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TRANSITION FROM IPv4 TO IPv6 in Uganda

The rapid success of the Internet, leading to accelerated consumption of IP addresses, has led to the anxiety about shortage of IPv4 addresses in the coming years worldwide. Internet protocol (IP) addresses are the unique numerical identifiers used to identify each device on the Internet, so that data is transmitted to the correct destination. In addition to the Internet, all other communication networks are also slowly migrating from circuit switched technology to Internet Protocol (IP) based technologies and Uganda is no exception. Newer types of consumer devices and applications are being manufactured which will be IP-enabled.

The current technology is Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) based having a 32-bit addressing space of only 4 billion devices. Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), on which the Internet has been running for more than 20 years now is reaching its design limits mainly with the depletion of number resources associated with it, known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This is essentially due to the rapid growth of the Internet during the past few years. Although IPv4 has proven to be robust, easily implemented and interoperable, the initial design did not anticipate the exponential growth of the Internet. Several efforts like Network Address Translation (NAT), , Classless Inter Domain Routing (CIDR) have been taken on as a strategy for reducing the use of public IPv4 addresses. Currently, the final IPv4 free address blocks have already been allocated to Regional Internet Registries. In fact, many experts estimate global depletion as early as August, 2012. There is a wide recognition that this addressing space is insufficient for the future networks. Therefore IPv6 has been developed with 128 bits of address space in order to cater for the addressing requirements of future networks and devices.

With the growth of Internet usage as a result of the arrival of the submarine cables and anticipated completion of the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI), Uganda is expected to have a substantial increment in the use and consumption of IP services since they will be cheaper. This implies that network operators in the country are likely to face a shortage of IPv4 addressing space in the near future if timely action is not taken to transition from IPv4 to IPv6. It is expected that rapid growth of broadband and wireless technologies in the telecom sector, as well as the existence of a conducive policy environment that promotes widespread uptake and use of the Internet, especially among the young population, and the need for IP addressing by the increasing number of IP enabled end user devices will push the demand for IP addresses in Uganda. It is thus imperative for the Government of Uganda to put emphasis on making the country IPv6 ready to meet the rising demand for IP addresses in future. Uganda has shown significant improvement in ICT but still lags behind in Internet access with a total consumption of 3,640Mbps and 460,000 active mobile broadband subscribers (UCC March 2010 report). IPv6 Deployment is vital to Bridging the Digital Divide. Internet access over Mobile/Wireless technology is growing at a fast rate; Internet access using mobile networks is cheaper, and offers a higher speed of deployment than fixed networks. This ―Digital Divide‖ may be reduced by extending mobile networks since there is relatively greater availability of mobile/wireless networks in the country. Emergence of mobiles as a platform for wireless Internet access will put more pressure on the IP address space. This will require a larger IP address space to enable wireless networking & mobility. IPv6 is emerging as the preferred platform and is a core component of the wireless Internet architecture (3G & Beyond 3G), the protocol provides for the availability & extensibility of IP addresses in large-scale sensor networks, IP Security, Mobile IP and IP-based Multimedia. The African Network Information Center (AfriNIC), the body responsible for distributing IP address numbers to African Internet users, has established a resource center for IPv6 on its website, created an IPv6 Virtual lab and continuously organizes trainings in its numerous member states. This is in a bid to facilitate a smooth transition from IPv4 to IPv6. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has published a new online resource for IPv6 related information. The aim is to raise awareness of IPv6 deployment, as well as providing information related to training events and IPv6 related news. An IPv4 exhaustion counter estimates the number of days as to when all IPv4 free addresses will be used. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is carrying out training in several IPv6 courses. The Tunis Agenda for the information society (2005), recognizes that all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the Internet. We also recognize the need for development of public policy by governments in consultation with all stakeholders. These activities by ITU and AfriNIC are aimed at creating awareness among African countries. As we transition towards full IPv6 networks, it is important to note that there is no IPv4 turn off date. IPv4 IPs will remain in use together with IPv6 for a long time to come. Simple, clear and practical coexistence technologies must and will be in use for a long while to come.

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Comment by Enock Othin on July 15, 2012 at 3:35pm
Thanks sarah
Comment by Sarah Kiden on July 12, 2012 at 3:36pm

Wow! Thank you for the write up. I must admit that it is detailed and well written.

Comment by Enock Othin on July 5, 2012 at 8:33am

Thanks Kizito for the insight.

Comment by Mayengo Tom Kizito on July 4, 2012 at 10:11pm

Thank you Enock,

It is also important to note that most if not all of the networking devices developed and Softwares developed are IPV6 capable meaning when the transition is necessary, it is okay. Most of the Operating systems now are IPV6 enabled.

Recently in Uganda Orange (the first ISP to release IPV6 to the public in Uganda)started activation of IPV6. Although the activation is only available to the corporate customers who wanted to list with IPV6, it is a great step forwards. It means that Uganda now can also start thinking about IPV6 physically as some thing with in the country and not some thing oversees.

 

Comment by Enock Othin on July 4, 2012 at 3:58pm

 Requirements for smooth transition

a) Minimizing the resistance

The general attitude of large organizations to IPv6 is assumed to be disfavor. The viewpoints of the IETF and industry are different, which may lead to significant resistance in adopting the new technology. Industry sees the world from the business point of view. Computing is a tool for doing business; the techniques used are never a primary factor. Where Internet engineering people concentrate on the shining state-of-the-art technology and new capabilities of IPv6, a large corporate user is concerned about the flexibility of the transition, compatibility with old systems and predictable cost of transition. The resistance to IPv6 may be minimized by organizing sensitization IPv6 seminars/workshops. The focus of these seminars is on explaining the deployment and transition issues. These could also undertake to explain the value that IPv6 brings to such issues as multicast, multihoming, mobility and global routability.

b) Stepwise transition

We are already aware of the fact that the transition cycle will take years and there is no way to synchronize the process on different sites. A distributed approach is necessary. Presumably only the smallest user organizations are able to switch over to IPv6 in a single step. All others must be able to make their own staged gradual transition plan, and proceed in it with as few inter-dependencies as possible. Both Ipv4 and Ipv6 protocols can be run simultaneously on the same network equipment. It should even be realized that some old, small-scale systems may never be capable of running IPv6. They will maintain the old protocol suite in the network to the end of the old hardware usage time.

c) Technical training

Organize IPv6 hands-on workshops. At these workshops, participants will start from scratch and build an IPv6 network, including routers, hosts, DNS tools and various transition tools, ending up with a functional IPv6 network fully interconnected to the global Internet.

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