European Union Plans Widespread IPv6 Deployment by 2010

The European Commission has previously announced, as a part of their i2010 initiative, an action plan to see IPv6 widely deployed in Europe by 2010. The EC is specific about what it means by “widely deployed”: They intend, by 2010, that 25% of European users “should be able to connect to the IPv6 Internet and access their most important content and service providers,” according to a May 2008 Communication. More than 30 European IPv6 R&D projects have already been funded because of this initiative, and there is confidence that the expertise has been gained to move the action plan forward.

I’m in Brussels, attending the IPv6 Day event at European Union headquarters, to learn more about what has been accomplished in Europe so far and what the EC’s next steps will be. This full-day event is a gathering of IPv6 experts from around the world, with the objective of clarifying the European IPv6 directions and objectives.

The conference agenda is organized around three fundamental topics: content providers, IPv6 deployment, and research. Behind each of these topics are 6-10 speakers sharing their experiences with the attendees.                                                                 

The EC has a clear and practical action plan, which can be a useful reference not only for other government bodies but also for enterprises and service providers needing a clear outline of the steps they will take to deploy. Briefly, the actions are:

1.     Stimulate IPv6 accessibility to content, services, and applications

a.     Insure that the public sector and eGovernment websites of Member States are IPv6 capable, along with the EC’s own websites.

b.     Use the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) to encourage content and service providers – with particular focus on the top 100 European websites – to become IPv6 accessible. “Thematic Networks” will be used to encourage cooperation.

c.     Encourage European industries to use IPv6 as the primary platform for new applications and appliances such as sensors and cameras (an area in which abundant IPv6 addresses are often cited as a key enabler). Funding for testing and validation in this area will be funded through CIP starting in 2009.

d.     Encourage the European Standardisation Organisations “to develop best practice manuals on the deployment of internet IPv6-enabled services.”

e.     Encourage research projects to use IPv6 wherever feasible.

2.     Generate demand for IPv6 connectivity and products through public procurement

a.     Encourage Member States to include IPv6 in their purchase requirements for new network services and devices.

b.     Specify IPv6 as a core requirement for any new services and devices purchased for the Commission’s own networks.

The effects of these procurement directions should have an effect similar to the US federal government’s procurement policies, giving vendors and ISPs a strong financial incentive to make their products IPv6 capable.

3.     Ensure timely preparation for IPv6 deployment through targeted awareness campaign, disseminated deployment knowledge, and university engineering courses.

4.     Work with agencies such as the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) to develop best practices to resolve security and privacy issues

Boldly stating that 25% of European Internet users will be “IPv6 enabled” in just two years certainly makes people sit up and listen. The EC is demonstrating how coordinated, clear-minded political leadership can make such objectives possible. By recognizing that IPv4 address depletion represents a threat to the communication infrastructures of their Member States and by acting aggressively to remove that threat, the EC is insuring that the European economy remains strong and competitive.

There are lessons here not only for governments but also for corporations on how to plan and lead an effective IPv6 deployment.

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