IPv6: The First Steps

Posted by Nishant Shah at Jun 05, 2012 07:18 AM |
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The Centre for Internet & Society has entered into a small collaboration with Tata Telecommunications in India to celebrate the IPv6 day on June 6th. We will write 5500 word vignettes, which will be sent to their global database consisting of more than 900,000 users in the Asia-Pacific.

It is commonplace to interchange the words Internet and Cyberspace. However, we should make a distinction between the two.  Cyberspace is an experiential phenomenon, supported by the Internet but smaller. It refers to the actions, transactions, negotiations performed within the digital network.

The Internet is a protocol – a set of rules that allows for a digitally connected network of databases to interact with each other. This happens through a standard set of commonly accepted rules, Internet Protocol version 4 – IPv4. IPv4 allows differently configured networks, working on different platforms, and designed through different technologies to communicate effectively by agreeing on a bare minimum of universally accepted codes for data to navigate cyberspace with the least bit of effort.

IPv4 was defined in 1981, when there were few computers in the world with even fewer connected to networks. It was the protocol that assigned a computer on the Internet, with an IP address, the unique name of a connected device which can be recognised by digital networks. Packets of data transmitted over the Internet need an unique IP address associated to their origin and destination, so that information can travel smoothly.  IPv4 was developed so that 4,294,967,296 (2^32) unique IP addresses could be accommodated within the network. When it was designed, it looked like an almost infinite system. No one had ever imagined that the World Wide Web would emerge so quickly! We have reached a point now, where the last free IP addresses have been allotted in February of 2012, and we are now reaching a ‘real-estate’ crisis on the Internet.

Since every device with Internet connectivity has a unique IP address – computers, servers, tablets, smart-phones, e-book readers and even alarm clocks – we need a lot more IP addresses.  IPv6 – or Internet Protocol version 6 – is a new standard by which we are now going to expand the ‘land’ upon which the Internet can grow. IPv6 is an overhaul of the existing system which will be able to handle 340 undecillion (2^128) unique addresses. Leading global Internet Service Providers and technology companies like Tata Communications have recognised this as the need of the hour since increasingly we are living in digital information societies. However, IPv6 is going to have a range of serious implications for our hardware and software needs as well as our usage patterns and how the Internet is going to expand in the future.

This communique is brought to you by Tata Communications and the Centre for Internet and Society.

If you would like any further information on IPv6 at Tata Communications, please reach out to: [email protected] or write to Nishant Shah, Director-Research at the Bangalore based Centre for Internet and Society.

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