By Steve Agbota
It is no longer news that the world has moved away from IPV4 to IPV6 but what the African continent can benefit has become the issue on the front burner recently.
Stakeholders in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry have noted that the adoption and implementation of the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) will not only boost the economy and increase broadband penetration but also reduce cybercrime incidents drastically.
An IP address serves the purpose of uniquely identifying an individual network interface of a host, locating it on the network and thus permitting the routing of IP packets between hosts. For routing, IP addresses are present in fields of the packet header, where they indicate source and destination of the packet.
According to Wikipedia, IPv6 is the successor to the first addressing infrastructure of the Internet, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). In contrast to IPv4, which defined an IP address as a 32-bit value, IPv6 addresses have a size of 128 bits. Therefore, IPv6 has a vastly enlarged address space compared to IPv4.
Stakeholders at the opening ceremony of the International Capacity Building and Enhancement workshop on IPv6, hosted by Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in collaboration with Africa Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) in Lagos recently, said that the time for operators in the ICT and telecommunication sector to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 was long overdue, as they stressed that the IPv6 was more secure and seamless to use.
Commenting, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, disclosed that the exhaustion if the IPv4 address was a global phenomenon, and the need for IPv6 was even more urgent in Nigeria, a hub of one of the world’s fastest growing ICT economies.
Danbatta, who was respresented at the event by Director of New Media at NCC, Haru Alhassan, added that IPv6 would enable an enormous increase in the number of Internet addresses currently available under IPv4.
IPv6 is projected to be the next frontier of the Nigerian ICT industry, he noted that the Nigerian ICT industry has witnessed tremendous growth from just 200 Internet users in 2002 to over 93 million in 2017 and Nigeria currently ranked eighth in the global Internet usage, with 48.8 per cent penetration by March 2017, based on Internet World Stats.
He said: “With this growth comes the challenge of sustaining the development to ensure that the industry maintains global relevance and contends with challenges of low Internet penetration, quality service, cyber security incidents with their attendant security implications as well as issues with nation’s perception index, among others.”
In view of the strategic and economic relevance of IPv6 implementation, and the NCC’s plan to boost Internet infrastructure, Danbatta said the commission, as the main driver of IPv6 migration, would develop regulatory guidelines for IPv6 deployment over the Internet service providers and mobile network operators, among others.
In his address, the president of ATCON, Olusola Teniola, said that ATCON was unhappy that majority of networks in Nigeria were not IPv6-compliant, and, “The indication poses threat to Nigerian ICT development.”
According to Teniola, the Nigerian ICT sector could no longer afford to take the back seat in global ICT development, hence the need for IPv6.
He said, “The dividend pervasive broadband may be far-fetched if, as an industry or a country, we are not working towards broadband meeting with technology. As we all know, when Internet of Things take their place in our country, an individual may need more than 10 IP addresses to enjoy the benefits that come with IoTs. We encourage our members to migrate to IPv6.”