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Home | IPv6 | Tata Communications, IP Transition
  Yves Poppe, Director of Tata Communications
  Yves Poppe, Director of
Tata Communications

IP Transition

Yves Poppe, Director, Business Development IP Strategy,
Tata Communications talks to Intercomms about the impact of IPv6

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Yves Poppe has spent his more than 35 years career in data communications. Representing Teleglobe on the Canarie (Canadian R&E network) Policy Board, Yves supported the early deployment of high speed intercontinental R&E connections and the early IPv6 efforts including the creation of 6TAP in Chicago. He represents the Corporation at the IPv6 Forum and is steering committee member of the North American IPv6 taskforce (NAV6TF.)

VSNL international, part of the Tata Group acquired Teleglobe in February 2006 and since February 2008 the Company operates under the name Tata Communications.

Q: Why is this taking so long?
A: It is sometimes useful to go back a little bit in history to see why we are in this predicament. The internet is not that old. It really started its exponential growth phase about 1995. The beginnings of the IPng (IP next generation) which became the IPv6 story also started around that time. The first time I heard about IPv6 was on the Technical Advisory Board of Canarie, Canada’s research and education network, discussing what became the IPv6 Transit Access Point in Chicago, which was jointly funded by the Canadian government and the Department of Energy in the US. From there came the idea that we at Teleglobe, now Tata Communications, could benefit from a headstart in IPv6 and we became founding member of the IPv6 Forum, publishing and announcing our plans in March 2000. With the recession in 2001, these plans were shelved as we all know, the business case for IPv6 was not too obvious. Tata Communications operates an international, Tier 1 network. We are a global carriers’ carrier network with nodes spanning four continents. National and regional networks connect to our global backbone. In a core network, IPv6 adoption dynamics is different than for networks servicing end-users where you have large amounts of customer premise equipment to upgrade.

Q: When did the realisation that IPv6 must be adopted really sink in?
A: Things started to change around 2005-6. Then, all of a sudden the awareness of rapid address depletion became more acute. At about the same time the US the Departments of Defense and Commerce started to mandate the deployment of IPv6, the European Union increased funding for IPv6 related activities through the 5th Framework project while in Asia, Japan was always considered to be at the technological front line. The IPv6 Forum has had a major role in promoting IPv6 and in recent years, the Regional Internet Registries have joined in the effort. They started to give worldwide IPv6 training quite extensively, so the awareness and experience of IPv6 has really increased over the last three years.

Q: Is the transition issue becoming more acute?
A: A new phenomenon which is increasing pressure on IPv4 is the explosion of the mobile Internet. The Mobile Internet vision was epitomised by the birth of the iPhone. Now there is Google with Android and the Open Handset Alliance, Nokia has put Symbian on the open market with the Symbian Foundation and Microsoft has Windows Mobile. RIM is enhancing internet features for the Blackberry and the Linux open software set up the LiMo Foundation. Everyone seems to agree that the next expansion phase of the Internet and related revenue opportunities are with mobile devices and services. They consume enormous amounts of IP addresses. We reached four billion cell phones in December 2008. That by itself would consume all IPv4 address if they all got online.

Q: Is industry acting in time?
A: There are quite a number of networks that have not done anything. The logic of the procrastinators is to assume manufacturers will be ready with their equipment and will upgrade when the pressure really builds up. That is a risk because the longer you wait, the shorter the time you will have to upgrade and then you have the risk of peaks in Capex if you have to upgrade quickly. For us, IPv6 functionality is part of the regular upgrade cycle of our equipment and our network is now completely dual stacked with IPv4 and IPv6. If you are ready and offer both, you are not as vulnerable to the speed of transition from v4 to v6. You have some procrastinators but a growing number of Internet Service Providers are more or less ready. If you look at it from the core of the internet, the degree of readiness is really accelerating and I see that with our customers. Our global carrier network will have around 500 other networks connected to it and I see an increasing proportion of them going to dual stack. There is however, a more difficult issue at the end user level if you are a cable company and you have set top boxes or cable modems or a voice company offering ADSL, then it is more of an investment to upgrade these boxes. There you have work round mechanisms using tunnels to reduce a peak in upgrade costs and it will take some time, if you look at the application level, operating systems like Windows XP and Vista or Apple OS already support IPv6.

Q: What new applications will be opened up by IPv6?
A: One of the most promising markets to invest your venture capital money could be geo-location services. You need to know two things; who you are and where you are. IPv6 addresses are very long and could provide both sets of information within the same address. This is promising huge revenues to all kinds of people including Google which will tell you for example, the nearest bar serving a decent single malt or the closest gas station.

Q: Is this all that important really?
A: In our little techie sphere, we think that IPv6 is the most important thing in the world but in fact, no-one really cares about IPv6. After all, most of humanity doesn’t know we are working in IPv4 today. It is the application that is important. As soon as some of the revenue streams are threatened or new ones seem to offer some promise, people will adapt. Of course some companies could disappear in the process and new ones will grow out of nowhere as there is simply too much money at stake with the whole world economy being so Internet and communication dependent.

IPv6’s importance, in my opinion all flows from the fact that it solves the address shortage. If you are mobile, there has to be a one-to-one correlation between your cell phone number and you and where you are. If you share a phone number with a lot of people, I would never find you And it is the same with IP addresses. There has to be one-to-one correlation between IP addresses and individuals. IPv6 makes it easier to roam and you get better spectrum utilisation. Other aspects which are often given as an advantage of IPv6 is better security because of the mandatory support of IPSEC but if you don’t activate it, it won’t protect you very much. Another aspect of more permanent and abundant addresses is the whole configuration issue. There is battle to have media control in your home, which will help ultimately control all your electronic devices, including your cooker and your alarm systems. Obviously if you buy a new Blu-ray DVD, you don’t want to have to reconfigure IP addresses, so it has to be plug and play.

In a nomadic world, you have a whole set of arguments where IPv6 will make it much easier to roam because you don’t have the home address and foreign address issues you have in IPv4. That is based on the fact that you can say who you are and where you are all at once.

Q: Do you think some of the privacy issues that will arise from that will endure?
A: Some people will complain about loss of privacy. That was already the case with Caller ID when this was introduced some time ago. And today, no-one complains any more. In an IPv6 world, the same would happen. If you want to track goods or communicate with people on the move from origin to destination, you have to have addresses to identify and locate. These are some of the domains where the growth of the internet will continue and where the IPv6 addresses will play a most valuable but to the end-user an invisible role.

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