IPv6 development and infrastructure essential for continued growth of the Internet

By on 17 Sep 2014

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We are living in an increasingly connected world, where technology is becoming ever-more pervasive in daily life and the next generation of networks and services are bringing unparalleled benefits and opportunities to industries such as healthcare, transport and education.

Yet technological development cannot take place without an adequate infrastructure to reinforce it; advanced Internet capacity is required to support growing demands from the Internet of Things (IoT), where tens or even hundreds of billions of devices will soon be connected to both each other and the Internet. To ensure the deployment of these technological advancements, we must establish the implementation of strengthened broadband networks to carry a higher volume of network connections, and the provision of sufficient addressing resources.

Global access to the Internet has grown 6% globally in 2014 (3.3% in developed countries, and 8.7% in developing countries). Thanks to the efforts of groups such as the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, the deployment and development of broadband networks is advancing; 140 countries have developed a national plan, strategy or policy to promote broadband, with a further 13 planning to introduce such measures in the near future. However, the current backbone of the Internet, IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), is unable to cope with the increasing demand on addressing resources that expanded connectivity will require – an issue which is becoming more pertinent as IPv4’s address space rapidly diminishes.

Thus, to fully realize a future where we are able to benefit from next generation services and projects such as virtual classrooms, smart sustainable cities and mobile health applications, we must rapidly adopt the next generation of Internet addressing infrastructure, IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). Though this framework of standards offers advanced connectivity and an expanded 128 bit address space, increasing the size of the address space by many trillions of times compared to its predecessor’s 32-bit address space, and thereby providing sufficient addresses for the foreseeable future, uptake has been slow with a mere 4% of global Internet traffic accessing Google carried on this service as of May 2014.

ITU’s membership recognizes that the rapid adoption of IPv6 is necessary for the continued development of the internet, and has put significant emphasis on facilitating the transition to the deployment of IPv6 – especially in developing and least developed countries. Consequently, this issue has been addressed at numerous ITU conferences, notably the 2008 World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA 2008) resulting in the adoption of Resolution 64, ‘IP address allocation and encouraging the deployment of IPv6’ (subsequently updated at WTSA 2012), and the 2013 World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF 2013) where two of the six opinions adopted by consensus by the multistakeholder community concerned IPv6 – with one on IPv6 Adoption, and another on Capacity Building for the Deployment of IPv6.

Indeed, as we promote and adopt this expanded Internet capacity, we must simultaneously ensure that we do not leave behind the 3.4 billion people worldwide who are still unconnected. This goal is only achievable through multi-stakeholder partnerships. Working closely with a variety of partners, especially the Regional International Registries (RIRs) (four of the five RIRs are sector members of ITU, and APNIC was the first among the RIRs to join ITU as a sector member, back in 2003), ITU is engaged in helping to roll out this technology infrastructure through promotion, capacity building and by providing technical assistance to developing countries to facilitate growth and development.

With the ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference just over 30 days away, and as we prepare to celebrate 150 years since the founding of ITU, we must ensure that we continue to work together towards facilitating ICT growth worldwide, by facilitating the provision of  the necessary infrastructure to advance technological capabilities while simultaneously meeting the challenge of connecting the unconnected.

Houlin Zhao is the Deputy Secretary General of the ITU. This blog is based on his speech at the APNIC 38 Conference currently taking place in Brisbane, Australia. A recorded version of the speech is also available online.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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