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Is IPv6 Wrestling Within an Unpredictable Telecommunications Industry?

The theme of the 40th International Institute of Communications (IIC) conference in Montreal this week was “Wrestling with unpredictability in Global Communications”. The panel I had the pleasure to be part of was under the motto : “Broadband futures”. One of the questions addressed to me : Should we be concerned about a shortage of IP addresses as more people use broadband networks for more things? My answer was predictable, at least to me.

A more fundamental question we all wrestle with however is to qualify and quantify the broadband evolution over a five year horizon. We find two major schools of thought: one sees complete mobile or at least wireless dominance, the other a happy coexistence between mobile and Fibre To The Home or somewhere near. All seem to agree on video dominance in the consumption of bandwidth and on traffic projections growing exponentially over the next five years. The updated Cisco VNI study unveiled at Supercomm last week and presented also at IIC abounds in the same direction. Their projections show hyperconnectivity and 56 exabytes per month sloshing through the internet by 2013 including around 2.2 exabytes of mobile internet and the zettabyte era in sight.

The Arbor presentation at the NANOG meeting in Dearborn provided another interesting set of facts to consider when pondering the future: the growing concentration of the content, applications and internet transport and the blurring between ISP’s, CDN’s, content and application providers, giving birth to hypergiants. Out of around 35000 networks, 150 of them now amount for more than 50 % of the internet traffic and companies such as Google and Comcast, absent in the 2007 top 10, are now part of them.

The phenomenal growth of mobile data now has some major cellular networks bursting at the seams and is leading to a major surge in investments. The latest GSM data (8) shows that 42 carriers in 21 countries are now committed to LTE deployment, up 35% from six months ago. Better to keep things in perspective and a degree of vigilance however, as illustrated by the disappointment of the latest quarter of 3G penetration and iPhones sales in China (9). A reminder of the unhappy relationship between forecasts and unpredictability.

No wonder that predicting the speed of transition to IPv6 remains a divinatory art even if it is predictable that we are about to run out of IPv4 addresses.

By Yves Poppe, Director, Business Development IP Strategy at Tata Communications

(Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these articles are solely those of the author and are not in any way attributable to nor reflect any existing or planned official policy or position of his employer in respect thereto.)

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