A quick look at the extent to which IPv6 has been adopted in the Caribbean, as of February 2017.
Although it does no longer appears to be as topical an issue as it had been five years ago, when the announcement was first made, the pool of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses, used to identify devices on a network, is near exhaustion. This 4-byte (32 bit) format, which is written as, for example, 255.255.255.255, can generate approximately 4.29 billion (4.29 x 10ˆ9) unique addresses. However, thanks to, among other things, the exponential increase in Internet users that has occurred worldwide over the past 25-plus years, plus the increasing number of devices that must be connected, the pool is inadequate to meet all of those demands.
Currently, and with the exception of the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa, all other regional registries have depleted the number pools they had been allocated, as shown in Exhibit 1.
Exhibit 1: Actual and Projected RIR Exhaustion Dates (Source: IPv4 Address Report)
|Regional Internet Registry||Region/Countries Covered||Exhaustion Date|
|Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)||Asia and Pacific||19 April 2011|
|Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)||Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia||12 September 2012|
|Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC)||Latin America & some Caribbean countries||10 June 2014|
|American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)||North America, Antarctica & some Caribbean countries||24 September 2015|
|African Network Information Center (AFRINIC)||Africa||27 June 2018 (projected)|
Well in advance of this exhaustion, a new format was introduced: Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). Unlike the 32 bits of IPv4, IPv6 addresses comprises 128 bits, which means that it can offer an almost limitless supply (approximately 3.4 x 1038) of unique addresses. However, what has been the adoption of IPv6 in the Caribbean?
Exhibit 2: Rate of IPv6 adoption in select Caribbean states as at 27 February 2017 (Source: Akamai)
From Exhibit 2, very few Caribbean countries – only Saint Barthélemy, Suriname, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago, out of the 30 listed – have made any noticeable progress in adopting IPv6. It is also important to highlight that Trinidad and Tobago has been listed third globally, behind Belgium and Greece, with respect to IPv6 adoption.
Having said this and emphasising the fact that in the Caribbean the IPv4 number pool has been exhausted, why hasn’t IPv6 made any inroads as yet? A likely, and most overwhelming, reason might be that IPv4 is still being widely used; hence Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the region are prepared to delay introduction of IPv6 for as long as they can. Further, many organisations might not yet fully understand the IPv6, and accordingly, how to integrate it into their existing systems and processes.
It must be highlighted that IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible and so operate independent of each other. However, although IPv4 is popular, and may be used well into the foreseeable future, its long-term viability is not tenable. Hence although ISPs might be prepared to ‘kick the can down the road’ for as long as possible, when adoption IPv6 becomes critical, there will be no margin for error in the transition.
Image credit: Philip Dehm (flickr)