Testing Incentives Sought

U.S. private sector reluctant to embrace IPv6 standard.

Governments in Asia and Europe have taken concrete steps to encourage the private sector to adopt IPv6, but in the United States, most interested parties are lobbying for a laissez-faire approach.

The attitude in the United States has some infrastructure vendors warning that the countrys economic edge could be in jeopardy if the nation doesnt accelerate its transition to the new protocol.

There is a broad consensus that the United States is in no danger of running out of IP addresses in the IPv4 context soon. However, the Department of Defense implemented a plan to convert to IPv6 networking, and the Department of Commerce earlier this year asked for input on other roles for the federal government in the transition.

Urging the government to consider the impact of IPv6 deployment on the countrys competitiveness in the global market, Cisco Systems Inc. Senior Vice President Joel Bion cautioned last week that Japan, China and Europe "already see the lethargy in the U.S. as an opportunity to seize economic leadership."

From Ciscos perspective, applications under development overseas will be less expensive than IPv4 applications that continue to be developed here. In addition, IPv6 applications will have "more creative freedom" because developers wont have to spend time designing "workarounds" but can instead concentrate on core products and services, said Bion in Washington.

"Once leadership in Internet services and applications is lost, it will be difficult for U.S. application developers to compete globally," Bion warned.

Paris-based Alcatel S.A. is raising similar concerns about U.S. leadership in Internet technology, warning the Commerce Department that a lagging United States could frustrate the global reach and seamlessness of the Internet.

Infrastructure gear makers recently got a boost in Japan when the government there established tax exemptions for the purchase of IPv6-ready routers and for ISPs evaluating IPv6 in their networks. Although manufacturers havent explicitly asked for such help here, some network operators are broaching the subject.

Arguing that there are few market incentives for upgrading to IPv6 today, BellSouth Corp. is urging the government to establish tax incentives for companies that begin testing and running the new protocol.

"Just because IPv6 has a feature which could be used in a particular manner to enable other desirable functions does not mean IPv6 is needed or even desirable, given the associated difficulties, costs, etc.," Robert Wright, an attorney for BellSouth in Washington, told the government. "Unless IPv4 is a limiting factor even when considering reasonable add-ons or workarounds, IPv6 features may be nice but not necessary."

BellSouth wants the government to designate certain predeployment activities under the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit program. In addition, the carrier told the Commerce Department that the government should offer grants to encourage industry to develop IPv6 applications and network enhancements.

The United States largest software developer is not worried about the pace of the IPv6 transition, however. According to Microsoft Corp.s policy counsel, Bill Guidera, in Washington, the government should continue to let the marketplace determine the pace. The transition will not be cheap, and developers need to establish a clear understanding of their customers needs before IPv6 becomes the norm.