IPv10 – when and how for Africa?
By Edward Lawrence, Director of Business Development, Workonline Communications
Internet access has permeated almost every area of the world we live in. The proliferation of smartphones and the rapid adoption of these in developing regions is one of the factors behind the exponential growth we are seeing. As the African region comes to the fore as the last region that represents significant growth potential for network operators, fixed and mobile, the availability of public Internet Protocol (IP) addresses remains an issue of critical importance.
An IP address is essentially a unique address for every Internet-connected device; like a home address with written in a different format. Without one, websites would not know where to send the information each time you try to access a website, and your device would not know how to reach the website. Any device that connects using Internet Protocol must have a unique IP address in order for that device to transmit data to another device.
IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) is the fourth revision of the Internet Protocol used to identify devices on a network through an addressing system. The Internet Protocol was designed for use in interconnected systems of packet-switched computer communication networks (which collectively form the Internet). IPv4 is the most widely deployed Internet protocol used today.
Due to the usable unique addresses that make up IP version 4 being depleted, the new Internet addressing system Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) has been deployed to fulfil the need for more IP addresses. IPv6 allows a huge number of devices to have a unique address, and helps ensure the Internet can continue its current growth rate. IPv6 was designed as an evolutionary upgrade to the Internet Protocol and will, in fact, coexist with the older IPv4 for some time. Due to demand, awareness and implementation of IPv6 is growing exponentially fast, with many organisations and individuals already being native v6 users.
According to a PopSci study, the world officially ran out of the 4.3 billion available IPv4 addresses in February 2011. Yet, hundreds of millions of people are still to come online, many of who will do so in the next few years. IPv6 will allow them to have an online presence, providing enough addresses for everyone and all of their various devices. A lack of IP addresses would bring about many challenges, such as websites slowing down, computers would find it more difficult to communicate with one another, and the security of the Internet could be compromised.
Internet Protocol version 10 (IPv10), which is now in its planning phase, provides a joint identification and location system of both IPv4 and IPv6 for computers on networks routing traffic across the Internet. Although every device connected to the Internet uses IP addresses, very few individuals and organizations actually understand them. To allow the Internet to continue to grow, implementing IPv10 in the future will be necessary. IPv10 is not a new IP addressing protocol or scheme, and it will not replace v4 or v6. It is merely a modification of the IP packet header, and an update to the IP stack on Computer Operating systems and routers, to read these packet headers correctly. Currently an IP Packet needs a source and destination address that are either both v4 or both v6. The IPv10 solution allows IP Packets so have source and destination addresses in any of the following combinations of Source (S) and Destination (D) addresses – S:IPv4, D:IPv6; S:IPv4, D:IPv6; S:IPv6, D:IPv6, S:IPv6, S:IPv4. From here the name of IPv10 arises, as the IP packet can contain (IPv6 + IPv4 /IPv4 + IPv6) addresses in the same layer 3 packet header.
AfriNIC, the African region Internet Registry (RIR), is responsible for allocating IP addresses (both IPv4 and IPv6) in the African region. AfriNIC is assigned IP addresses by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which issues these resources to the world’s five RIRs. AfriNIC then allocates IP addresses in blocks to its members on a need basis. Statistics show that more IP addresses are being requested globally year on year – in Africa alone, almost 10-million addresses have been issued in the last twelve months. AfriNIC was recently allocated a /8 (approximately 16,7 million addresses), by IANA. This allocation was given earlier than expected and further highlights the accelerated rate at which Africa currently needs IP addresses. Based on the global allocation policy and recent consumption rates, the next /8 the organization receives will be its last. However, and despite the evident growth in the demand, AfriNIC is still expected to be the last regional Internet registry with IPv4 addresses available for allocation. As for IPv6, deployment has started in Africa, but it has been slow to date.
IPv10 solves the issue of allowing IPv6 only hosts to communicate to IPv4 only hosts and vice versa in a simple and efficient way, especially when the communication is carried out using both direct IP addresses as there is no need for protocol translations or getting DNS involved in the communication process.
Without IPv10, the internet may stop working efficiently, and technology such as smartphones will be limited to small sections of society over the coming years, rather than be an essential part of everyday business life. With IPv10 in its planning stage, individuals and businesses will continue to benefit from having instantaneous communication and access to the world's information.