By Kathy Gibson – The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the move to smart cities, factories and homes is driving a massive uptake of technologies like 5G, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

The strain this places on existing networks is necessitating a move from Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to IPv6 as next-generation networks are rolled out that cater to the increased workloads. IPv6+ takes this a step further with the addition of AI on to the network.

“The digital economy is an important driver of global GDP growth, which relies on high quality connectivity,” says Dr Shucheng (Will) Liu, vice-chairman of ETSI ISG IPE at Huawei. “IPv6+ not only provides a large number of addresses, but also enables end-to-end 5G connectivity, providing continuous computing power and intelligence for the digital economy.”

Liu was speaking at an IPv6 training session hosted by Huawei and the Digital Council Africa (DCA), which covered topics including the fundamentals of IP Networks; new requirements and trends of IP industry development; IPv6 industrial policy; IPv6+ enhanced innovation; national IP talent development and global best practices.

Daniel Tang, chief marketing expert for the Huawei data communication product line, points out that 4IR – underpinned by intelligent technology – is intended to enable the digital economy.

“By 2025, we expect that most traditional vertical industries will be digitalised,” he says. “More than 170 countries around the world already have digital strategies, with the digital economy seen as the new growth engine for much of the world. These countries recognise that they need to leverage ICT investments to stimulate overall GDP.”

The introduction of IPv6 is vital for the rollout of IoT, Tang points out, with 100-billion devices expected to be connected.

“In addition, IPv6 has an enormous address space, which will be required to meet 5G and IoT demand.

“It is also easy to scale, so it offers a competitive advantage compared to IPv4.”

A number of standards will rely on the deployment of ITv6, he adds. For instance, the IETF protocol will optimise and depend on IPv6, and 3GPP may mandate IPv6 in 5G.

Already, countries including the US, China and India have set deadlines for IPv6 migrations, so this technology is certain to become standard soon.

“The global IPv6 upgrade should not leave Africa behind,” Tang stresses.

Around the world, global IPv6 deployment has reached a critical mass with 26% IPv6 active users.

Already, most global companies support IPv6 content; all smart devices support IPv6; and pure IPv6-only networks are being deployed in some of the countries leading the IPv6 race.

As IPv6 becomes the default, Tang points out that future IT standards will start to exclude IPv4 compatibility, with future IT innovation based on and optimised for IPv6. Internet content providers will also optimise their services for IPv6.

Currently, there is something of a chicken-and-egg paradox around the implementation of IPv6 in some countries, with neither private sector nor government making the first moves.

Tang believes that government policy is required to break this deadlock. “The US, India and China all have good practices that African countries can benefit from,” Tang says. “For instance, China’s IPv6 policy initiative in has driven the IPv6 active user ration from just 2% to 20% in just three years.”

He recommends that, to gain the maximum benefit, IPv6 deployments should be undertaken in tandem with other infrastructure upgrades like LTE, 5G and FTTx.

Digital infrastructure can help to improve efficiency in many industries, he adds.

“E-government is a good case study, and there are many e-government initiatives worldwide.”

The first step in successful e-government is connectivity, Tang points out. This is followed by the consolidation of different data application efforts, and finally the addition of intelligence.

“Globally, governments are transforming from being management-orientated to becoming people-orientated,” he adds. “They are building a high speed all-domain intelligent network to facilitate e-government and improve the delivery of services to citizens.”

Banking 4.0 is another industry that will be transformed by digitalisation. “Banking 4.0 will progress to smart finance that includes intelligent customer acquisition, precision marketing and scenario based service,” Tang says.

“In the 4.0 era, banks will change from traditional financial services to all-scenario-based service platforms.”

Of course, education is a massive use case, and is currently transforming from classroom-orientated to student-orientated.

“This allows for flexible learning modes with network and cloud as enablers,” Tang points out.

“Covid 19 have increased the need for education innovation and people have realised that technology allows them to do a lot more in terms of multi-room classrooms, interactive classrooms and multimedia.”

The energy industry is shifting quickly too, moving to smart power generation, smart transmission, smart substations, smart power distribution and smart power consumption.

“The future grid is fully connected and intelligent,” Tang says.

Smart manufacturing has been in development for some years, and is getting more interesting, he adds.

“It now takes Huawei just 28,5 seconds to manufacture a smartphone. “It can do this because everything is connected, data is collected and quickly analysed; the production line is almost completely unmanned with people there to monitor the process; and efficiency is very high because of reduced labour consumption.

In our manufacturing practice, we have achieve quality control performance beyond six sigma.”

