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Waiting for IPv4 depletion won't bode well for Africa

By , ITWeb
Africa , 12 Oct 2016

Waiting for IPv4 depletion won't bode well for Africa

Liquid Telecom Kenya has disclosed that Africa will run out of IPv4 addresses by 2017 and it may affect the continent's Internet growth and security.

The telco says Africa is eating into its last block of 16 million addresses of the IPv4 space and it will soon become far more difficult and eventually impossible to issue these, hence the need for ISPs to start deploying IPv6.

IP addresses are websites' equivalent of telephone numbers. They work anytime data moves online. According to the International Telecommunications Union, the current addressing IPv4 system - or IP version 4 - was deployed on 1 January 1983 and uses 32 digital bits to represent addresses, generating a theoretical total limit of 4.3 billion addresses.

IPv6 uses 128 bits to represent addresses and generates a space of equivalent to some 340 undecillion - or more than 7.9 x 1028 times as many addresses as IPv4.

Jimson Olufuye, Chairman of Africa ICT Alliance AfICTA, confirms the claim saying the exhaustion would be critical by 2018 but adds that the situation is not specific to Africa only. "In fact, all other regions have exhausted theirs due to high uptake of IPv4 and they are now coming to Africa to take up the unused IPv4s. For Nigeria and many other countries in Africa, I don't think that is a major issue, IPv6 is inexhaustible and once we are ready, there are more than enough IPs to take care of our need (with regards to) IPs."

Olufuye suggested capacity building for network engineers and business leaders so that they can approve funds for compliant systems and upgrades.

IPv6 is not an option but a necessity for the continued growth and evolution of the Internet, says Michucki Mwangi, Senior Development Manager for the Internet Society's Africa Bureau. This is particularly important as more users and devices are coming online - especially in Africa - and there is a need to connect them with myriad of devices, while at the same time ensuring that the Internet maintains interoperability and end-to-end connectivity.

Mwangi notes that the concerns raised by the telco are valid only if operators and all concerned stakeholders fail to start taking the necessary steps to integrate IPv6 on their networks now, but wait until after the IPv4 address pool is depleted.

IPv6 has been available since 1999. According to ITU, a research by OECD in November 2014 showed that IPv6 connectivity among Google users stood at between 3% and 4% worldwide. By December 2015, IPv6 adoption by Google visitors stood at 7.83% while a study of the top-1000 websites from Alexa (i.e. the server side) indicated that around 16% of those websites could be reached over IPv6.

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