India readying for launch of Internet Protocol IPv6 version

NEW DELHI: India is joining other countries in taking the next step from Internet Protocol IPv4 to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) to overcome the limitations of the older system which has been in place for 27 years.

The announcement came on the occasion of World IPv6’ Launch Day as traditional communication networks are undergoing a big change and are converging into packet based Next Generation Networks (NGN) which run on Internet Protocol (IP). The Internet Protocol is basically a communications protocol used for relaying packets of data across a network.

Major Internet Service Providers, networking equipment manufacturers and web companies around the world are coming together to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services. This day, being organised by Internet Society, represents a major milestone in the global deployment of IPv6.The World IPv6 Day event last year on 8 June had been used by top websites and Internet Service Providers around the world for a successful 24-hour global-scale trial of IPv6.

As a result of the initiatives undertaken by Department of Telecommunication), a majority of the major service providers in India are ready to handle traffic and offer IPv6 services at present. Despite the readiness of the major service providers, there are issues to be addressed so as to ensure that the complete ecosystem migrates to IPv6.

The service providers have mainly three challenges: readiness of the content providers, equipment vendors, and end user devices. To tackle these challenges, a lead has been taken by DoT and the respective stakeholders are being pursued with by DoT through extensive discussions and meetings.

India has at present 35 million IPv4 addresses against a user base of about 360 million data users. In addition, the Government is planning to have a target of 160 million and 600 million broadband customers by the year 2017 and 2020 respectively. Moreover, there is a strong security requirement to provide unique IP address to each individual data user.

The transition to IPv6 is likely to be a complex, mammoth and long term exercise during which both IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist. In order to facilitate the widespread introduction of IPv6 in India, a policy document titled ‘National IPv6 Deployment Roadmap’ was released by the DoT in July 2010.

The first initiative of its kind by a Government anywhere in the world, the roadmap’s main focus was to educate/sensitize the Indian ecosystem about the issues related to IPv6 and enable it to take the first step in the transition towards IPv6. Under this, all major Service Providers had been asked to handle IPv6 traffic and offer IPv6 services by December 2011; all Central and State government ministries and departments, including its PSUs were asked to start using IPv6 services by March 2012; and a Task Force had been formed headed by Secretary (T) with a 3-tier structure consisting of Oversight Committee, Steering Committee and 10 Working Groups. Each tier has members from different organisations / stakeholders in PPP mode.

The current version of the Internet Protocol IPv4 has many limitations, the biggest being its 32-bit addressing space resulting in about 4.3 billion IP addresses. The IPv6 improves on the addressing capacities of IPv4 by using 128 bits addressing instead of 32 bits, thereby practically making available an almost infinite pool of IP addresses. It also offers several other advantages over IPv4. IPv6 has been designed with many new features which make it possible to develop entirely new applications which are not possible in the IPv4 protocol, supports end-to-end security, auto-configuration simplifies network configuration, and IP Host Mobility etc.

A IPv6 test bed has been installed by Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), a technical wing of DoT, to foster explicit IPv6 harmonisation across the entire ecosystem.

To address the various problems being faced by the stakeholders regarding IP address allocation from APNIC, the National Internet Registry (NIR) has been approved by APNIC in India for allocation of IPv6 address in a systematic manner with a big pool to cater to all future requirements and will start functioning shortly.

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