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June 7th 2000

UMTS Forum takes on IP address issue

By Joanne Taaffe, Communications Week International
reproduced with kind permission from Communications Week International

June 7th 2000:The UMTS Forum has established a new working group in an attempt to tackle the addressing and numbering issues faced by cellular operators as they install IP-based networks.

"Because of [voice-data] convergence in the near future we will need more addresses and numbers for the new [mobile] generation," said Bernd Eylert, chairman of the London-based UMTS Forum.

The working group is meant to bring together the International Telecommunication Union and, from the Internet Protocol community, the IPv6 Forum.

"The ITU is working on numbering plans and the IPv6 Forum is working on the IP-based side," explained Eylert. "Our group brings both together and tries to get a merger."

GSM operators have no need for IP addresses in their voice-only, circuit-switched networks.

But with the introduction of general packet radio services (GPRS), network operators and mobile Internet service providers will suddenly need a raft of IP addresses, both for their networking equipment and for terminals.

IPv4 is the addressing system currently deployed by data network operators and service providers. As the GSM Association recently highlighted, however, IPv4 address space is limited and running out (CWI, 20 March, p.1). The recently standardized IPv6 system is designed to ease the strain on IPv4 and free up billions of new addresses. Ideally mobile operators, who will deploy new IP-based GPRS networks for the first time this year, should adopt IPv6 addressing software in their routers and gateways from the outset.

"When you look at the forecast for customers in 3G, it’s better to choose the system that has sufficient resources and not start with a system that is out of date from the beginning," said Gerd-Heinrich Grotelueschen, of Mannesmann Mobilfunk AG, and chairman of the newly formed Numbering and Addressing Task Group.

Regulators have been keen to promote the uptake of IPv6, which will open up addressing resources that can be used to provide new services. At one point regulators even considered writing a requirement to use IPv6 into 3G licenses, according to Grotelueschen.

The European Commission is also taking an interest in how quickly IPv6 will be adopted.

"It’s an issue we’re discussing with market players," said a Commission spokesman, adding that "there is no regulatory action foreseen at the moment."

Mobile operators, however, will have little choice but to install IPv4 software when they introduce their first GPRS networks. Much GPRS networking equipment was ordered last year when IPv6 had still to be standardized, said Grotelueschen. And even those operators ordering equipment this year risk being disappointed. Sweden’s L.M. Ericsson AB, for example, admitted that it will not roll out IPv6-based GPRS networks until 2002. In addition, network operators must introduce IPv4 to ensure that ISPs can interoperate with the underlying cellular networks.

"The network operator cannot force the ISP to adopt IPv4 or IPv6," pointed out Grotelueschen. "So when someone affiliated to a service provider that only has IPv4 ... is roaming in the network, you have to provide the means to service him," he explained.

The working group is also setting out to help operators apply for IPv4 addresses. The group intends to establish a methodology that operators can use to estimate their IP addressing requirements, and will publish a report later this year.

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last modified: Monday, 24-Jul-2000 19:06:57 CEST  |   Copyright © 2000 by the UMTS Forum. All Rights reserved.