Upgrade will give us a tech edge

Updated: Nov 14 2005, 05:56am hrs
The past decade established the information revolution as something significantly more than just a catch phrase capturing engineering achievements. Information technologies penetrate every aspect of life from work to education and entertainment due to their ever increasing capabilities. The internet is amongst the great equalisers of the next century, creating enormous opportunities for people and countries that succeed in harnessing the power of information and knowledge.

The Indian government recognises that and put in place a National Broadband Policy to accelerate internet and broadband adoption. It is mandatory to put in place a transition plan to IPv6. Currently, the existing technology of IPv4 imposes significant constraints on the adoption and growth of the internet. It uses 32 bits addresses. The fast adoption of IP and the advent of internet accelerated the address consumption. Increased demand of always on connectivity through broadband access reduces the ability to reuse IP addresses.

Models predict that at the current rate, this resource could be exhausted from a practical perspective within a decade. IPv6 represents an upgrade, an evolution that offers the resources necessary for deeper and wider market penetration of IP technologies that are transforming the world. IPv6 uses 128 bits addresses, which allows a capacity of multiples of trillion IP addresses. Other IPv6 benefits include, simplified header format for efficient packet handling, hierarchical network architecture for routing efficiency, enhanced support for mobile IP and mobile computing devices, etc.

These benefits have the potential to stimulate economic revolutions. An internet upgrade is an opportunity to gain technological edge and develop IT expertise. Countries that trailed the US into the information revolution recognise this opportunity to take a leading role in its next expansion phase and have developed national strategies to help better position their respective economies. For example, Japan was the first country to put in place a National Strategy for adoption of IPv6 in 2000. Even, China announced a National Strategy last year for promotion and adoption of IPv6.

Skeptics will say that India currently has around 0.7 million subscribers, well short of the 3 million broadband users target set by the government for end 2005. Lets flip this and consider the fact that there were only 0.1 million broadband subscribers a year and a half back. Most of the subscribers have been added in the last 10 months. This growth will only get accelerated further as a result of more service providers launching broadband services and driving down tariffs, among other growth drivers.

Like the mobile revolution, broadband is expected to follow a similar growth curve in the years to come. The technology holds tremendous possibilities such as distance learning, telemedicine and information-based services. All of these will result in a huge demand for IP addresses in the next few years.

With that in mind, its important for the government to put in place a migration plan to IPv6. The need and reasons to pursue an upgrade of the IP protocol and the internet are as much technical as they are economical. The inclusion of IPv6 as a significant element of a larger National Strategy on IT is of critical importance. IPv6 is expected to gradually replace IPv4, with the two coexisting for a number of years during a transition period. In this sense, the technology upgrade has the potential of revolutionising the world of IP-based services.

The writer is head, service providers and government, Cisco Systems