Internet Service Provider Liquid Telecom has announced that it is rolling out the new Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) addresses to all its customers in Kenya. Kenya becomes the second country the company is rolling out the IPv6 after Zimbabwe in the 12 African countries it operates in.
Liquid Telecom has also warned that Africa is set to run out of the old-style IPv4 addresses in 2017, causing serious setbacks to the continent’s Internet growth and security. It adds that the uptake of the new IPv6 addresses is so slow in the continent. It warns that as IPv4 addresses run out, it will become increasingly difficult and more expensive for networks to add new devices and users to their networks, as well as triggering additional Internet security issues.
“Africa’s population, and especially young population is growing fast with Kenya expected to be 62 Million people by 2030. This is then multiplied by the growing number of internet devices we are all carrying, phones, laptops, tablets etc. All these devices need an IP address and if Africa mismanages the transition to the new IP addresses, it will affect our cyber security, the ability to add any new devices, which are vital to our continent in continuing to achieve a higher level of Internet penetration, and thus prosperity,” said Mr Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya. “IPv6 has been rolled out semlessly to our home user customers and we are working with our business customers to help them exploit this technology on their office networks to harness ICT better to achieve their business goals”.
Moving to IPv6 has been a global challenge but it is now well advanced in the rest of the world, following from the limitations of IPv4, designed by Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn in 1981. With just 4 billion IPv4 addresses, the global growth in the number of devices, across computers, tablets and phones, saw the world start to run out of IPv4 addresses, initially in 2011, in Asia, and then in Europe in 2012, Latin America in 2014, and last year in North America.
Africa is now the only continent left with IPv4 addresses, and this has raised concerns about ISPs from elsewhere in the world seeking addresses from Africa. However, the galloping growth in Internet use in Africa itself is anyway rapidly moving the continent to the point of running out of the current IP version 4 Internet addresses.
“With IPv6 there are limitless IP addresses, at 2 to the power of 128 addresses (340 trillion trillion trillion ), that is more addresses than there are cells in every human body on the planet,” said Liquid Telecom Group Head of IP strategy Andrew Alston. Yet, Africa now faces an impending shortage of IP addresses, as Internet providers prove slow to roll out IPv6.
“We are almost eating into the last block of 16 million addresses of the IPv4 space that the regional internet registry for Africa, (AFRINIC) has available. This means we are soon entering a new phase where getting IPv4 addresses will become far more difficult and eventually impossible – there won’t be any more to give. So it is important that ISPs start to deploy IPv6,” said Alston.
One of the benefits of IPv6 is that it will enable whole new ranges of technology by facilitating the Internet of Things with end-to-end connections for devices. “There will be even more connected devices than people in years to come, IPv6 will also allow us to explore new and unimaginable technologies interconnecting everything from kitchen appliances to automobiles,” said Alston.