The changeover to the new standard with 128-bit ip addresses opens up the opportunity to build a next-generation european internet?

The first congress of IPv6 advocates took place in Berlin

Spirit of optimism at the 1. IPv6 Forum conference in Berlin: The European cell phone industry in particular is pushing for the adaptation of the new transmission protocol in order to achieve a "mobile Internet" of the second generation. Reason for the rush: to prevent Y2K from repeating itself on another level. Test projects for the use of IPv6 are also springing up everywhere at universities in Europe and Japan. The American computer industry is more reserved, with Sun Microsystems alone taking a clear stance with the IPv6 compatibility of its Solaris 8 Unix operating system. Router manufacturers, on the other hand, are still waiting.

The Internet is facing a generational change, necessitated by the steady growth in the number of users and the networking of cell phones, cow barriers and washing machines. "The many new services and applications will explode our idea that the Internet is just e-mail and the Web", explains Horst Westbrock from the telecommunications company Ericsson. It is already foreseeable that soon smart phones, set-top boxes, digital organizers, but also devices in the home or in the car, as well as public kiosk terminals will be permanently connected to the network. By 2005, Westbrock expects around one billion cell phone users alone to send their data over the Internet and use Web services.

There is only one problem with the vision of a benign new communications future: all the millions of networked devices need unique identification in the network so that they can be used for critical applications such as energy supply, telemedicine or air traffic control. However, in order to be able to reach a cell phone via the Internet, it not only needs a globally unique telephone number, but also an Internet Protocol (IP) address "network number" (IP address). Currently, users of cell phones or PCs with modems are only given a dynamically assigned IP address for a short time "leased". A "callback" under a fixed number is therefore not possible. Applications that require a secure "End-to-end"-connection are made more difficult, services such as transmitting an order for a networked refrigerator to a supermarket are ultimately not guaranteed.

When the "Father" of the Internet in 1972, which has hardly changed since then "Language" When they invented IPv6 as a way to transmit data, they could not have imagined the need for IP addresses that is emerging today. The currently used IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) is therefore reaching the limits of its performance. Only with all kinds of technical tricks can network addresses still be assigned at all.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), has been tinkering with IPv6, the Internet Protocol of the future, since 1995. "The standard is now ready for implementation", says Latif Ladid, head of the IPv6 Forum (thanks for the correction)!), an offshoot of the IETF dedicated to marketing the new protocol. This means that bottlenecks in address allocation should soon be a thing of the past: IPv6, with its 128-bit long addresses, is designed in such a way that every square millimeter of the earth could theoretically be supplied with several billion Internet numbers. The plans of the technicians go beyond the networking of all chips on earth, however: "With IPv6, we have the basis to extend the Internet from our planet to Mars and the asteroids, and even into space", philosophizes Internet daddy Vint Cerf.

The first congress of IPv6 lobbyists, at which worldwide application possibilities and strategies for the changeover were debated, took place in Berlin in the middle of the week at the invitation of the Association for the Promotion of the German Research Network (DFN) and Deutsche Telekom. It quickly became clear that the hopes associated with the new protocol are also very much of an economic policy nature. "Thanks to IPv6, Europe has the chance to create a new and mobile Internet", believes Ladid, who in addition to his work at the IPv6 Forum is also Vice President of Ericsson Telebit. The U.S., the home country of the Net, lagged behind the development because 75 percent of the Internet addresses were reserved for it and therefore there was no great hurry in using the new protocol on the other side of the Atlantic.

With IPv6, which the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) is now championing for final standardization and implementation, a new front line in the culture and trade war between the U.S. and Europe seems to be opening up. "The Internet is a kind of McDonald’s for the United States", Ladid grumbles. Because the bandwidth between New York and San Francisco could be bought cheaply, most of the network traffic still runs through the USA. In addition, the routing information of the data packets had to be largely retrieved from American computers.

"U.S. centralism has gone on far too long", the manager said, and was standing in the way of the network’s global growth. Ultimately, the Internet is still "a baby, and a pretty wild one at that". The task of the old continent is therefore to promote the new wireless network and at the same time tame and civilize the Internet. IPv6’s potential for quality arance and for achieving a generally higher level of security could also help in this process.

"But IPv6 will not be the only solution from January onwards", Jurgen Rauschenbach, who is in charge of the JOIN project at DFN to establish an IPv6 competence center, puts a damper on overly rough expectations. He expects that the transition to the "modern era" of the Internet will take several years. There is still a lack of hardware and software that can interpret IPv6 at all. Technicians at universities and research network operators around the world are still testing how the new addresses will be assigned and used. In addition, network administrators in companies are afraid of the costs and effort associated with the protocol change. Ladid warns, however, that the changeover should not be delayed too long: "We should not wait so long for the Y2K error to creep in again in a different form." IPv6 can also make it easier to build and maintain a network.

The end user should also benefit from the changes that are coming with the general overhaul of the Internet. The third-generation telecommunication devices, which were permanently connected to the network, had to be cheap and, unlike PCs, could not require any installation work, Westbrock proclaims. "Unpack, connect, turn on and forget" is the motto. Billing was then no longer based on the connection time, but on the data volume accessed or the applications used.

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