World could run out of Internet Addresses in 2012

In January of 2010, the Number Resource Organization (NRO), the coordinating group that oversees the allocation of Internet number resources around the world, announced that less than 10 percent of available Internet IPv4 addresses remain unallocated.

Nine months later in October of 2010, the group warned that the number had fallen to below 5 percent and that the world could run out of internet addresses by 2012 if the transition to the next-generation Internet Protocol (IPv6) was not undertaken soon.

This week, the IDG news service reports The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned two blocks of IPv4 addresses to the Asia-Pacific Network which leaves just five (out of 256) major address blocks to be allocated.

Under IANA rules, each of the five regional internet registries (African, America, Asia-pacific, Latin America/Caribbean and Europe/Middle East/Central Asia) will receive one of the remaining blocks.

Yesterday the NRO along with IANA announced it will be holding a press conference on Thursday in order “to make a significant announcement and to discuss the global transition to the next generation of Internet addresses”.

In addition to announcing the assignment of the last five blocks of internet addresses, the organizations are expected to update its estimated depletion dates and current strategy for transitioning to IPv6.

After the last blocks of addresses are assigned to the regional registries, Internet service providers (ISPs) and companies will still be able to get addresses from those registries until they run out.

Background

Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of technical rules that defines how devices communicate over a network. There are currently two versions of IP, IPv4 and IPv6.

Although IPv4 has served us well for many years, the problem is that it is limited to about 4 billion unique public internet addresses. The rapid growth of devices connecting directly to the internet has skyrocketed in the last ten years which has led to a rapid depletion of IP addresses.

IPv6 is the “next generation” of the Internet Protocol, providing a hugely expanded address space, which will allow the Internet to grow into the future. IPv6 virtually guarantees enough unique internet addresses for generations.

NRO says the failure to adopt IPv6 in the next 2-3 years could be damaging to the global economy because it would mean that new internet enabled devices would not have an IP address and would be unable to connect to the internet.

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