NZ government failing on IPv6 migration

While other governments are leading the charge to upgrade IP networks, New Zealand is stuck in the slow lane.

Frank March, a specialist advisor in the digital development group at Ministry of Economic Development and a member of the IPv6 Steering Group, says when it comes to the adoption of a new Internet Protocol, government is a tough nut to crack.

In print today: The new internet - New Zealand moves slowly to address internet protocol upgrade

"You have yet to hear a government minister say anything about IPv6," March says. He believes someone will speak out when the issue becomes "sexy enough".

IPv6 will eventually replace the current IPv4 protocol, delivering many more IP addresses that can be used for multiple future applications, and to attach devices and appliances to the internet. Currently, IP addresses are projected to run out in 2011 -- and some warn it could come earlier.

However, none of the New Zealand government's internet presences are IPv6 enabled, bar the academic KAREN network.

That is in contrast to activity in the US, where the government is making IPv6 a top priority.

March says the MED's approach to IPv6 is based on the OECD paper from June last year, which said IPv6 is basically an industry issue. The paper suggested that government intervention should take three forms, with government getting its own house in order the first of these.

Second, the government should work to raise awareness of the issue by ensuring that ministers and officials speak out about it. Government agencies should work with others to adopt it, March says.

Finally, the government should ensure there are adequate numbers of trained network engineers to ensure that there are no impediments to its adoption.

So far KAREN's adoption of IPv6 is a lonely example of progress, March says.

Being ready for IPv6 is "imperative if you want to reach all of the internet", says InternetNZ executive director Keith Davidson. Pockets of "IPv6 only" internet are emerging, Davidson says, especially in populous countries such China and India, and IPv4 networks cannot directly reach these.

Davidson says it is a hard sell to get commitment to migrate.

"There is some awareness that IPv4 is running out, but if you have adequate IPv4 space, there is not any particularly compelling reason to change," he says.

What makes it a tough proposition, according to Davidson, is that it's one of those issues for CIOs and CTOs.

"There is increasing pressure to not spend money and IPv6 deployment has real costs, and no tangible resulting increases in revenue," he says.

Also, New Zealand's legacy of under-investment in network infrastructure may be coming back to bite us.

"I guess, for New Zealand, IPv6 is maybe not as much a priority as getting useful broadband everywhere," Davidson says.

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