Nº 5 2013 > Highlights from WPTF‑13 Opinions

Adoption of IPv6 and transition from IPv4

What ITU is doing

Adoption of IPv6 and transition from IPv4

ITU has taken action, in various forums, to encourage the transition from Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to version 6 (IPv6). ITU Plenipotentiary Resolution 180 adopted in 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico, urges efforts to facilitate the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. More recently, the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA‑12), held in Dubai in November 2012, revised Resolution 64 instructing the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) to work in close collaboration with the Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) in regard to IP address allocation and in facilitating the transition to, and deployment of, IPv6.

In particular, the resolution calls for the two Directors to continue the ongoing activities between their Bureaux, involving partners that would offer expertise to assist developing countries with IPv6 migration and deployment. The aim is to respond to the regional needs identified by BDT, especially through capacity-building programmes. The Directors will also provide information (including road maps and guidelines) to assist in establishing IPv6 test-bed laboratories in developing countries.

Finally, WTSA Resolution 64 instructs the Director of TSB to take appropriate action to facilitate the activities of Study Groups 2 and 3 of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector in the area of IP addresses, and to report annually to the ITU Council as well as to WTSA 2016.

WTPF‑13 Opinion 4

These and other efforts under way elsewhere to raise awareness on the importance of IPv6 adoption, and the need to mitigate the negative consequences of IPv4 address exhaustion on operators, particularly in the developing world were considered by the World Telecommunication and Information and Communication Technology Policy Forum (WTPF‑13), which met in Geneva on 14–16 May 2013. Its Working Group 2 discussed “Draft Opinion 4: In Support of IPv6 Adoption and transition from IPv4”.

This Opinion recognizes that because IPv6 was designed without backward compatibility, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 essentially requires a dual-stack phase, during which hosts operate with both protocol stacks concurrently, using the IPv6 protocol stack to speak to other IPv6 hosts and the IPv4 protocol stack to speak to other IPv4 hosts. The availability (or lack thereof) of IPv4 addresses will be an important factor during the whole transition period, which now seems likely to be of indefinite length.

Meanwhile, new entrant Internet service providers will continue to require access to IPv4 addresses so the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) have developed policies for distributing the final blocks of IPv4 addresses in such a way as to ensure, for the foreseeable future, that new and emerging networks will be able to obtain a small amount of IPv4.

Opinion 4 also recognizes that large blocks of IPv4 address space were allocated to individual companies and organizations prior to the establishment of the RIRs and the status of some legacy address space is unclear. A growing market has developed in the transfer of IPv4 addresses between entities, and most transferred addresses are from legacy allocations that are not subject to the policies of the RIRs.

During the discussion in Working Group 2, the United States and the Internet Society (ISOC) highlighted the wording already in the draft Opinion supporting the multistakeholder system of IP number allocation and management centred on the five RIRs, and inviting governments to contribute to the policy process of these registries.

While expressing support for Opinion 4, as drafted by the WTPF‑13 Informal Experts Group, the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) on behalf of all RIRs, clarified some specific points of the text, particularly in regard to new entrants to the Internet industry, “legacy” IPv4 address space and IP address transfers. Working Group 2 then endorsed Opinion 4 unaltered and submitted it to the plenary of the Forum, which also reached consensus making no change to the text.

Gist of Opinion 4

WTPF‑13 took the view that every effort should be made to encourage and facilitate the transition to IPv6, as well as to ensure the optimal use of IPv4 addresses, including legacy addresses, through inter-region transfers. Plans and policies should continue to be put in place to ensure that Internet service providers newly entering the market have access to a reasonable block of IPv4 addresses.

IP addresses — whether IPv6 or IPv4 — should be allocated on the basis of need. All IPv4 transactions should continue to be reported to the relevant RIRs, and plans and policies should be put in place to cover legacy addresses that may not be subject to current policies of RIRs. In the light of these views, WTPF‑13 invited Member States to encourage, facilitate and support the fastest possible migration to IPv6. The ITU membership is also invited to promote affordable IPv6-compliant products and services as quickly as possible.

Member States are invited to contribute to the Council Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues on matters pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including addresses. Member States and other stakeholders, according to their roles and responsibilities as defined in paragraph 35 of the Tunis Agenda, are invited to participate in the multistakeholder institutions directly responsible for the development of technical policy and allocation of these resources so that their policy priorities in these matters can be taken into account.


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