address shortage in the short term, it is nowadays the worst barrier to the Internet’s end-to-end connectivity and IPv6deployment. It stressed that the regulator should limit the sharing of one IPv4address to subscribers, saying that in Belgium, the maximum number of subscribers behind 1 IPv4 address is 16.