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IP/01/591

Brussels, 24 April 2001

Commission calls for rapid move towards new generation Internet Protocol to secure success of future wireless services

The European Commission yesterday hosted the first meeting of a European industry-led Task Force established to develop a comprehensive action plan by the end of 2001 to ensure the timely availability of the next generation of the Internet protocol (Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6) as called for by the Stockholm Summit. The Task Force is comprised of senior executives broadly representing all key industrial and research sectors affected by IPv6, including European Internet service providers, telecom operators, mobile operators, equipment supply industries, research networks, and key "application" sectors. Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and Information Society said, "Our objective is to ensure that Europe's competitiveness in wireless technologies, is not jeopardised by the lack of a clear road map towards IPv6. The rapid and continued growth of the Internet as the key infrastructure of the global knowledge economy now requires new policy measures to ensure that it can continue to meet new requirements. Europe, in particular, must act quickly if the constraints of the existing Internet protocols (IPv4) are not to hold back realisation of the Lisbon Strategy objectives." It is estimated that at current growth rates, the current Internet protocol will run out of Internet addresses in 2005. It is therefore imperative that IPv6 be introduced before the launching of e.g. 3G mobile communications that is built on the idea of each device having their own internet address and the integration of these systems with Internet access.

At yesterday's meeting, the IPv6 Task Force was invited to consider the following key targets:

  • With a view to implementing IP Multimedia under Release 5 in 2003, industry will be asked to accelerate the pace of development of IPv6 for 3G mobile communication systems (UMTS);

  • 3G operators to develop guidelines and best practises on the transition to IPv6;

  • Operators and service providers to consider on a priority basis how best to evolve towards IPv6 and to take early steps to obtain adequate IPv6 address allocations, while ensuring the users rights are safeguarded;

  • Service providers to offer IPv6 capable services, by end 2003,

  • Telecommunications operators to complete conversion of all systems to IPv6 by end 2005;

  • Conversion to IPv6 of Europe's Research and Education Networks (comprising the National Research and Education Networks and the European backbone GEANT), by 2003-2004;

  • Introduction of IPv6-based systems in cars, aircraft and freight-transport vehicles and infrastructures by end 2004;

  • IPv6 connectivity in all new consumer-electronic devices by 2005;

  • Enabling IPv6-based m-commerce by 2005;

  • Increase and re-focus of the EU support to RTD and Trans-European Networks to accelerate and facilitate the coherent transition to IPv6 in the period from 2002-2004; and

  • Strengthening of IPv6 R&D activities within the IST Programme (and proposal of measures for the EU 6th R&D Framework Programme) notably on those aspects relating to inter-working and interoperability between systems and networks, to the development of innovative IPv6 based services and applications by end 2001.

The Task Force members committed themselves actively develop concrete recommendations that would aim at ensuring a rapid and efficient transition to IPv6. While working essentially using the Internet, the Task Force will hold several meetings until December 2001.

The Task Force web-site is at http://www.ipv6tf.org

A European initiative is of particular strategic importance because of the early introduction of 3G mobile communications and the integration of these systems with Internet access, and because of the competition, privacy and affordability benefits that can be realised:

  • "Always-on" wireless access to the Internet to over one billion people by 2003 will require more unique addresses than can be made available in the global IPv4 address space. Without IPv6, wireless Internet access subscribers will therefore only get "local" addresses inside an address space controlled by their ISP/mobile operator. These "local" IPv4 addresses will limit access to other services and limit the visibility of the users on the global Internet.

  • Integration of Internet-based systems into transportation means (cars, aircraft, trains, ships and freight transport) and associated infrastructures for e-Mobility and e-Commerce will require over 1 billion addresses by 2005;

  • In IPv6, each person could dispose of his/her personal internet address that could be accessible over any network. IPv6 facilitates reconfiguration so that changing networks or access providers is easier and this will contribute to competition. While IPv4 concerned communications between computers, IPv6 deals with communications between people and between the things they use, from their telephone to their car.

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