South Africa’s Internet address shortage is bad news

South Africa’s slow adoption of IPv6 will be bad news for the growth of Internet-based services locally.

This is according to South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), which has warned that South Africa is projected to run out of IPv4 addresses in the near future.

In October 2019, ISPA warned that South Africa was lagging many other countries in terms of IPv6 adoption.

“IPv6 compliance needs to come out of the basement and into the light so that it can be made South Africa’s Internet issue of the day until it is resolved,” ISPA said at the time.

IPv4 addresses have already run out in every global region except Africa, and service providers that don’t support IPv6 are potentially threatening the country’s participation in the fourth industrial revolution, the organisation warned.

The African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) announced that it had entered phase two of IPv4 exhaustion in January 2020, and had just under 2.1 million IPv4 addresses remaining.

While this may seem like a significant number, ISPA co-chair Guy Halse told MyBroadband it is not a lot at all, within the context of South Africa.

“That is not a tremendous amount in the context of more than three devices per person in a country of 58 million on a continent of 1.2 billion,” Halse said.

“As of 11 May that had reduced to 2,035,456 – which is slower than the trend that predicted addresses would run out in March.”

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic may have had an impact on the decline of these figures.

Significant costs

“The net impact of exhaustion is that it will make it incredibly difficult for new players to enter the market, since they’ll have to purchase addresses on the secondary market at a huge premium,” Halse said.

“It is also already leading to an increase in resource theft and squatting on address space,” he said.

“This comes at a significant cost to existing ISPs, who have to implement new and technically-complex precautions such as RPKI to secure their address resources.”

Halse added that companies should begin to inspect their legacy IPv4 address space as addresses begin to run out.

“The resource theft problem also affects large corporates who hold their own legacy address space.”

“ISPA encourages companies that hold their own IPv4 address space to ensure AFRINIC’s records of their allocation are up to date and to work with their ISP to ensure that this address space is correctly announced, even if it is not currently in use,” Halse said.

South Africa far behind

South Africa is not only lagging global trends in IPv6 adoption, it is also losing out to other African countries.

Halse noted that while other African countries have seen relatively significant increases in IPv6 adoption over the past year, South Africa has remained mostly stagnant.

Google’s data shows that global IPv6 adoption now stands at just under 30%, although South Africa has barely begun to adopt the new address type.

South Africa’s current IPv6 adoption is 0.19%, far behind the likes of Gabon (20.49%), Kenya (7.95%), and Congo (6.49%).

The map below shows IPv6 adoption around the world, with green areas denoting greater adoption.

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South Africa’s Internet address shortage is bad news