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IPv6 unlocks new Internet possibilities

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Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the current iteration of the Internet Protocol and designed as replacement for IPv4. The updated version also offers several functionality enhancements for those who have switched to the new protocol.

IPv4 was first defined in 1981, and utilised a 32-bit address identifier. The newer IPv6 addresses are 128-bits in length, vastly enlarging the size of the usable address space. IPv4 Internet addresses are quickly becoming exhausted. By contrast, IPv6 offers a staggering quantity of usable addresses, and are unlikely to reach exhaustion in the foreseeable future.

Despite the many advantages offered by IPv6, uptake around the world has been relatively slow. To accelerate its deployment in Africa, ground-breaking terrestrial network service provider Workonline Communications is offering 100 Mbps of free IPv6 transit to qualifying AfriNIC Local Internet Registry members. AfriNIC is the regional Internet registry for Africa that administers Internet number resources, including IPv4 and IPv6 address space.

“IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol, and features a vastly expanded address space to provide for the needs of the rapidly growing number of Internet-connected services around the world,” says Edward Lawrence, director of business development at Workonline Communications. “We hope to facilitate skills development and improve operational knowledge of the new protocol within the African service provider community by providing zero-cost interconnection for African networks with the global IPv6 Internet.”

IPv6 facilitates interconnectivity for the proliferating number of connected devices and appliances from smartphones to automobiles, enabling the continued growth of the “Internet of Things”, made up of truly connected homes, businesses, communities and commercial centres.

Managed effectively, IPv6 allows the reduction of the amount of information stored on network devices to route packets to their destinations. Smaller routing information bases increase efficiencies and performance, and improve the overall costs of operating provider networks.

Network configuration is also simplified under IPv6. Through stateless auto-configuration, a host can generate its own IP address, reducing the need for manual input from network administrators.

IPv6 further enables a host of new and valuable Internet services by eliminating the need for address sharing technologies such as Network Address Translation and re-establishing the end-to-end connectivity principle envisaged by the original architects of the Internet. This makes peer-to-peer networks much easier to create and maintain and enhances other IP services such as VoIP.

Because of the numerous benefits associated with IPv6, along with the limited useful lifespan of IPv4, industry professionals around the world are working with network owners of all kinds to improve adoption rates. “This offer of free transit is our way of supporting the ongoing efforts of the community at large to assist with the transition,” says Ben Maddison, director of network operations at Workonline.