Nigeria Risks Internet Shutdown

Unless urgent infrastructural and devices upgrades are carried out soonest, the country’s internet space may be shut down denying Nigerians access to the information superhighway because her Internet protocol (IP) is legacy.

In simple words, the internet protocol 4 (IPv4) on which most connectivity in Nigeria are channeled through is on the verge of extinction.

The Internet Protocol (IP), according to experts, is the principal communications modus operandi in the Internet protocol suite for relaying datagram across network circuits. Its routing function enables internetworking, and essentially establishes the Internet.

internet

IP, as the primary protocol, Wikipedia writes, in the Internet layer of the Internet protocol suite, has the task of delivering packets from the source host to the destination host solely based on the IP addresses.

Engineer Otunte Otueneh, chapter officer, Internet Society Nigeria Chapter, told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek during that the IPv4 is almost finished, warning that, “by the time the IPv4 finishes most PC cannot be connected to the internet”.

Otueneh, who spoke at the sidelines of the IPV6 roundtable organised by DigitalSENSE Africa Media said that “we need to create awareness to tell Nigerians especially that version 4 is almost finished and we need to move on to the new version”

The exhaustion of the IPv4 pool and the inevitable transition to IPv6 has been the talk of many national and international meetings, particularly during a Sociétés de l’Information dedicated to the AfNOG, AfriNIC and INET meetings held in Abuja at the beginning of May 2007.

With IPv4 exhaustion looming and IPv6 taking a slow start, debate heated up at the conference.

According to Alain Patrick Aina, special project manager for AfriNIC, the company in-charge of internet protocol in Africa, stresses the total expiration could be extremely rapid, depending on the rates of consumption.

In Abuja, Bill Woodcock, Board member of ARIN, the North American Regional Internet Registry (RIR), warned that RIRs should get rid of old ways of thinking and start planning their next step.
AfriNic managing the end of IPv4eith less than 1% of the distributed IPv4 address space, AfriNIC is by far the smallest RIR. However, it has anticipated the end of IPv4 at an early stage.

It is foreseen that its current IP address space will run out in no distant time. Two last requests for further allocations to IANA, the global pool’s steward, should allow delaying IPv4’s regional exhaustion until April 2014.

Nevertheless, if IPv4 consumption rate accelerates critically before AfriNIC is able to justify its last request, there could be a major concern to ensure a smooth transition before IPV6 is fully implemented.

Otueneh continued, “It is unimaginable when the version 6 will finish. Now, we need to create awareness to tell Nigerians especially that version 4 is almost finished and we need to move on to the new version. Communication providers and end users have to be aware of this, if not they risk losing connectivity because the version they are using is on brick of extinction.

“Original Equipment manufacturers while manufacturing their equipment or devices they have to make sure that the technologies are IPv6 enabled. And the end user has to be wise enough that while you are going to shop you should request for IPv6 enables device. The problem will start when someone with internet protocol version 4 approaches an internet service provider that runs on IPv6, there will not be compatibility; at the end the user will lack connection to the internet”. He added

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek search further revealed that IPv6 and IPv4 are two completely separate protocols and IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4.

IPv4 hosts and routers will not be able to deal directly with IPv6 traffic and vice versa, unfortunately,  there will be extreme difficulties with address allocation and routing if the Internet is to continue be run indefinitely using IPv4 and it is impossible to switch the entire Internet over to IPv6 overnight.

Asked when IPv4 will be exhausted, Otueneh said that developed countries have started implementing IPv6, “but we are yet to do that in Nigeria. Meanwhile, we have a very minimal time. Very soon, AfriNIC may stop allocating version 4, because they told us that it is almost out. So, if there are a lot of demands for IP addresses today, it can get exhausted today”.

In his contribution, Benedict Othello, head, Information Systems, Phase 3 Telecoms, said that, “it is like being warned there is going to be flood, the question is: how do I get prepared so not to be affected or survive it”.

On the implication on mobile phone market in the country, he said, “before the danger loaming takes place, we are creating awareness. It is a two way thing. The service provider will be on version 6, the smartphones should be version 6 enabled. When that happens, they will flow seamlessly.

“Now, those on IPv4 platform cannot be accommodated by the service providers at a point. For instance if telecom operators in Nigeria roll out Sim cards and fail to expand their modules for more subscribers it will affect their businesses.  It is all about upgrading to that new version to accommodate more customers”.

Otueneh said that some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are already taking cover for the rainy days.

“Some of the laptops in circulation are already running on version 6. One can use the networking interface card to check the version of a particular device. OEMs have stated manufacturing internet protocol version 6 enabled equipments,” he observed.

He urged the government, especially the telecom regulators to compel service providers to brazen up for IPv6 migration.

“We need to proactive by training our technical personnel so that when the time comes, we will not lack qualified or competent people to handle that; if not we are creating room for expatriates to flood the IT environment which is indirectly creating channels for capital flight. But if we are ready now, at a time we shall be exporting the technical personnel, because it will take people by surprise,” he added.

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