Africa ready for new Internet address regime

Monday March 14 2011

Scrolling through functions of a smart phone. Photo/REUTERS

Scrolling through functions of a smart phone. Photo/REUTERS 


The emergence and proliferation of Internet-enabled mobile phones, e-readers and other connected devices has spurred fresh demand for a new Internet addresses protocol and depletion of the current Internet address regime.

In February, the Number Resource Organisation (NRO), the consortium of the world’s regional Internet registries, announced that the pool of free Internet protocol version 4 (IPv4), the current Internet address regime, is empty.

The announcement followed the allocation of two blocks of IPv4 addresses to APNIC, the regional Internet registry (RIR) for the Asia Pacific region, which triggered the allocation of the remaining five blocks equally between the five regional Internet registries by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

The five regional Internet registries (RIRs) are Africa’s AfriNIC; Asia Pacific’s APNIC; ARIN which represents Canada, Caribbean and North Atlantic islands as well as the United States; LACNIC for Latin America and the Caribbean and RIPE NCC for Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia. 

The five regional Internet registries that make up the NRO are non-profit membership organisations that support the infrastructure of the Internet through technical coordination while IANA allocates blocks of IP addresses and ASNs, known collectively as Internet number resources, to the RIRs, who then distribute them to users within their own specific service regions.

Organisations that receive resources directly from regional Internet registries include Internet service providers (ISPs), telecommunications organisations, large corporations, governments, academic institutions, and industry stakeholders, including end users.


The allocation of the remaining IPv4 address blocks to the global regional Internet registries has further highlighted the need for immediate adoption of the next generation of IP address system, IPv6.

Next generation

“The future of the Internet is in IPv6 and all stakeholders must now take definitive action to deploy IPv6,” stated Raul Echeberria, NRO chair and the official representative of the five RIRs.

IPv6, also referred to as the “next generation” of the IP system, which has been available since 1999, provides an expanded address space, allowing the Internet’s growth into the future.

In anticipation of depletion of IPv4 addresses, Internet registries have been working with network operators at the local, regional and global level to offer training and advice on IPv6 adoption and ensure that everyone is prepared for the exhaustion of IPv4.

The depletion of the IPv4 address space has also acted as a wake up call to industry players as well as those behind various ICT-related continental initiatives.

Sophia Bekele, DotConnectAfrica (DCA) executive director, the organisation which aims to implement the “.africa” Internet domain, said that “.africa” is fully IPv6 compliant.

“Toward the end of 2010, there were announcements from ICANN and IANA warning the entire world and more importantly, the ICT fraternity of an impending depletion of the IPv4 address pool in February,” said Bekele.

“It’s paramount to say that ‘.africa’ being among the latest top level Internet domains being routed for registration, could not come at a better time when the world has adequately prepared for over a decade for IPV6,” said Gideon Rop, a DCA contributor, adding: “This means that it is fully compliant by default since the registries that take up the domain pool will have equipped their systems adequately with servers that are IPV6 ready.”

“Allocation of the last pool of IPv4 addresses means African governments must fast track adoption of IPv6 since the Africa RIR will run out of IPv4 in just three to four years. Most African nations are emerging Internet economies hence the increased addressing space made available by the adoption of IPv6 is good news for Africa,” said Samuel Ochanji, DCA project coordinator.

Ochanji said that IPv6 would “satisfy the need to accommodate more networked devices thereby catering for the massive growth of mobile web in Africa.”

However, Ms Bekele noted that Africa needs to build capacity as relates to investments needed in switching to IPv6.

This would have major financial  implications for governments and businesses across the continent.