New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT) is set to roll out an action plan to upgrade a key Internet protocol (IP) that will help India avoid running out of Web addresses in two years’ time.
The move involves shifting from IP version 4 (IPv4) to IP version 6 (IPv6). India is expected to exhaust its pool of IP addresses by August 2012 under the current system, a 25-year-old protocol that has many limitations, the biggest of which is that it allows for only some four billion addresses as opposed to several trillion under the later regime.
IP refers to the unique address that a machine is assigned when it goes online. An IP address is much like a phone number, of which there are a finite set of combinations; more digits need to be added to allow more numbers.
IPv6 is also more secure and allows for better quality of service and mobility due to its 128-bit addressing system, explained a DoT official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“The timely implementation of IPv6 is essential as the pool of free IP addresses provided by IPv4 is being depleted and is down to just 8%,” a senior official in DoT’s telecommunications engineering centre (TEC) wing said on condition of anonymity.
All major service providers, with at least 10,000 Internet customers each, are expected to move to IPv6 by December 2011, while Central and state government offices are expected to make the transition by March 2012.
“The government’s infrastructure, including things like power grids and PSU (public sector unit) infrastructure, is far older and upgrading it will take longer,” an industry expert said.
The transition is a lot like the Y2K transition and requires a major overhaul of software and hardware, said Kunal Bajaj, director at Analysys Mason, referring to the coding changes that needed to be made before 2000.
“Most of the device manufacturers and vendors have been selling IPv6 ready devices for a number of years now. It’s like the new TVs in the market, which are HD (high-definition) ready even though there is no HD signal. They will be ready for the signal when it comes,” Bajaj said. “It requires a major upgrade of software and hardware.”
The action plan entails the creation of a task force as well as a publicity campaign to get the transition under way by encouraging and incentivizing rather than setting a deadline. On 13 May, TEC received approval to release the “National IPv6 Deployment Roadmap” in the public domain so that it can be implemented by all stakeholders.
“The successful transition requires the coordinated efforts of a large number of stakeholders,” said an internal note by TEC, which was entrusted with the task of handling the transition in 2009, and has come up with the road map based on the views of stakeholders and various institutions.
Users in India are given IP addresses by the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (Apnic).
India, which is ranked 20th in IP address usage, consumes 0.22% of IPv4 space in the world today, while the US holds 54.72%, Japan 6.15% and China 4.98%.
In 2006, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had made its recommendations on the transition, recommending that the country create its own Internet registry under Apnic.
The move comes as India is poised for a surge in connectivity, with licences for high-speed services being auctioned. The country ended March 2010 with 8.75 million broadband customers.
India’s backbone infrastructure is in place with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s National Internet Backbone being IPv6 ready, apart from which Tata Communications Ltd is one of the largest IPv6 Internet service providers in the world.