Thus the move to IPv6 is necessary as it provides an almost unimaginable number of IP addresses — 18 quintillion blocks of 18 quintillion possible addresses.
In addition to allowing for an increasingly connected world, IPv6 will also benefit public safety communications. Latif Ladid, president of the Global IPv6 Forum, said IPv6-enabled devices, such as iPhones, provide better communication interoperability than first responders currently have. Upgrading to the new protocol will allow public safety workers to use LTE directly, enabling the sharing of not only voice communications, but also photos and videos. However, proprietary solutions and legacy systems can halt progress. “We have found that this is an important area that is going to take more decision-making than just the technology itself,” Ladid said.
Although IPv6 was turned on nearly a year ago, design of the standard was done in the 1990s. “It has taken a very long time to get implementations up and running,” Cerf said. Naming a couple obstacles to implementation, Cerf said currently the biggest barrier is getting Internet service providers to turn the capability on. And like all tech implementations, security is another issue – neither IPv6 nor IPv4 protect against denial of service attacks, for example. “Switching from one protocol to the other or running them both in parallel doesn’t solve that problem, which simply means we have many other things to worry about,” Cerf said.
But government can’t afford to wait for issues to be worked out before looking at how to migrate to the new protocol. As Government Technology reported in March, the concern is that once IPv4 addresses are gone, citizens who have the new addresses won’t be able to access public websites that are running on IPv4. “The challenge becomes, if you are reaching out to someone who no longer supports IPv4, you wouldn’t be able to reach the person,” said William Hickox, chief operating officer of the Delaware Department of Technology and Information. “It’s not going to happen anytime soon, but we want to be prepared in the event that gets to be the case.”