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02/02/2015

Slowly but surely: IPv6 deployment in Latin America and the Caribbean

By Jorge Villa *

Since its inception, the creators of IPv6 envisioned that the Internet we enjoy today would use this new protocol as the basis for communication. However, this has not been the case for different reasons ranging from purely economic aspects to a poor understanding of the importance of IPv6 for the current and future Internet, where mobility and the integration of “things,” data, and processes are changing countless paradigms and triggering a new wave of innovation.

Despite efforts to promote and adopt the new protocol, in December 2014 IPv6 traffic barely represented 5% of total Internet traffic (source: Google). Although some may consider this figure negligible, it is interesting to watch the growing trend it is exhibiting. In early 2013, barely 1% of traffic was IPv6 traffic but during the past 24 months IPv6 growth has been almost exponential and this trend is still on the rise.

A combination of data from Google and APNIC shows that the areas with greater visibility in terms of IPv6 penetration are Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, USA, Norway, France, Romania, and Peru (our region’s main representative on the list). It is interesting to note that areas in which steady work is being carried out in relation to IPv6 (e.g., Brazil and certain Asian countries including China and India) do not yet rank well in these statistics.

Starting in September last year, restrictive IPv4 assignment polies came into force at the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). While it is still possible to obtain IPv4 addresses under certain conditions, it is increasingly difficult to propose sustained development based on IPv4. With the exception of AFRINIC, the African RIR, the remaining registries have very limited numbers of IPv4 addresses, as does the Central Registry (operated by the IANA) which receives the IPv4 address blocks that have been recovered to be redistributed equally among the five geographical regions into which the Internet world is divided. This situation will necessarily result in higher levels of IPv6 adoption.

In the specific case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the largest percentage of LACNIC’s IPv6 assignments have been made to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Local Internet Registries (LIRs), which places the region in second place (after Europe). As to assignments to organizations that do not resell their services to other parties (i.e., in this context, those considered end users), our region is only ahead of Africa. Despite these numbers, LACNIC has the highest percentage of users with IPv4 and IPv6 address blocks.

The fact that most Latin American and Caribbean IPv6 prefix holders are LIRs/ISPs seems to indicate that the region is currently enjoying conditions that will favor significant growth in the use of this protocol. Brazil is by far the leader in terms of total assignments, followed far behind by Argentina; Colombia, Mexico and Chile are following their steps, though they are still a bit further behind.

However, the effort to achieve large-scale IPv6 integration in the existing Internet infrastructure cannot depend solely on the Internet number community. It is vital for all stakeholders including governments, civil society, network operators, and application and content developers, among others, to become involved in the process.

The Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the global coordination of the unique identifiers related to the Internet and for ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation. By design, it includes the participation of the various stakeholders involved and interested in Internet development. In this scenario, the Address Supporting Organization (ASO) is the number community’s only representation.

At the moment, I am serving as Latin American and Caribbean representative to the ASO’s Address Council (AC). Although our primary responsibility lies in the development of global policies that guide the work between the central registry and the RIRs, during the past several ICANN meetings, taking advantage of the audience’s multistakeholder nature, we have prepared and taught tutorials on IPv6. Likewise, we have also set up working sessions with different stakeholders to provide visibility to the number community. The first 2015 annual ICANN meeting will be held next month in Singapore. Fortunately, the second meeting will be held in Buenos Aires during the month of June and should provide a new opportunity to promote IPv6 adoption within our region.

In the case of IPv6, the Latin American and Caribbean region is in a favorable position to participate in this global Internet change. We must rely on our strengths and capabilities, achieve results, and not waste any time waiting for guidance from more developed countries on how to move forward, otherwise we may once again be left behind and unable to implement the protocol properly.

*Representative of the Latin America and Caribbean region to the ASO Address Council (AC)