The government of Kenya has set July 2023 as the deadline the country is supposed to complete the migration from IPv4 to IPv6, the latest internet protocol.
The Communication Authority (CA) has published a migration policy, giving internet service providers 12 months to ensure their hardware and software are IPv6 ready.
IPv6 is the latest version of a set of rules that connected devices use to organize and exchange information.
Over the past decade, the majority of the world’s internet traffic was routed through IPV4, which had a limited IP address pool of four billion addresses.
However, the rise in demand for connected devices, including the Internet of Things (IoT) has led to a surge in public IP addresses, and technology experts believe the world will have exhausted IPv4 by the end of this year.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now have until July 2023 to ensure their systems are compatible with IPv6 and that their customers do not experience Internet disruptions from the migration.
“Due to non-compatibility between IPv6 and IPv4 protocols, communication between systems using the different address formats would require software changes and address translations at every non-IPv6 device the data traverses or hardware changes, dual stacks for the communication to proceed from end to end,” said the CA in a public consultation report.
According to the CA, Kenya’s adoption of IPv6 is currently at 8 percent with Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda at 0.3 percent, 0.11 percent, and 6.3 percent respectively.
A delay in full adoption of IPv6 could cut off millions of users from the Internet and raise the cost of doing business for ISPs and these costs could be passed on to consumers.
“If adoption to IPv6 is not realized in Kenya, network providers will have to put up with the complicated deployment of networks that require address translation, tunneling, and dual stack to communicate with IPv6 networks,” explained CA.
“New devices that may require Internet access and have no IPv4 addresses due to exhaustion will not be able to access the Internet,” states the regulator.
Delayed migration could also prevent the country’s economy from tapping into the benefits of IoT, which is expected to transform decision-making and unlock new opportunities in various sectors.
However, industry stakeholders say the adoption of IPv6 is already ongoing in Kenya and the regulator is simply playing catch up with the ICT sector.
“In recent years, all the hardware and software systems that ISPs have been installing come with dual compatibility of both IPv4 and IPv6,” noted Mr Peter Theuri, a network engineer with a local ISP, in Nairobi.
“This means that much of our traffic in the country today already goes through IPv6 so it won’t be very disruptive to ISP,” he clarified. “Consumers on the other hand will have noticed their Wi-Fi speeds are becoming faster and they can run multiple devices seamlessly without congestion. These are some of the benefits of the gradual migration that has been happening.”
The CA has given service providers one year to submit IPv6 network readiness reports after which they will be inspected and certified.
“Telecommunication service providers are encouraged to adopt emerging IPv6 Enhanced Innovation (“IPv6+”) which offers additional advantages to the networks such as IPv6 segment routing, network slicing and path associated detection,” said the CA.