Last week on 6th June, the Internet Society Uganda Chapter launched IPv6, the next step in internet’s growth worldwide. The launch was held at Hive Colab in Kamwokya.
The internet operates by transferring data between networks in packets. In order to communicate, each computer or other device connected to the internet must be identified by a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. Of the 4.3 trillion Internet addresses currently assigned, only 95 million are available for Africa. Though that seems like a large number now, it is estimated that these will run out in the next two years.
Africa is currently using (the quickly becoming obsolete) IPv4 (version 4). IPv6 is the next-generation internet protocol and it will provide more than 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses! (This is 3.4 X 1038 compared to IPv4’s 4.29 X 109) This means that for every person available there’s more than a billion available IP address. This has come to light in the advent of all kinds of mobile and internet-enabled devices. Every device in the world will be able to have its own IP address for years to come. This will improve interconnectivity.
AfriNIC, the company that manages and distributes IP addresses to African users, expects that with IPv6 will improve connection speeds locally when using local cache centres (like Google is doing in Uganda). This essentially means that we won’t need to rely on oversees servers to supply our internet, but locally placed servers which will reduce waiting times tremendously! We are looking at speeds at par with the rest of the world!
The good news is that local ISPs (Internet service providers) will not incur any direct costs in switching from IPv4 to IPv6. The indirect costs may be in form of training people for the reconfiguration of routers, or buying new hardware. However, most hardware and software after Windows XP is already IPv6 capable. The world over has been switching since 2005! Also, IPv4 and IPv6 can run concurrently by using dual stacking or tunneling methods.
In a colourful event that was presided over by Daniel Stern and Lillian Nalwoga (ISOC Uganda Chapter), the speakers endeavored to make sure we understood what it was about and how Uganda will benefit. The National Information Technology Authority is already on board and working to oversee the transition, as well as liaise with law enforcers and law makers about cyber laws.
More details about IPv6 transition in Uganda can be found at www.internetsociety.org