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NRO Warns IPv4 Internet Addresses to be Depleted by 2012

Posted: 19th Jan, 2010 By: MarkJ
IPv4 IPv6 StatisticsThe Number Resource Organization (NRO) reports that the Internet has passed a critical stage, with remaining IPv4 addresses having fallen to just 9% (400 Million spare); IPv4 addresses are now expected to be completely depleted before the end of 2011. The news may get repeated each year but it is no less important and could result in serious problems for UK broadband ISPs that fail to adapt.

IPv4 addresses are assigned to your computer each time you go online (e.g. 123.23.56.98). It is a unique online identifier made up of four number groups and allows you to communicate with other computers around the world; not unlike a phone number for voice calls. Sadly you can only have so many IPv4 addresses and as a result IPv6 was designed.

The NRO Chairman, Axel Pawlik, said in a statement:

"The limited IPv4 addresses will not allow us enough resources to achieve the ambitions we all hold for global internet access. The deployment of IPv6 is a key infrastructure development that will enable the network to support the billions of people and devices that will connect in the coming years."

Presently IPv4, used since 1984, provides roughly 4.5 billion addresses, of which only about 400 million remain free and available for new connections. By contrast IPv6 is plentiful and more secure by design. They are 128bits long, written in hexadecimal and separated by colons; for example:
2ffe:1800:3525:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf
Failing to adopt IPv6 in time could make it more difficult for broadband providers to add new customers and it may force others to share a single IPv4 address with several users, which could cause all sorts of legal and performance problems (e.g. imagine if one of those sharing your IP did something illegal).

The good news is that more ISPs are taking the problem seriously, though some still appear intent upon waiting until the last possible moment. Part of the reason for that is a perceived lack of demand and the costs involved with adapting an entire platform to work within an IPv6 world. Never the less it must happen.

Neil Watson, Entanet’s Technical Support Manager, told us in 2009:

"Whilst several of our competitors may not be implementing IPv6 just yet I find it hard to believe that any would be so negligent that they actually reach this crisis point without taking action. By adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach (which seems even more pointless when the only option to wait for is the inevitable) ISPs are not only missing a competitive opportunity. They are compromising network performance and perhaps even becoming technically negligent."

It's difficult to predict exactly when IPv4 addresses will run out, though Unallocated IANA Address Pool Exhaustion is expected to hit around September 2011 and RIR will follow in August 2012. Suffice to say, as any network engineer will know, that doesn't leave much time left to get the job done.
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