This consultation paper aims to increase awareness of Internet Protocol version 6, IPv6, in Malta. It proposes the setting up a test-bed to which interested undertakings can connect in order to commence testing IPv6.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is the mechanism through which most computers communicate and interchange data between each other today. This protocol has proven to be robust, easy to implement and interoperable. It has stood the test of scaling a network to a global utility the size of the Internet today. The Internet infrastructure is constantly expanding and drastically changing. Unfortunately, the initial design had not anticipated and catered for a similar expansion. As a consequence, the current IP space is unable to satisfy the potential huge increase in the number of users (or the geographical needs of the Internet explosion), let alone the requirements of emerging applications such as home area-networks, internet connected transportation (automobiles for example), IP wireless services and distributed games. Therefore, the need was felt of migrating to an improved version of the protocol that can tackle such an expansion. IPv6 is designed to meet these requirements and allow a return to a global environment where the addressing rules of the network are again transparent to the applications. It fixes a number of problems in IPv4.
IPv6 is expected to replace IPv4 gradually, with the two protocols co-existing for a number of years during the transition period. It is for this reason that Malta needs to start looking ahead by initiating a Research & Development programme geared towards the eventual roll-out of IPv6 on a national basis. Malta should commence experimenting with and planning for this new version of IP. In this way, it will not be caught on the wrong foot when, eventually, the networking world decides to finalise the migration to IPv6.