Nigeria’s 45 million internet users will soon be restricted from accessing the World Wide Web (WWW) because the Internet Protocol 4 (IPv4) on which most connectivity in the country are run is on the verge of extinction, according to a report.
This worrying development can disrupt economic activities in the country if measures are not taken quickly. According to analysts, there is an urgent need for an infrastructure upgrade and migration to IPv6.
IPV6 is the sixth revision to the Internet Protocol and the successor to IPv4 platform. For 30 years running, IPv4 has been the foundation of the internet globally and now that it is almost out of addresses, industry analysts say the transition is a matter necessity.
Otunte Otueneh, chapter officer, Internet Society, Nigeria Chapter, was quoted in a recent report, as saying that the IPv4 is almost exhausted. “By the time the IPv4 finishes, most PC cannot be connected to the internet,” he warned.
BusinessDay gathered that the last batch of IPv4 addresses was allocated two years ago at a ceremony in Miami in the US, to Asia Pacific Network, by Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that oversees the global allocation of internet addresses. This however underscores the extent to which the internet has become an essential part of modern life. Today, most home appliances such as TVs and fridges can connect to the Internet.
Otueneh, who spoke on the sidelines of the IPV6 roundtable organised by DigitalSENSE Africa Media, said, “we need to create awareness to tell Nigerians that version 4 is almost finished and we need to move on to the new version.”
The exhaustion of the IPv4 pool and the inevitable transition to IPv6 has been the talk of many national and international meetings, particularly during a Sociétés de l’Information dedicated to the
AfNOG, AfriNIC and INET meetings held in Abuja at the beginning of May 2007. With IPv4 exhaustion looming and IPv6 taking a rather slow start, there have been extensive debates on the need to act fast, at major conferences.
Speaking in Abuja recently, Bill Woodcock, Board member of ARIN, the North American Regional Internet Registry (RIR), warned that RIRs should get rid of old ways of thinking and start planning their next step.
AfriNIC is by far the smallest RIR. However, it has anticipated the end of IPv4 at an early stage. It is expected that its current IP address space will run out in no distant time. Besides, two last requests for further allocations to IANA, the global pool’s steward, should allow delaying IPv4’s regional exhaustion until April 2014, the report said.
Nevertheless, if IPv4 consump
tion rate accelerates critically before AfriNIC is able to justify its last request, there could be huge concern to ensure a smooth transition before IPV6 is fully implemented.
For Alain Patrick Aina, special project manager for AfriNIC, the technology company in-charge of internet protocol in Africa, the total expiration of IPV4 could be extremely rapid, depending on the rates of consumption.
“It is like being warned there is going to be flood, the question is: how do I get prepared so as to survive it?”, Benedict Othello, head, Information Systems, Phase 3 Telecoms, a broadband service provider, was quoted in the report.
Commenting on some of the probable implications of Nigeria’s inability to migrate to IPV6, Othello, said, “Before the danger looming takes place, we are creating awareness. It is a two way thing. The service provider will be on version 6, the smartphones should be version 6 enabled. When that happens, they will flow seamlessly.
“Now, those on IPv4 platform cannot be accommodated by the service providers at a point. For instance if telecom operators in Nigeria roll out SIM cards and fail to expand their modules for more subscribers it will affect their businesses. It is all about upgrading to that new version to accommodate more customers”, he added.
“It is unimaginable when the version 6 will finish. Now, we need to create awareness to tell Nigerians that version 4 is almost finished and we need to move on to the new version. Communication providers and end users have to be aware of this, if not, they risk losing connectivity because the version they are using is on brink of extinction.“Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) while manufacturing their equipment or devices, they have to make sure that the technologies are IPv6 enabled. And the end user has to be informed enough to demand for devices that IPv6 enabled”, Otueneh explained.