Lack of vision, high costs hinder IPv6 migration

Some Southeast Asian markets can't anticipate Web addresses required for future growth, says analyst who adds countries must look at Internet and mobile usage growth to maintain long-term economic growth.

Some 5 percent availability and approximately 280 days to go--that is how long the supply of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses is estimated to last, according to an online tracking system made available by the IPv6 Forum.

And once the remaining 200 million IPv4 addresses run out in May 2011, ISPs (Internet service providers) will have to migrate to IPv6 but many are still reluctant to do so, according to industry watchers.

The IPv4 Exhaustion Counter is located on the left column of the Web site hosted by IPv6 Forum, an international consortium that advocates the use of the IP, and currently marks May 30, 2011, as the day the global Internet world runs out of IPv4 addresses.


Source: IPv6 Forum

IDC's research director Bill Rojas said a number of Southeast Asian countries still do not sense the urgency in machine-to-machine activities, hence, are not willing to invest in the costly migration. On the other hand, developed nations such as Japan and Korea have taken active steps to move to IPv6, with the Pentagon in the United States fully migrated in 2008, after undertaking a five-year migration path, said Rojas, who heads the communications practice group in Asia-Pacific.

He told ZDNet Asia that North Asian countries are committed in their long-term IT development to make the transition and have requested for large blocks of IPv6 addresses. Countries with no plans for migration have yet to follow suit.

"The move to IPv6 involves the setting up of data centers, routers and storage equipment, which is a complex and costly matter," Rojas noted."Countries that have not acted on it lack the vision to do so as they cannot anticipate the large amount of addresses required for future Internet and mobile telecoms growth. This might impact their long-term economic growth."

With the number of addresses per user set to rise, the IDC analyst said it is imminent that countries look at the need for Internet usage growth. As such, telcos will need to be greatly involved in the move as smartphones are expected to the next rage in telecoms development and will push Internet data consumption.

According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, because IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible, Internet users who have yet to migrate will experience setbacks such as disruptions to Web services and applications when the new protocol kicks.

Rojas explained that the IPv4 cannot be made redundant so both protocols will have to be able to co-exist and "talk" to each other. However, the degree of disruption to online users will depend on how well the migration is planned and carried out, he said

The IDC analyst further likened the IPv6 move to the Y2K or millennium bug--which was predicted to affect systems that did not support four-digit year inputs--but of a less complex nature.

Experts have described the development of IPv6 infrastructure as vital to the progress of the Internet as the Web continues its exponential growth, both in terms of usage and applications.

In India, the government is taking active steps to ensure a smooth transition into IPv6. "Over 18.4 million registered addresses in India have overburdened the initial version of address platforms, which is expected to exhaust the available space globally by March 2012," according to a statement issued by the country's Ministry of Communications and IT.

India's migration roadmap, spelt out by the technical arm of the Department of Telecommunications, will be implemented by all telecom and Internet providers, central and state government departments, industry associations, education institutes and equipment manufacturers, the ministry said.

The country expects all telecom and ISPs to be IPv6-compliant by December next year.

Hong Kong has also been assisting Internet users in the switch to IPv6 since last year, a move which Jonathan Shea, CEO of the Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation (HKIRC), describes as challenging.

Shea explained in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia:"Although most network equipment and system hardware and software nowadays are IPv6-ready, implementing an IPv4-IPv6 dual stack environment still involves a lot of uncertainties in getting the applications and infrastructure components to work together seamlessly.

"Consumers also need to upgrade the software on their computers and networking equipment, and they may not see the urgent need [to do so] or visualize the actual benefits of investing in completely new hardware," he said.

In Singapore, work is underway in getting the country's key infrastructure network like the Next Gen Nationwide Broadband Network and other government networks to be IPv6-ready. An Infocomm Development Authority spokesperson said:"We have formed an IPv6 Task Force to lead the transition programme in Singapore as well as an industry working group to develop and standardise a common terms of reference for IPv6 here."

Some benefits IPv6 are touted to provide include a larger capacity to hold more IP addresses, a simplified packet header for routing efficiency, improved support for mobile IP and mobile computing devices, as well as an enhanced multicast support with increased addresses and more efficient mechanisms.

Black market IP addresses

The Sydney Morning Herald report also quoted APNIC's chief scientist Geoff Huston to say that once currently available Internet addresses are taken up, a form of black market for IP addresses could surface where service provide "that have the highest capacity to pay will still be able to get more addresses, but those who can't [will be] denied".

APNIC, or the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center, allocates and manages IP addresses for the region.

Huston noted that ISPs would begin forcing multiple customers and devices to share single Internet addresses, which would lead to common Web applications such as Gmail, Google Maps and iTunes ceasing to work.

Some popular sites have already made efforts to be IPv6-complaint. Google, for instance, has made its sites available as IPv6 addresses since March 2009 and Facebook made its site accessible on IPv6 earlier this year. The European Union also began its migration in October.

According to a survey released by the European Commission in October 2009, only 17 percent of 610 companies polled in Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia said they currently used IPv6.

Two-third of respondents said they found no business requirement to invest in the protocol.

Some 92 percent of ISPs reported "insignificant" IPv6 traffic.

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