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IPv6: Benefits and best practices of public policies

“Lack of IPv4 addresses is threatening the future of the Internet, however, IPv6 delivers the long-term remedy. Our study explains how and what actions policy makers are taking in order to increase its penetration.” 

IP protocol is one of the main building blocks of the Internet by enabling communication between all kinds of connected devices. The most common type of IP protocol in today’s networks, IPv4, limits the number of unique IP addresses to 4.3 billion. However, the number of connected IoT devices alone is estimated to surpass 30.9 billion by 2025. So far, interim solutions allowed to cope with the shortage in addresses, but they are suboptimal and the lack of a long term solution threatens the growth of the Internet ecosystem and digital economy, as well as obstructing innovation. IPv6 protocol was developed as a successor to IPv4, increasing the number of unique addresses available to 2128 (equivalent to 100 addresses for every atom on the surface of the Earth), and therefore providing an effective means to support the sustainable expansion of the Internet.

Along with the increased address space, there are myriad other advantages that are offered by IPv6, including enhanced performance and efficiency, simplified networks, and improvements in security as well as quality-of-service. Thanks to these advancements for networks, IPv6 enables the development of emerging technologies such as IoT, Cloud Computing, Blockchain or SRv6, and new business models such as smart cities, smart homes or unmanned industries. Additionally, IPv6 can help reduce carbon footprint by enhanced network management capabilities, reduced bandwidth consumption and longer battery life for IoT devices. Moreover, IPv6 is the foundation for the newest developments in networking being addressed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in its Industry Specification Group for IPv6 Enhanced Innovations (IPE).

In spite of these numerous advantages, global adoption of IPv6 is limited, with around 35% penetration. Further, adoption levels vary significantly between countries, ranging from over 74% in India to below 5% in Italy or Spain. In order to promote transition to IPv6, there are several common initiatives taken by public authorities in countries with high IPv6 adoption rates.

In this study, we analyse the developments that have led to the shortage of IPv4 addresses and breakthrough of IPv6, deep diving into technical, economic and social benefits that are offered by IPv6 deployment with real-world case studies and country-level benchmarks. The study identifies the main challenges hindering IPv6 adoption and the most effective actions taken by public authorities in reference countries to promote higher penetration levels. Based on our analysis, we provide a set of recommendations for policy makers to promote the adoption of IPv6 and unlock the potential of emerging technologies.