Paris, 30 September 2016
On 11 January 2016, Axelle Lemaire requested that Arcep give its opinion on the deployment status of the IPv6 addressing protocol. Today, Arcep is making its report to the Government public.
Arcep Executive Board members, Philippe Distler and Jacques Stern, headed up this work that was performed in concert with France's domain name registry, the Association française pour le nommage internet en coopération (AFNIC). Arcep would like to take this opportunity to thank the AFNIC teams for their invaluable technical expertise.
What is at issue in the transition to IPv6?
The internet relies on an "addressing" system that is used to designate the Web's many servers, devices and routers, and to enable these components to talk to each other, namely IP (internet protocol) addresses. In this respect, IP addresses are to the internet what numbers are to telephone services.
But because the internet is so popular, the number of addresses available under the current protocol, IPv4 (1), is nearing exhaustion. Hence the need to migrate to another protocol, IPv6, which will make it possible to generate around 3.4x1038 unique addresses, and so to manage the exponential increase in the number of elements connected to the internet, particularly as the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to take off.
The current need to manage the dearth of IPv4 addresses is restricting certain applications and uses, which in turn restricts the fully open nature of the internet, as well as users' freedom. Making the transition to IPv6 is nevertheless a complex process, and requires every stakeholder along the internet chain to do their part: internet service providers (ISP), web hosting companies, app providers, device makers, etc.
What stage is France at?
The migration to IPv6 is a global issue.
France is clearly committed to making the transition, and is ahead of several comparable countries inside the European Economic Area such as Spain, Italy and the UK. Its rate of progress has nevertheless slowed over the past few years, notably as concerns ISPs' deployments, which has put it behind countries such as the United States, Germany and Belgium.
The ability to gain a competitive edge underpins the IPv6 migration issue. Those countries that are able to accelerate the transition to IPv6 will be able to develop an expertise and a savoir-faire that will bolster their international influence. So also at issue is France's place on the digital world stage.
How to accelerate the transition? A six-point action plan
In its report, Arcep identifies the causes of and risks resulting from this relative lag, and suggests several courses of action that could promote and bolster the transition to IPv6:
1. Set an example by committing to an ambitious timetable for making every government website and online service available in IPv6.
2. Ubiquitous IPv6 training in both initial training and continuing education courses, to remove any obstacles to the adoption of the IPv6 protocol through education.
3. Create sufficient areas and opportunities for interaction between members of the community involved in making the transition to IPv6, to help federate their efforts and enable a dialogue on best practices and individual experiences.
4. Improve coordination between stakeholders by making public the short and medium-term plans of the key players involved in the transition.
5. Better inform users, notably on the future viability of the devices they own and the possible malfunctions due to IPv4 address rationing mechanisms.
6. Prepare for the end of IPv4 by allowing players that want to streamline management of their network to eventually be able to do away entirely with the IPv4 protocol.
What next? A first scoreboard on the transition to IPv6 will be published in late 2016
As suggested by the Ministry, Arcep plans on creating a scoreboard on the IPv6 transition in France (as part of Action No. 4). This will make it possible to deliver a regularly updated status report on deployments, to contribute to the transparency of the major players' plans, and to identify any sources of obstruction.
A beta version of the scorecard will be made public in late 2016.
Beyond that, it will be up to the Government and to stakeholders to take Arcep's proposals on board, knowing that the Authority will remain available to help implement these recommendations if necessary.
Reminder: government referrals to Arcep
The Act on Growth, business and equal economic opportunity, adopted on 6 August 2015, amends Article L. 32-1 of France's Postal and electronic communications code, and introduces the possibility for Ministries responsible for electronic communications and postal affairs to solicit advice from Arcep on all matters that fall under its purview. If parliamentary committees were already able to solicit advice from Arcep on matters within its purview, in the past the government was only able to consult with Arcep by soliciting the Authority's advice or opinion on a specific bill or piece of draft regulation. These independent analyses and expertise help inform government works in progress and are intended to be made public, with any elements protected by trade secrecy removed when applicable. Arcep's Executive Board set a rule of giving the parties requesting the advice a three-month period to draw their own conclusions before making that advice public (unless requested otherwise by said parties).
(1) On 14 September 2014, RIPE-NCC, the regional internet registry with which France is affiliated, announced the beginning of the assignment of the final available block of IPv4 addresses. At the current rate of assignment, RIPE forecasts that the current stock of available addresses will run out in 2021.
Arcep' report to the Government (pdf - 1.28 Mo) (in French only) (pdf)