The Global IPv6 Summit in Korea 2006
The recent Global IPv6 Summit 2006 in Seoul, Korea was well organized, took place in a delightful venue, and had impassioned speakers and listeners covering a variety of topics related to Asia, the epicenter of hot IPv6 initiatives. The organizers had clearly gone to a lot of work to put this event on, even handing out headsets so that audience members could get translations of presentations given in other languages.
In general, the theme of this conference, Emerging Business with IPv6, was far afield from IPv6 conferences of years past, which tended to be totally focused on the technical aspects of the New Internet, and indicates how much the interest in this field is swinging towards actual transition and business issues. It is also true, however, that although the demand for business cases was clearly present, there were in fact not many real business cases presented. The following is a sample of some experiences from the conference.
Korea Telecom indicated that it is moving ahead with its plans for providing IPv6 to customers, with strong government backing and support. Its basic business problem appears to be that it has reached near-saturation of its market, since over 72% of Koreans already have both broadband connectivity (and when they say high speed, they really mean it!) and cellphones, and the company needs to amplify and leverage its offerings to grow. It thus hopes to get into a whole range of additional services or "solutions," made possible via IPv6.
One obvious service, IPTV, is on hold because of political problems – the cable industry is fighting back. KT is looking hard for profitable applications, and is still unsure of what customers will pay for. It believes that it will realize considerable savings with IPv6 because it is much less complex to implement, and thus makes it easier to change networks. KT also believes that high quality VoIP is only possible with IPv6, and that this could prove to be very profitable. It is heavily promoting WiBro for the country, as is Japan. I saw a new cellphone that seemed a portent of the future – it had GSM (Europe, US, etc.), CDMA (Japan, Korea) Bluetooth, as well as both WiFi and WiBro/Wimax.
Dr. Hiroshi Esaki, the Executive Director of The IPv6 Promotion Council of Japan, gave one of the most interesting presentations, including several cases of profitable applications. One of the best of these was the 30-40% savings that are being realized by using IPv6-enabled sensornets to control energy usage, especially HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) for skyscrapers in Japan, including the giant headquarters building of Mitsubishi Electronics. He noted that such buildings could be "torn down and rebuilt every 20 years with the savings in energy from the IPv6-enabled control systems." Such facilities management systems can involve tens of thousands of sensors, which are easier to monitor, fine tune and troubleshoot when IPv6-enabled. He also mentioned that FreeBit has deployed VoIPv6 systems (phones with Centrex controls) for thousands of student dormitory rooms. He cited new products from Yamaha, Hitachi, Fujitsu, SGI, and Mitsushita; however, he noted that IPv6 still needs a clearer case for ROI in the IT biz, and that there is presently no real strategy in Japan for global business development and deployment.
NTT of Japan also believes it can make money from IPv6, by having simpler networks (thus saving costs of changes and modifications), and has had considerable experience in running v6 on its backbone facilities. Mr. Woon Kim presented for NTT, and mentioned that all its backbone routers support both v4 and v6; they have over 100 very-high-speed dual-stack routers. Whereas NTT is conducting a lot of experiments — for disaster countermeasures, medical networks, remote classrooms, environmental monitoring and machine-to-machine communications (m2m-x) — and offers an array of IPv6 services such as VoIP and video streaming, Mr. Kim was forthright in saying, "IPv6 experiments still depend upon the Government budget."
Byungchang Kang of SAIT (Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology) gave an interesting presentation on IPv6 and WiBro. He noted that WiBro supported in-vehicle applications at speeds over 100 kilometers/hour, so that buses and trains could provide online services this way. He said WiBro service is starting in Japan in June of this year, and that this is viewed as a lead enabler of true multimedia mobile Internet. He believes IPv6 and WiBro (802.16e, with data rates of 4-10Mbps) are ideal partners, both for the technology match-up and (I personally found this especially interesting) because WiBro is a "Green Field" application with brand new networks being installed, so there is no "competition" between v6 and an existing v4 legacy system.
Other "business" presentations were really more along the lines of government sponsored R&D projects. There was a call for more such projects, including more testing of multicast. In fact, one presenter, Mr. H. J. Park of Zooinet, called into doubt whether multicast for IPTV could really work as it is presently planned, stating that each router in a system would have to be perfectly configured for it to properly function — he said effective v6 multicasting might, in fact , not happen "in his lifetime."
There was a lot of questioning whether profitable IPv6 could really be possible within the next five years, and there were a lot of calls for examples of actual applications that consumers would pay for (there seems to be a dearth of these in Asia at this point, including both South Korea and Japan).
One presenter (Mr. Sang Hwa Lee of CST) came up with an interesting concept He said that the government of Korea may actually have gotten it backwards. Instead of spending a lot of money to build IPv6 infrastructure and now looking for killer applications, he claimed that they should have spent the money developing a few killer apps and then releasing them (in less-than-fully-capable form) on the IPv4 network, and then waited for consumers to demand that the network be upgraded to v6 so they could enjoy the full benefit of the applications.
In summary, there is a lot of valuable work going on in IPv6 in Asia,
and the first generations of v6-enabled products are being produced by
several dozen companies. There are some dramatic and profitable applications
that are active, such as high quality VoIP in university networks. However,
there is still a lot of doubt about the business cases that will cause
IPv6 adoption to accelerate. The need for more IPv6-enabled applications
that are popularly demanded and show a clear path to profitability is
a recurring theme. There is considerable consensus that the rapid emergence
of wireless broadband (both WiFi and WiBro/WiMax) in metropolitan areas
will do much to highlight and leverage desirable IPv6 functionality, both
for people (using mobile business and content delivery) and for machine-to-machine
networks. Well-produced events such as this one will clearly go a long
way in furthering those goals.