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 against. While the rest of the world is migrating to the newer IPv6 internet protocol, Africa is still using the older IPv4 protocol. According to Liquid Telecom, Africa is the last continent with available IPv4 addresses but it is now also running short.
“We are almost eating into the last block of 16 million addresses of the IPv4 space that the regional Internet registry for Africa 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 Liquid Telecom group head of IP strategy Andrew Alston.
What is IP
The Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of rules designed to send information between computers on the Internet. Each device that uses the Internet Protocol has at least one IP address that identifies it to all other devices on the planet. It’s just like a person might have a postal address or a phone number. IP is the global de facto Layer 3 standard for data networks. It allows the transmission of data through the internet. The internet basically heavily depends on IP. All such applications, ranging from email and web browsing through to sophisticated government and enterprise networks, require IP to function.
IPv4 vs IPv6
Internet Protocol version 4 or IPV4 is the underlying technology that we currently us to connect to the web. Whenever a device accesses the Internet, it is assigned a unique, numerical IP address. To send data from one computer to another through the web, a data packet must be transferred across the network containing the IP addresses of both devices i.e sender and receiver.
Without IP addresses, computers would not be able to communicate and send data to each other. It’s essential to the infrastructure of the web.
IPV6 is the sixth revision to the Internet Protocol and the successor to IPV4. It functions similarly to IPV4 in that it provides the unique, numerical IP addresses necessary for Internet-enabled devices to communicate. However, it does sport one major difference: it utilizes 128-bit addresses. Now this presents a major advantage in terms of the number of IP addresses that IPV6 avails. We will not go into detail.
What this means for Zimbabwe
If handled properly, there is no issue really. However, for some weird reason Africa always seems to blow issues to do with technology advancements. Not adapting in due time is nothing new to the continent. Zimbabwe is no exception to this tech-lag. We’ve seen it happen with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation not meeting digitalisation requirements on time. However, The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has already began the consultation process for the IPv4 to IPv6 Migration strategy. To download the draft strategy click here