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By Liliana Corona

So that you can enjoy streaming your favorite TV series, playing online, using applications and communicating over internet messaging systems, you use an address that identifies your device as soon as you connect to the internet. To be able to use this technological tool, each device is assigned a series of numbers called an Internet Protocol (IP) address. The current version for internet connection is known as IPv4, which has a limited range of addresses that ran out in 2014 in Latin America and in 2011 in other places around the world.

In 1993, the Internet Engineering Task Force began work on improvements to version 4 in conjunction with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The new version, IPv6, currently operates alongside IPv4 and will take time to be fully adopted, but offers huge benefits, especially for internet network operators.

“IPv4 isn’t going to be switched off once IPv6 has been implemented. There are so many things that only work with IPv4 and there’s a cost associated with making them work on IPv6. We estimate it’s going to take from two to four decades to eliminate the IPv4 protocol from the internet,” explains Edmundo Cazares, Internet Resources Manager at NIC Mexico, the company responsible for registering all domain names ending in .mx and the range of addresses in which companies can operate for providing their services.

IPv6 in a nutshell

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is an address assigned to internet-connected devices so that they can exchange information. Here’s what this version’s all about.

This offers more than 340 undecillion IP addresses and clears the way for using the internet of things, which will also use the 5G network, the next technology that will connect people and objects in real time.

Read: On your marks, get set… 5G! This how operators are getting ready

Some specialists think Internet Protocol version 6 needs to be adopted in order for the internet of things to reach its full potential, when internet-connected devices can interact with each other without the need for human intervention.

“It’s going to be impossible to achieve 5G if we don’t transition to IPv6, which allows for the internet of things. We’re going to create a hyper-connected world, but the big problem is that IPv4 has a limited number of addresses. When they run out, you won’t be able to connect a device to the internet,” explained one specialist who asked to remain anonymous.

Cisco estimates that there’ll be 50 billion internet-connected devices in the world by 2020, giving a total of 6.5 connected devices per person. IPv6 implementation is one of the biggest hurdles to accessing the internet of things, according to its document The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything, published in April 2011.

In Mexico, approximately 70% of addresses still work with IPv4, although adoption of IPv6 has grown tenfold over the past two years.

Read: This is how 5G is taking off across the world

Aware of this growth and of the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, network providers are making efforts to adopt IPv6. Telmex (of América Móvil) began operating with this Internet Protocol version in 2012. Telefónica “actively participated in the world launch organized by the Internet Society”. The launch was supported by AT&T, Cisco, Facebook, Microsoft Bing, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Google, Yahoo, Akamai, and operators in 50 countries.

“The operators themselves are the ones IPv6 helps most at the moment because it allows their networks to grow and provides services to their customers with a better cost-benefit ratio,” adds Cazares. This specialist explains that maintaining IPv4 will be more expensive for companies than adopting and using IPv6. End users won’t need to make any changes because network providers are taking charge of the transition, which will be seamless.

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