The Role of Governments in IPv6 Deployment
By Oscar Robles – LACNIC CEO
Deployment of the IPv6 protocol is strategic for materializing any government’s plans for a digital agenda. Governments have a key role to play in the deployment and adoption of this Internet protocol.
The exhaustion of IPv4 addresses has brought about an urgent need to adopt the IPv6 protocol to connect the 30% of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean who still do not have access to the Internet, and to connect the billions of devices required by the deployment of IoT-based solutions.
What are IPv4 and IPv6?
The two acronyms refer to versions of the Internet Protocol (IP). Each device connected to the Internet, whether a mobile phone, a computer, or a temperature sensor, needs and uses an IP address to connect.
IPv4 was the standard protocol since the early 1980s. The creators of the Internet did not consider such an explosive growth in the number of connected devices, so before IPv4 addresses were exhausted, they developed IPv6, a protocol with an enormous capacity that offers the possibility of connecting each device, current and future, to the Internet.
Why is it important to deploy IPv6?
During these years, we have assigned 188 million IPv4 addresses in our region, and these have allowed us to now have 400 million connected users. However, there are currently no available IPv4 addresses and yet 200 million users —equivalent to 30% of the population— have yet to connect to the Internet. This is why IPv6 is so important: it is the only way to ensure that those 200 million people can participate in the opportunities afforded by the digital age.
In addition, the number of interconnected devices has increased exponentially and is much higher than the number of connected users. This is what we mean when we refer to the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Industry 4.0, Smart Homes, and so on. Each of the millions of devices used in these solutions needs an IP address to connect to the Internet, and this has created a massive demand for IP addresses that cannot be met without the adoption of IPv6.
Unlike IPv4, IPv6 allows the traceability of transactions. The reason for this is that most IPv4 users share the same IP address with address sharing techniques such as CGNAT. This is very important given that, when a crime is committed, it hugely simplifies the work of law enforcement agencies, which is essential for Internet security and trust among users.
Likewise, the benefits of IPv6 deployment extend beyond governments. IPv6 contributes to the Knowledge Economy by making it possible for the Internet to continue enabling innovation. It also contributes to education and social development by creating training opportunities for professionals who can then provide their services to the region and worldwide. In the case of users, IPv6 offers them the possibility of an improved experience in their interaction with other users, with lower latency (extremely important for the gaming industry) and no degradation of service quality.
Is the region prepared for this transition?
Almost 25 years after the launch of IPv6, IPv6 deployment has reached an average of almost 30% in our region. In some countries such as Uruguay, the IPv6 deployment rate has reached almost 50%; in others such as Brazil and Mexico, more than 40%.
The joint challenge is to ensure that all countries can achieve high levels of IPv6 deployment so they will not be left behind, neither in terms of access for their citizens nor in terms of technological development. It is also important to ensure that there are no gaps within each country, whether between different regions, cities, population groups, or others.
It should be noted that more than 47% of the region’s networks are already prepared to transport IPv6 traffic and that, to date, nine out of ten Internet operators have requested and received IPv6 addresses.
What is the role of governments in IPv6 deployment?
LACNIC recommends working collaboratively rather than having regulations that impose goals or deadlines. Working on voluntary commitments for IPv6 deployment, commitments that are decided by all stakeholders, will always be more effective (and inclusive) to avoid friction between governments or regulators and operators.
This way of working is important to prevent excuses and even legal actions that may sometimes be brought to sidestep the deadlines imposed by regulations. Additionally, entities that are unregulated and therefore outside the scope of a regulation may also be invited to subscribe to these commitments, and this may also promote IPv6 adoption.
The creation of working groups or similar figures and their adoption of an open and commitment-based working methodology will achieve broader and more encompassing results, and the actors who participate will benefit from their exchanges with other organizations, which in turn will allow them to accelerate their IPv6 adoption processes.
What actions can governments implement?
In addition to driving these open and collaborative spaces for sharing information, experiences, and agreed commitments, governments can also lead by example, starting their IPv6 adoption and implementing various measures to promote it. Such measures may include the following:
- Require that operators obtain/maintain the ability to map each IP address to a subscriber
As mentioned earlier in this article, transaction traceability is essential to Internet security.
- Require that any IT equipment/services acquired by the government be IPv6-compatible
The demand for IPv6 services is key for driving their supply. In most countries, the public sector is the largest purchaser of technology. Requiring that all IT equipment or services acquired by the government must be IPv6-compatible will create the business case for industry.
- Limit the import of IPv4-only equipment
Avoid accumulating large inventories of obsolete devices. Our region is at risk of receiving a significant amount of obsolete IT devices (IPv4-only) and becoming a technology dump.
- Require that the services offered to the public support IPv6
Enable electronic government services with IPv6. Considering that the government provides multiple online services (e-government), it would be appropriate to ensure that at least some of these services are offered in IPv6.
- Require that government office home pages support IPv6
In addition to online services (e-government), it would be appropriate for at least the static content of government offices to be available in IPv6.
Adoption of the IPv6 protocol is strategic for materializing any government’s plans for a digital agenda, and the role of governments and regulators is key for both IPv6 adoption and its deployment.
Our region and its networks are prepared for IPv6 deployment and there are cases such as Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay to prove this.
LACNIC recommends that governments and regulators work in an open, collaborative, and inclusive manner, and avoid imposing goals or deadlines through regulations. This is the best way to advance sustainable IPv6 deployment, favoring collaborative work between the government or regulator, the operators, and the other actors that are part of the industry.
Likewise, governments can lead by example, implementing measures that promote the development of IPv6 in their countries. This should include both their demand for goods and services, as well as the digital government services they offer.
APNIC: IPv6 Capable Rate by country
RIPE NCC: IPv6 Enabled Networks
Number Resource Organization: Statistics
Google: IPv6 Statisticshttps://www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/statistics.html#tab=per-country-ipv6-adoption