August 12, 2010 By Indrajit Basu, International Correspondent
India -- a country where just one IP address is shared by as many as 10 Internet users -- isn't yet IPv6-enabled. Still, while its Asian peers have long started migrating to the new generation Internet Protocol, it seems that India is suddenly waking up to the inevitability of IPv6, and is rushing to catch up with the rest of the world.
Late last month the Indian government finally released a detailed roadmap for IPv6 migration. The roadmap has not only set a tight deadline for migration by the government and its departments, but is also trying to partner with the service providers in the country's IPv6 migration pursuits.
"The government and its departments are very big users of IT products and services," says RM Agarwal, the deputy director general of India's Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC), "as E-services are increasingly gaining importance for governments to connect with people." TEC is the technical arm of the India's Department of Telecom (DoT) that released this National IPv6 Deployment Roadmap for implementation by "all stakeholders" including the federal and state government departments.
"What is important to note here," said Agarwal "is that while the government has to give IPv6 migration the initial push, it is completely dependent on the large Internet service providers. Until this sector starts offering IPv6 services the government cannot migrate to IPv6."
Agarwal says that although the government doesn't really fear the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses anytime soon, "and neither does it fear a shutdown of its services when IPv4 addresses does get exhausted," in a scenario of depleting IPv4 addresses, "a larger pool of addresses has already become necessary for India to ensure that government departments are not limited in the rollout of increasingly innovative and citizen-centric services."
Agarwal said that with the initiation of 3G services and Net-enabled devices that will follow, he forsees a looming shortage of IP addresses by August of 2012. "The DoT feels that ICT use would be severely restricted if the country's networks are not fully IPv6-enabled by then."
Consequently the compliance deadline is tight. For instance, the DoT hopes to complete all decision-making processes, policy developments, business plans, equipment selection, designing networks, etc, by March 2011, and launch the basic IPv6 services by March 2012.
"That's an ambitious target, considering that barring one or two service providers, India has hardly any IPv6 adoption," said Amitabh Singhal, ex-director general of the Internet Service Provider Association of India, and now a telecom consultant. "But even if India fails to meet the deadline -- given that the current Indian Internet user population is not expected to leapfrog in the next two years -- I do not think networks will start shutting down."
In 2009, India had 18 million IPv4 addresses, with less than 0.018 IP address per Indian citizen. In comparison, the U.S. has the largest chunk of
IPv4 addresses extending 5.3 IP address per U.S. citizen. China too, commands a large chunk of IPv4 addresses although it is still 0.15 addresses per capita.
China started migrating to IPv6 in 2006 with the creation of the China Next Generation Internet (CNGI). CNGI was conceptualized to become the nationwide backbone to integrate all services in China for fixed, mobile, GRID and Research. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China also managed to showcase its IPv6 capabilities. Reports say that the country now possesses the largest IPv6 network.
India's other Asian peers, like Taiwan and South Korea, were also well ahead. Taiwan's e-Taiwan initiative for instance ensured that the government networks were ready to use IPv6 by 2007 and by 2008, six million broadband users were already using IPv6.
South Korea's IPv6 commenced in February 2001