For Safaricom, the deployment is driven by the desire for business continuity; growing data revenue to complement voice revenue, which is on the decline; support for its growing 3G deployment; and expanding the number of residential users who have multiple gadgets, all of which require connectivity and IP addresses.
"The issue of migration to IPv6 requires very high visibility; although stockpiles of IPv4 are still being held with AfriNIC, lack of IP addresses will pose a real threat to subscriber growth and this will become a real threat to business continuity," added Safaricom's Rerolle. "Looking at the low broadband penetration in the country and the need to grow numbers, (the issue of) IP addresses will come in sharp focus; migration to IPv6 will offer Safaricom an opportunity to tap into new business streams made possible by a potentially large community of connected devices that will use this protocol exclusively."
Given the extent of its network, Rerolle said IPv6 deployment will be gradual, and that the company will work closely with the developer teams at iHub to identify any issues that may arise before opening up the whole network to the public.
"As you have seen with other businesses in Africa, the fast movers have the ability to lead the market in terms of products and services; if iHub developers can provide Safaricom with new products and services, then they will win the market," said Hersman.
Apart from tackling new business opportunities, Safaricom is hoping to reduce capital expenditure through auto-configuration of its nodes, increased security and mobility. IPv6 will also eliminate the need for Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), further lowering the costs. CGNAT is a service provided by major equipment vendors, that allows operators to continue offering services on both IPv4 and IPv6 but if the network fully deploys IPv6, then the company will not invest in CGNAT.
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