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In the wake of IPv4 address exhaustion, the evolution to IPv6 becomes imperative to support sustainable Internet growth. At Asia Tech Singapore 2022, Telecom Review Asia Pacific took the opportunity to interview Latif Ladid, Founder and President of IPv6 Forum and Chair of ETSI ISG IPE, and Sureswaran Ramadass, Emeritus Professor of Malaysian University of Science and Technology, on IPv6 progress and its role in charting digital growth.

The Internet serves as the backbone of our digital economy today. With the massive uptake of technologies like IoT, cloud computing and 5G, an exponential surge in global digital users and connected devices will exhaust available unique IP addresses.

While IPv4 accommodates up to 4.3 billion unique IP addresses, IPv6 supports a marked improvement of up to 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses. Sharing on this, Latif Ladid said, “The transition to IPv6 is a very natural progression into the new Internet to support its sustainable growth as users or devices are added manifolds in the foreseeable future.”

By 2030, IoT is expected to connect tens of billions of devices. With connectivity at the core of a digital economy – an important driver of economic growth – IPv6 solves the problem of insufficient IP addresses to power connectivity potential and advance digital transformation. In fact, Ladid likened IPv6 to the “digitalisation of the Internet” to meet newer requirements in a cloud computing, 5G and IoT era.

“Currently, no one has a unique IP address. We are like tourists on the internet – not residents. But with a unique IP address assigned to each device, we will have an end-to-end model that allows direct communication between devices,” said Ladid. “We would go from peering between operators to peering between individuals. And this fundamentally shifting the dynamics from master-slave to everyone being a master.”

Reinforcing IPv6’s relevance and importance in today’s digital landscape, where 5G deployment is picking momentum, Sureswaran Ramadass opined that “the marriage between IPv6 and 5G is a match made in heaven” as 5G implementation will be driven by IPv6.

“Migrating to IPv6 can be challenging on legacy networks,” Ramadass commented, “But with 5G networks being new, they can be easily matched with new technologies like IPv6 to be undertaken in tandem to yield maximum benefits.”

Moreover, IPv6 can be combined with innovative technologies to deliver network automation and intelligence to meet emerging 5G requirements. For consumers, this translates into benefits including increased cost-effectiveness, faster speeds, and a long-term solution that enables next-generation services, Ramadass added.

IPv6 Enhanced in the Asia Pacific

In the Asia Pacific, IPv4 resources are increasingly waning. Especially in Southeast Asia, home to 440 million Internet users, IPv6 paves the future for network development to address connectivity hikes. Notwithstanding, IPv6 also drives innovation and digital transformation.

As such, more countries are paying attention to IPv6 and enacting policies to promote its development. In the region, countries like China and India are frontrunners in IPv6 deployment. Another country that has come a long way in IPv6 deployment is Malaysia.

Shedding insight into Malaysia’s IPv6 development, Ramadass said, “Currently, Malaysia is ranked fifth in the world in terms of IPv6 deployment, roll-out and traffic. Instead of looking inwardly, Malaysia has reached a stage now where it can focus on greater outreach to help other countries develop IPv6 capabilities.”

“All smart devices already support IPv6. The key is turning on this capability,” Ramadass added. “In Malaysia, a change took place when we focused on capacity building and conducted training programs for ISPs and telecom operators to deploy IPv6 on their networks.”

Based on IPv6, IPv6 Enhanced makes provision for innovations to enhance network capabilities and deliver benefits such as ubiquitous connectivity, ultra-high bandwidth, low latency, automation, as well as deterministic quality and security.

Ladid elaborated on the impact of IPv6 and IPv6 innovations on industries like agriculture, finance and government. Take agriculture, for instance, sensors can be disseminated along the distribution food supply chain and traced using blockchain to ensure “more efficient food distribution from farm to table, with minimal food lost in the process”. Doing so can significantly boost agricultural productivity and efficiency, and support Asia’s development.

In addition, Ladid shared that “IPv6 achieves an end-to-end model that is essential for countries to ensure data sovereignty”. Unlike with IPv4, ministries in the government can be allocated unique address space to ensure secure, encrypted communication between ministries that stay in the country.

However, for wider IPv6 adoption and penetration to take place, governments play an essential role. Ladid recommends a “top-down approach for governments to adopt IPv6 and lead by example” to accelerate the IP evolution.

In essence, both concurred that IPv6 and IPv6 Enhanced can address new challenges and create new value in a digital economy. Together, IPv6 and IPv6 Enhanced can enable technologies critical to digitalising industries, and forge economic value and progress.

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