[AfrICANN-discuss] Mobile Internet take-up is speeding the take-up of IPv6 in Africa

Eric M.K Osiakwan emko at internetresearch.com.gh
Sat May 24 02:31:13 SAST 2008

A few years ago Africa’s new Internet Numbers Registry, AfriNIC  
looked more of a dream and a prayer than a reality. But the take-up  
of IPv4 Internet addresses, which has almost reached 85% of those  
allocated, has shown that it can do its job and do it well. It’s now  
experiencing a second wave of growth as mobile companies buy IPv6  
addresses to keep up with the expansion of mobile data services.  
Russell Southwood spoke to AfriNIC’s CEO Adiel Akplogan about what it  
all means.

The process of preparing for the transition to IPv6 started in  
December 2005 when AfriNIC ran its first training course on the  
subject as part of its annual meeting. Back then, its adoption may  
have seemed less pressing and indeed maybe slightly irrelevant for  
Africa. But the dramatic take-up of AfriNIC’s IPv4 allocation has  
made this “it’s not for Africa” position dangerously outdated.

Although AfriNIC’s latest study predicts that IPv4 addresses will run  
out in 2012, the pressure to consider IPv6 addresses as an  
alternative will grow stronger as time goes by. For since AfriNIC  
started, there has been a 100% growth in IPv4 allocations and this  
has increased dramatically again with the entry of 3G mobile data  

Overall, AfriNIC has allocated 16 million addresses, which means that  
somewhere out there on the continent there are 16 million devices  
that need an IP address to operate. These could be anything from a PC  
to a printer or a mobile phone. Last year it allocated 5 million  
addresses and a significant proportion of these were from mobile  
operators moving from private to public IPv4 addresses to meet data  
service demand.

In three years time, it projects that the number of addresses  
allocated will have doubled to approximately 32 million. The  
tantalising but slightly elusive calculation is to wonder how many  
devices/addresses there are on average per person because out of that  
guesstimate it would be possible to say roughly how many people had  
access to an Internet ready device of some sort.

In 2005 there were only four allocations of IPv6 addresses but now  
there are nearly 60 allocations so the transition point may well get  
closer as mobile companies transition first to IPv4 addresses  
(exhausting the existing allocation more quickly than the 2012  
prediction) and switch to IPv6. As Adiel Akplogan notes:” This runs  
to billions of addresses.” AfriNIC is looking to make sure that IPv6  
addresses are deployed in each African country.

So what’s so good about IPv6? The cynics always believe that upgrades  
simply fiddle with what was once perfectly adequate and need whole  
new generations of fiddling to get them right. Akplogan says this  
will not be the case as IPv4 has drawn heavily on the experience of  
IPv4 and it contains features that are much easier to access, things  
that existed in IPv4 but which were not really necessarily widely used.

And those features? Akplogan said:”Security is embedded in IPv6 and  
it’s possible to encrypt communications and there will be the  
development of apps around that as it will be possible to safely  
encypt on the fly.”

But the key draw in terms of how Africa’s Internet markets are  
developing is IPv6 also has mobility embedded in it:”We’ll reach a  
point where IP addresses will become our identity. You can reach  
someone on any device on the same IP addresses.”

“A number of organisations have recognized that these advantages are  
relevant to Africa and have imposed a rule that all new equipment is  

Eric M.K Osiakwan
ICT Integrator
Internet Research
emko at internetresearch.com.gh
42 Ring Road Central, Accra-North
Tel: +233.21.258800 ext 2031
Fax: +233.21.258811
Cell: +233.24.4386792

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