Vietnam Pushes Companies to Take up New Version of Internet Addresses

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By Lien Hoang

Nov. 15 — Vietnam is intensifying its campaign to adopt IPv6, the latest version of the internet protocol, extracting lessons from a successful transition effort in Malaysia and training bureaucrats in implementing the technology.

But business concerns about costs, as well as skepticism about the need for the change, have slowed the campaign in a country where internet and smartphone use are expanding rapidly.

The internet protocol (IP) is responsible for establishing internet addresses and routing data across one or more IP networks. Most computers, smartphones, and other smart devices have internet protocol addresses based on IPv4’s addressing scheme. Authorities around the world are upgrading to IPv6, which allows for more numeric combinations to create addresses. That’s an increasingly important capability as IPv4 runs out of unique address combinations.

IPv4 exhaustion is in large part driven by the need for new addresses for millions of devices that make up the rapidly-expanding internet of things, including internet-enabled lightbulbs and household appliances. In Vietnam, however, an explosion in the number of smartphones is the primary consumer of the country’s IPv4 quota. Nielsen reported in June 2016 that 91 percent of Vietnamese now own smartphones, up from 82 percent in 2014.

Vietnam, with a goal of IPv6 use at one to 2 percent of IP addresses by May 2017, is training and testing local officials across all cities and provinces on IPv6-related technology, such as dual-stack, which accommodates both IPv4 and IPv6. It’s also reaching out to small businesses to raise awareness of the transition and incorporating IPv6 into university coursework.

The Vietnamese government this month sent a team to Malaysia--which, at 13 percent, has the second-highest IPv6 penetration among Asia-Pacific countries after Japan--to explore best practices for encouraging adoption of the latest version of the protocol. Among other steps, the Malaysian government formed an agency dedicated solely to IPv6, and built a coalition between the public and private sectors to help drive implementation. Malaysia has also required telecommunications firms to use IPv6 when introducing 4G mobile wireless internet services.

The Vietnam Internet Network Information Center (VNNIC) national domain name registry in a Nov. 8 blog post summarizing the trip said, “Training and communication was also performed well. All of this made for a coordinated push and effective deployment of IPv6 for Malaysia.”

The case study in Malaysia gives a window into Vietnam’s future approach, as the country of 92 million is also preparing to roll out 4G and has formed a task force to implement the National IPv6 Action Plan. Major Vietnamese telecommunications providers, including FPT Telecommunication Joint Stock Company (FPT Telecom) and government-owned Viettel and Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, are members of the task force.

The cost of transitioning to IPv6 explains the low participation among most Vietnamese companies, says Kevin Nguyen, a lecturer in business information systems at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Ho Chi Minh City. He said organizations can wait for technological advancements to bring down costs and that, in the meantime, there are plenty of IPv4 addresses still available in Vietnam.

“Sooner or later, we will convert to IPv6, but the issue is, do I have to do it now, or in five years?” Nguyen told Bloomberg BNA. “That’s why the government is pushing for it, but businesses are not eager.”

Tech entrepreneurs see more urgency to prepare for the transition.

“I think it’s a good thing, I think Vietnam should have this ready as soon as possible,” Hieu Le, COO of Vietnamese crowdfunding smartphone app Trust Circle, told Bloomberg BNA by phone. Referring to the internet of things, he said, “In a year or two, or maybe three years, [device connectivity] will become a default feature, a standard in your appliance. Running out of IP addresses will happen faster than imagined.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lien Hoang in Ho Chi Minh City at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tim McElgunn at tmcelgunn@bna.com

For More Information

The full text of the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center post about IPv6 is available at http://src.bna.com/j3o

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