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Internet registry RIPE NCC provides global internet resources and related services, such as IPv4, IPv6, and AS Number resources, to members in its service region. Its members comprise mainly of internet service providers, telecommunications organizations, and large corporations across the 75 countries.

In an exclusive interview, Telecom Review spoke with Chafic Chaya, regional communications manager (Middle East, Iran and Turkey), RIPE NCC to understand the IPv6 landscape and its development in the region.

IPv6 is the future of all networks and the Internet. What is the state of IPv6 readiness in the Middle East region? 

The Internet landscape in the Middle East region has grown remarkably over the years, driven by digitalisation across industries, combined with the diversification of the economy and high reliance of users on mobile Internet access. These have caused more increased demand for Internet protocols (IPs).

Despite IPv4 depletion and its increasing cost on the secondary market, most countries in the Middle East continue to struggle with IPv6 deployment. In recent years, many countries have substantially increased their IPv6 holdings, but this does not translate into usage. 

Although organisations across the Gulf are aware of IPv6, with some countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait increasing their IPv6 holdings, there is still a notable reluctance in its full deployment. Google statistics for September 2021 show that Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the region in deployment rate with 45 percent and 40 percent, respectively, while Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Qatar, and Yemen have no traffic over IPv6. 

While current levels of IPv4 may be enough to maintain the status quo via address sharing and other workarounds, deploying IPv6 is the only sustainable strategy to accommodate future growth and to support the region's Internet development. 

As the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) in the region, what steps are being put in place by RIPE NCC to address the adoption of IPv6 in the region?

RIPE NCC has remained committed to supporting the region in deploying IPv6 and in addressing other digital challenges. The RIPE NCC engages with technical communities, industry players, and governments across the Middle East region to share its technical expertise.

We are committed to providing the necessary training and expertise to enable members, governments, security agencies, and the academic community to understand and optimally manage Internet infrastructures and deploy IPv6.

We are currently focusing our efforts on encouraging the exchange of experiences with decision-makers and stakeholders, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic the world is currently witnessing. Additionally, we are actively participating in open consultations on the general policies of the telecommunications and ICT sector in different countries in the region.

What methods do you find best for IPv4 to IPv6 migration?

The RIPE NCC works closely with network operators to help them establish basic steps and take appropriate measures for the deployment and use of IPv6. We focus our efforts on capacity building and sharing successful experiences to encourage businesses and governments to deploy IPv6, which requires planning, training, and testing. We emphasize providing training and developing expertise and providing a comprehensive guide on developing and implementing plans for the optimal deployment of IPv6. We also engage and facilitate discussions and dialogues between stakeholders on important issues of Internet infrastructure development and IPv6 to ensure the sustained and stable growth of the Internet.

While network engineers might be up to the task at a technical level, other business concerns often end up taking priority due to a modest awareness at the C-level and decision-makers.

What is RIPE NCC doing in terms of preparing ICT talents to handle the deployment of IPv6 powered networks in the region? 

There is a gap between the supply and demand of ICT talents, and the rapid development of the ICT industry is set to widen this gap further. We have been supporting and preparing ICT professionals to handle the deployment of IPv6 in the region through various training courses and workshops that cover the technical knowledge and expertise for IPv6, networking and security. 

Over the past two years, RIPE NCC started to offer certification to become a RIPE NCC certified professional in IPv6 and IPv6 security. These certifications are designed to match and meet the requirements for ICT talents. In addition, we have just released our latest exam IPv6 Security Expert which certifies the ability to identify common IPv6 security threats and how to create a plan to counter them.

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