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Internet address space running out

T&T ISPs urged to take action
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) chairman Selby Wilson, left, and CEO Cris Seecharan at the open forum at TATT’s Barataria office. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

The Internet will run out of address space sooner than you think. In the next few months, as more of us get our hands on smartphones and tablets expecting easy connectivity, it won’t be that easy. Here’s why: the existing technology called IPv4 (Internet protocol version four), which has powered IP addresses since the very early days of the modern Internet, will soon be exhausted.



That’s because every “smart” device—from phones to watches to iRobot appliances—needs an IP address to connect to the Internet. With the widespread proliferation of such devices, IPv4 Internet addresses are running out faster than anyone saw coming, with an estimated two to six months left. That’s why a switch is necessary. T&T’s Internet service providers (ISPs) must upgrade to Internet Protocol version six (IPv6).


“IPv6 is critical to the future of the Internet,” Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) CEO Cris Seecharan said to the T&T Guardian. As version four’s successor, IPv6 will offer far more numerical addresses and additional network security features. To address this impending change, TATT hosted an open forum at their office in Barataria, to sensitise ISPs and other stakeholders about the growing need to upgrade their servers.


TATT chairman Selby Wilson’s first words to the audience as he welcomed them were: “IPv6 is no longer coming soon; it is here. We no longer have a choice. We need to begin to migrate away from IPv4.” The meeting was facilitated by the manager of Communications and External Relations Ernesto Majó and chief technology officer Carlos Martínez of Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), which provides addresses for the region, including T&T.


Wilson said: “In 1981, the only computers with Internet access were part of military or research organisations. Thirty years and millions upon millions of Internet users later, the available addresses in IPv4 have been exhausted.” According to Wilson, LACNIC has advised TATT that there were no more IPv4 addresses available to ISPs in their respective regions, and so IPv6 addresses will now be issued whenever requests were made for additional Internet address space.


For the new addresses to work, servers must be upgraded. One audience member from The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, said since 2008 the university has been preparing to transition to IPv6 by conducting research and doing tests. He said an IPv6 plan was finalised two years ago for the campus, but they could not get the infrastructural support from UWI’s ISP. “Our biggest barrier we had was actually our ISP. When we contacted our ISP many years ago, up until 2009, they did not have a plan (for IPv6).”


He said the roll-out came to a halt, even though the university is ready for the more capable version.



In addition to a vastly expanded address space, IPv6 offers a wide range of improvements, including:
• Security enhancements 
• Stateless auto configuration 
• Superior mobility 
• Enhanced subnet address management 
• Simplified network administration 
• Built-in multicasting 
• New Quality of Service features

Catching up: 
Globally, the switch to IPv6 has been taking place at a rapid pace. According to the IPv6 Launch website in June 2013: “The number of IPv6-connected users has doubled since World IPv6 Launch began on June 6, 2012, when thousands of ISPs, home networking equipment manufacturers, and Web companies around the world came together to permanently enable the next generation of Internet Protocol (IPv6) for their products and services.



This marks the third straight year IPv6 use on the global Internet has doubled. If current trends continue, more than half of Internet users around the world will be IPv6-connected in less than six years.”



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