In Summary
  • First and foremost, rest assured that the internet will continue functioning after this final block of addresses is depleted.
  • April 3 of last month was Africa’s turn to enter this last lap in as far as depleting the available pool of IP version 4 Internet resources is concerned.

  • There must be deliberate and concerted effort at national level to ensure that both private and public sector organisations transition to the new internet platform.

Five weeks ago, on April 3, something significant took place quietly across the African continent. 

The pool of unique numbers required to connect every device to the Internet entered its exhaustion phase. This means the last block of these unique numbers, known as Internet Protocol Numbers (IP Numbers) had begun to be distributed to telecommunications operators and ISPs across the continent.

Afrinic, the body charged with managing and distributing these IP numbers in Africa was the last of the five bodies mandated by ICANN to enter this exhaustion phase. So what does all this mean for Africa and for Kenya in particular?

First and foremost, rest assured that the Internet will continue functioning after this final block of addresses is depleted.

This is because the next generation platform, known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), developed 20 years ago, has been waiting to take over whenever IPv4 gets exhausted.

Case studies exist across the globe, since this exhaustion moment has been occurring sequentially over the past five years as different continents exhausted their IP version 4 address space.

APNIC, for Asia and the Pacific, was the first one to exhaust its IPv4 number space, followed by ARIN, for the US and Canada, RIPE for Europe and Middle East and more recently LACNIC, for Latin America.

April 3 was Africa’s turn to enter this last lap. This milestone is of global significance because it signals the end of an era the era of IP version 4, the original numbering platform for the Internet since its inception.

ALLOCATED RESTRICTIVELY

In practical terms, the exhaustion period means that organisations and businesses wishing to join the Internet or extend their network infrastructure will get limited IP address space because the remaining numbers will be allocated restrictively.

In another two to three years, depending on consumption rates, Africa and the whole world will no longer have any of the old-generation IPv4 address space to be distributed.

This means current and future organisations and enterprises must begin to adopt and use the next generation Internet protocol platform, IPv6, or be excluded from the Internet economy.

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