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Africa could soon run out of IP Addresses, warns Liquid Telecom

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Africa could soon run out of IP Addresses, warns Liquid Telecom

Post by Admin on Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:00 am

Africa could face stunted digital growth in the near future as IP addresses run short, Liquid Telecoms, an African tech giant on the continent has warned.

details :

Leading Internet Service Provider Liquid Telecom Kenya is rolling out the new Internet Protocol version six (IPv6) addresses to all its customers in Kenya, as it warns 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.

Africa is the last continent with available IPv4 addresses, but it is now also running short. Yet the uptake of the new IPv6 addresses is proving so slow in Africa that Liquid Telecom’s roll out in just the first two of the 12 countries it services across Africa, being Kenya and Zimbabwe, hasmore than doubled the use of IPv6 across the continent.

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 hit 62m people by 2030.  This is then multiplied by the growing number of Internet devices we are all carrying, as phones, laptops, tablets,etc: all these devices need an IP address. If Africa mismanages the transition to the new IP addresses,it will affect the ability to add any new devices, as well as our cyber security, both of which are vital to our continent in continuing to achieve a higher level of Internet penetration, and thus prosperity,” said Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya.

“IPv6 has been rolled out seamlessly to our home user customers and we are working with our business customers to help them exploit this technology on their office networks to better harness ICT to achieve their business goals,” he said.

Transiting to IPv6, which has been a global issue, 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 devicessaw 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.

With Africa now the only continent left with IPv4 addresses, 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.

AfriNIC hasbeen working with governments, universities and corporations to drive up the rate of deployment, with the allocation of Ipv6 addresses to providers proceeding as expected, but few providers yet deploying them.

IPv6 will also 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.

related stories :

The unveiling of the African Union supported Global System of Mobile Communication Roaming Exchange (GRX) last month, which is expected to not only significantly cut the cost on international calls, but also enhance the end-user experience when using voice and data services, is good news.

The GSM Roaming Exchange facility, the fourth in the world after Amsterdam, Singapore and Washington, is being hosted at the carrier neutral East Africa Data Centre (EADC) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The GRX will be a great boon for roaming Africans. Roaming, for the sake of clarity, is the ability for a mobile subscriber to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services using their usual SIM card when travelling outside the geographical coverage area of the home network.

Mobile traffic originating from Africa will now be passing through the new facility. But the real benefits will be reaped by subscribers calling home from outside the region.

Previously, depending on where one was calling from – say, from outside East Africa – the traffic would have been routed through either of the other three GRX points, which is still not only slow but expensive for many subscribers.

To put it in perspective, take a Ugandan who has travelled to Angola. Going by the figures on the MTN Uganda website the subscriber would have to pay UGX 17,000 (US$5) per minute to call East Africa or anywhere else internationally, but the call would only cost UGX 2,000 (60 US Cents) to any mobile network within Angola. Calling home to MTN Uganda would cost the subscriber UGX 9000 (US$2.6).

Uganda serves only as an example, but the disproportionate rates apply also with the other carriers across the region.

With the new GSM Roaming Exchange, the route will be much shorter leading up to seven-fold increase in loading speeds, according to industry experts.

There is no gainsaying that mobile carries are constantly looking to improve reliability, capacity, efficiency and profitability. For this reason the Nairobi GRX is targeting up to 148 mobile operators from the continent, whose cost savings will be passed on to their subscribers.

This derives from the fact that the GRX will connect with the other three and diversify players and revenue opportunities for GRX and Internet Protocol Exchange (IPX) providers, thereby reducing costs for Mobile Network Operators in the region.

GRX and IPX are of a kind and facilitate efficient interconnection and “peering” between groups of GSM Mobile Network Operators.

The African Union has been facilitating payment to overseas carriers to exchange intra-continental traffic on behalf of African states, a process that was costly as it was inefficient.

For this reason the AU provided the grant for the establishment of the Nairobi GRX, in addition to having increased the internet exchange points in the continent increased from 18 to 32 over the last five years.

And, while on internet protocol exchange, industry experts have warned that Africa is set to run out of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses soon – actually as early as next year.

IP addresses are unique identifiers for each particular gadget – smart phone, laptop, etc – anytime they go online to move data, whether it’s that Facebook post or merely browsing and web page requests.

Much of the world has been migrating internet addresses to the new IPv6, while Africa is still on the older Internet Protocol, IPv4, whose allocation for the continent is soon to run out.

Industry experts urge heed to this fact. If Africa mismanages the transition to the new IP addresses, they warn, it would affect the ability to add any new devices, as well as cyber security, both of which are seen as vital in achieving a higher level of Internet penetration and digital growth in the continent.

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