MIGRATING TO THE NEW INTERNET PROTOCOL
Commission Communication: Next Generation Internet priorities for action in migrating to the new Internet protocol IPv6.
|Document originated:||21 February 2002
|Deposited in Parliament:
||21 March 2002|
|Department:||Trade and Industry
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 9 April 2002|
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||Seville European Council in June 2002
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
14.1 The Commission recalls that the eEurope 2002
Action Plan, endorsed at the Feira European Council in June 2000,
identified three objectives for which action at European level
would be valuable. They included affordable access, by businesses
and citizens, to a world-class communications infrastructure and
the rapid development of a wide range of competitive online services.
One action would specifically address the next generation internet,
including mobile internet and the need for a vastly increased
Internet IP address space.
14.2 In its March 2001 Communication on the Introduction
of Third Generation Mobile Communications in the European Union:
State of Play, and the Way Forward, the Commission again stressed
that the limitations of IPv4 could hinder the full deployment
of Third Generation Mobile Communications. The proposed new Internet
Protocol version, IPv6, vastly increases the global address space
currently available under IPv4, but the transition to all-IPv6
networks would require several years of effort.
14.3 In a Communication, eEurope 2002 Impact and Priorities,
presented to the March 2001 Stockholm European Council, the Commission
encouraged the Member States to make a commitment to introducing
IPv6 into publicly-owned networks and to set up a group, with
industry, to put forward proposals for accelerating the introduction
of IPv6. Again, the Commission stressed the need to enlarge the
IP numbering space to facilitate mobile internet use and the development
of new and more secure services.
The Commission Communication
14.4 The Commission comments in the Communication we
consider here that market demand for space is expected to rise
rapidly with the development of broadband infrastructures such
as ADSL, peer-to-peer
communications and the demand for machine-to-machine communications.
14.5 The report explains that networked devices, such
as web servers, e-mail servers or home Personal Computers (PC),
communicate using a numeric address and a protocol called the
Internet Protocol (IP). This requires that devices anywhere on
the internet have unique IP addresses so that data packets can
be carried (routed) between the devices across one or more Internet
Service Provider (ISP) networks. The current version, IPv4,
was designed in the 1970s and has been in use for over twenty
years. Given the limitations of hardware at the time, the original
internet designers chose to use only 32 bits to represent IPv4
addresses. Those 32 bits allow 232, or just over 4,000
million, addresses. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses which will allow
2128, or just over 4 billion*4billion*4billion*4billion
unique IP addresses, which should be enough for the foreseeable
14.6 The Communication reports on the findings of the
Commission's IPv6 Task Force which the Commission set up, with
industry, in April 2001. It makes a number of recommendations
to Member States, the Commission and industry. The report has
been summarised by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
(Ms Patricia Hewitt) in her Explanatory Memorandum as follows:
"The report holds that the EU needs to play more of a
leading role in developing and mastering the core technologies
for the next generation of the internet, including the mobile
"The report highlights perceived problems with the current
internet addressing protocol, IPv4, such as the uneven distribution
of address space between North America and the rest of the world.
It concludes that there is a risk that IPv4 addresses will become
'critically scarce' by 2005, whilst acknowledging IPv4 addresses
may 'never be completely exhausted'.
"The report holds that the increased address space that would
be made available by the deployment of IPv6 will be placed in
high demand by the increased number of applications and devices
operating on third generation mobile networks and peer-to-peer
communications over broadband infrastructure.
"The report recognises that migration from IPv4 to IPv6 should
be gradual, with an extended period of co-existence and no fixed
switchover date. However, it calls for the need to pick up the
pace of change.
"The report places Japan and the Asia-Pacific region at the
forefront of designing and implementing IPv6, with the EU's efforts
thus far only marginal. It maintains, however, that with Europe's
high penetration of mobile phones, and the ensuing technical expertise
and growing market demand for address space, the EU has a unique
window of opportunity to grasp the political leadership of the
next generation internet and gain significant competitive advantages
in global developments.
"The report makes a number of recommendations to structure,
consolidate and integrate EU efforts on IPv6, alongside the continued
stimulation of internet take-up across the EU:
- It calls for Member States to harmonise policy where necessary,
strengthen their research effort, encourage migration to IPv6
through public procurement, and launch awareness-raising and educational
programmes on the benefits and requirements of IPv6.
- It also encourages industry to integrate migration into strategic
planning, and to support Europe-wide work on standards for interoperability.
- In turn, the Commission proposes to increase research funding,
promote IPv6 enabled infrastructures, and raise awareness through
the 6th Framework Programme."
The Government's view
14.7 The Minister comments:
"As the report is non-legislative it does not carry any
direct policy implications. However, IPv6 is likely to figure
in the eEurope 2005 Action Plan in such a way as to guide Member
States' own policy. The UK's position, taking account of continuing
consultations with business in the framework of standards-setting
and e-Government procurement activities, is that whilst IPv6 is
accepted as a future development, the unquantifiable costs of
a mandatory upgrade should be avoided. Policy must recognise,
as the report does, the leading role of industry in preparations
for, and decisions on future migration to IPv6".
14.8 The Presidency Conclusions from the Barcelona
state that further progress is needed on communications and that
priority should be given to the development of IPv6. We note that,
while the Government agrees about the importance of developing
IPv6, it believes that policy on action to be taken must recognise
the leading role of industry in preparations for, and decisions
on, migration to the new Protocol. Having made that point, the
Secretary of State comments that the report takes the same line.
It would have been helpful if she had told us whether other Member
States were likely to take the same view.
14.9 The Conclusions also call on the Commission to
draw up a comprehensive eEurope 2005 Action Plan to be
presented in advance of the Seville European Council, focussing
on this and other priorities. We ask the Minister to ensure that
we are given an opportunity to scrutinise the draft of the Commission's
Action Plan, in good time before the Council.
14.10 We now clear this document.
9097/00; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 45 (15 November
2000). Also (21911) 14203/00 and (22013) 14195/00; see HC 28-v
(2000-01), paragraph 18 (7 February 2001) and (23259) 6107/02;
see paragraph 13 of this Report. Back
7183/01: see HC 28-xii (2000-01), paragraph 9 (25 April 2001). Back
Digital Subscriber Line. This offers high-speed connectivity
to the Internet over existing copper telephone wiring. Back
Protocol version 4. Back
* symbol is used for multiplication in computer programming.
The resulting figure is 34 followed by 37 noughts. Back
100/02, paragraph 40. Back