African operators will play a lead role in testing mobile services during World IPv6 Day tests as service and content providers make sure they are ready to deal with the recent explosion of mobile devices on the continent.
GSM companies have become the largest ISPs and content carriers in Africa, boosted by the range of online content accessible via mobile gadgets. Safaricom, Orange Mali, MTN Business, Telkom SA, Neology, Sudatel, and Sonatel are among the networks that have IPv6 visible to users.
"Content providers will ensure that they are able to provide end-to-end IPv6 services for subscribers to reach the IPv6 content that will be made available on the WIPv6 Day," said Michuki Mwangi, senior education manager at the Internet Society (ISOC), which is leading WIPv6 day efforts in the continent.
Only Safaricom and MTN business, however, have confirmed that IPv6 will be enabled on their core backbone networks.
Major global content providers such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Cisco are making content accessible by IPv6 for one day for a "24-hr IPv6 test flight," mainly to establish how the networks will perform when all content will be available only on IPv6.
"Safaricom has an IPv6-ready core and will be testing services for the networks that will have switched their websites to IPv6," said Nzioka Waita, Safaricom Corporate Affairs Director. "We can easily optimize our enterprise customer infrastructure to attain IPv6 compliance. The demand for this, is however, still low although we expect it to pick up."
Apart from mobile service providers, country code Top Level Domain registries will be providing services on IPv6 as well on Internet exchange points. However, the nature of the architecture for some of the ccTLDs, many of which are in transition from manual to automated operations, is likely to prevent IPv6 from being visible on some exchange points.
"A number of Internet exchange points have IPv6 in operation; however due to the nature of the architecture the statistics website would show that they are not visible," added Mwangi. "Some of the IXPs that have IPv6 services available include Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP), Johannesburg Internet Exchange Point (JINX), Uganda Internet Exchange Point (UIXP), and Tanzania Internet Exchange (TIX)."
Africa was expected to take up IPv6 at a faster pace mainly because there are no legacy systems. So far however, the speed of the takeup has fallen shot of expectations. For example South Africa is considered more developed in technology but out of about 160 ISP Association members in the country, only eight are classified as fully IPv6 compliant, said Ant Brooks, the ISPA's general manager.
Nine more are at "mostly ready, some work to do," said Brooks, adding that most ISPs "are stuck on 'Not ready, dependent on upstream provided'."
South Africa's ccTLD registry (.za) is leading in IPv6 preparedness. An ongoing project is pushing to have second-level domains such as co.za, org.za and net.za operating in a single centralized registry platform, which will enable the ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) to enforce full IPv6 compliance.
"The .za name space is at 97 percent IPv6 ready and the remaining three percent will be complete when the project is finalized; for the ZA root, four of the five name servers are IPv6 compliant," said Vika Mpisane, ZADNA general manager.
Out of all IPv6 allocations made by the Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC), 20 percent are visible to users on the internet. ISOC's Mwangi said more effort needs to be taken to have more companies take up and extend IPv6 services to end users.