Today, the production line can be tested in just one month compared to the traditional four months, he adds, and this testing is largely automatic.

“5G has played a big role in this,” Tang says.

5G is central to the enablement of smart healthcare, smart grid, and smart port too he adds.

“5G, cloud and AI are picking up the pace among enterprises of all sizes,” Tang says. Enterprises, amid their pursuit for digital transformation, are confronted with once-in-a-generation challenges, such as collaboration between hundreds of billions of production and office terminals, 100% migration of enterprise services to the cloud, and 97% AI adoption rate.

“As 5G, cloud, and AI pick up the pace among enterprises of all sizes, enterprises — amid their pursuit for digital transformation — are confronted with once-in-a-generation challenges while IP networks are also encountering a wide range of issues typified by insufficient bandwidth, poor service experience, and low efficiency of network O&M and troubleshooting,” says Tang. “Intelligent IP networks are the key to conquering such issues.

“As a decisive part of enterprises’ digital transformation, IP networks are also encountering a wide range of issues typified by insufficient bandwidth, poor service experience, and low efficiency of network O&M and troubleshooting.

“Intelligent IP networks are the key to conquering such issues.”

To better understand what kind of network can be called an intelligent IP network, Huawei has defined three typical characteristics of such a network: bandwidth; experience; and O&M efficiency:

  • Super capacity: IP networks achieve a future-proof shift from 100GE to 400GE and from WiFi 5 to WiFi 6, and transformation towards intelligent IP networks, boosting bandwidth resources. In addition, such future-oriented networks adopt slice-based bandwidth isolation, implementing flexible bandwidth adjustment.
  • Intelligent experience: Intelligent IP networks stand out with intelligent identification of service types, service intent inference, and flexible, real-time network resource adjustment upon cloud changes. These highlights deliver always-on network connectivity experience.
  • Autonomous driving: Intelligent IP networks can be automatically deployed, achieving rapid adjustment of services. In addition, they can perform automatic, AI-powered fault rectification, implementing proactive O&M and ensuring high network availability.


Why policy matters

Dr Liu stresses that industry policy is important to realise the growth of 5G and AI technologies.

“The digital economy poses huge challenges to the networking highway,” he says. “5G and cloud will drive up the quantity of connections, which will have to be high-quality to enable the applications that are envisaged.”

These connections also need to be smart, Liu says. In addition, service provision needs to be reduced to hours, and fault location to minutes.

“IPv6+ is key for the stable delivery of ubiquitous computing power,” he says. “It will enable rapid deployment, AI and smart networks, at the best quality.

“It will enable thousands of industries to obtain cloud computing power and intelligence for faster, better and smart acceleration of digital transformation..”

In Uganda, Rwanda and South Africa, MTN is already rolling our IPv6+ technology, he points out.

“What we know from countries like China, where it has already been deployedhave deployed it, that government and industry need to come together to promote and deploy IPv6+.”


Talent key to IPv6 implementation

Kgabo Seopa, southern Africa network marketing solution sales department executive at Huawei, observes that: “With the large-scale deployment of IPv6, IPv6+ technology will be widely used on networks to form an automated and committed next-generation network and promote the rapid development of 5G and cloud services.

“But, while IPv6 is introduced to meet the requirements of the 5G and cloud era it is not the whole of the next-generation internet, rather it is the starting point and platform for innovation.

“In the digital era, ICT — a leading industry in the digital economy — faces great challenges in optimising its industrial structure and accelerating digital transformation,” he adds Seopa.

“As the industry transforms, the key to maintaining rapid development, seizing opportunities, and making progress in the new era is treating talent as the industry’s most important resource.”

He points out that the Huawei ICT Academy project supports Huawei’s “platform + ecosystem” strategy. Based on industry requirements, the project addresses the pain points of the industry’s talent gap and integrates the resource advantages of both universities and enterprises.

Huawei provides a comprehensive solution that covers the entire talent development process from course development, trainer enablement, to lab environment setup, and from talent certification, competition, to employment.

The solution works with the government, universities, and enterprises to build a new ICT talent development model and an effective talent ecosystem.

Huawei also provides multi-dimensional solutions for different types of talent and different levels of needs to ensure that Huawei’s school-enterprise cooperation solutions effectively match the needs of higher education institutions and enterprises, and promote the development of various types of ICT talent.

By bridging the gap between demand of enterprises and the supply from schools, Huawei hopes to provide more technical and skillful talent, more advanced technologies, and more support to innovation and entrepreneurship — to facilitate a virtuous cycle and support the sustainable development of the ICT industry.