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Africa should accelerate IPv6 migration now to avoid a scramble later

Fibre-optic cable

The Internet community across Africa needs to prepare for the inevitable day when AFRINIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR), will run out of IPv4 addresses to allocate to its members. This follows the news that ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) officially ran out of IPv4 addresses on 24 September this year.

Africa is the only region that has not yet depleted its pool of IPv4 addresses. The RIRs in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America all no longer have IPv4 addresses to allocate to their respective members.

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Though AFRINIC still has IPv4 addresses to spare, it is time for African ISPs, network operators, and enterprises to consider deployment and integration of the new IP protocol. Africa has some breathing space for IPv6 implementation, but we should not squander this time.

IPv6 is an important enabler for the next wave of Internet of Things and mobile technologies, which will see a surge in the number of devices connected to the Internet. It also offers a range of efficiency gains for ISPs, making it a worthwhile investment. And we can’t afford to lose pace with the progress and development of the global Internet.

The implications of failing to embrace IPv6 might be damaging to Africa’s Internet growth and development.

In practice, this means the RIRs need to continue to leverage IPv4 infrastructure to support today’s needs while educating the market and encouraging gradual adoption of IPv6. ISPs and operators should, in the meantime, skill up their technicians and engineers on IPv6 and create a smooth path towards the new protocol.

The networks and ISPs who face the biggest challenge will be those that have legacy infrastructure that is completely unprepared for IPv6. They will need to start revamping their networks to ensure they are ready in good time.

On the upside, most large service, equipment and connectivity providers worldwide have already made the effort to ensure their infrastructure is ready for IPv6. Africa is well positioned to learn from developments in the rest of the world.

African Internet companies should not be complacent – aligning ourselves with IPv6 is essential if we want our networks, services and content to remain global players. The future of the Internet is IPv6 and it is time to embrace that future.

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