Home The Internet’s Running Out of Room

The Internet’s Running Out of Room

Today’s Internet was built largely on the IPv4 or Internet Protocol version four, first introduced in 1980. Now, three decades on and with mobile Internet tracing a shining arc across the virtual firmament, the Internet is running out of available IP addresses. So maintain the 130 delegates to the IPv6 Summit in Ireland, meeting today at Dublin Castle.

“Despite having nearly four and a half billion addresses, predications estimate that IPv4 will reach maximum capacity by September 2011,” according to Irish IPv6 Task Force chair, Mícheál Ó Foghlú.

They assert three critical factors driving current demand for Internet addresses.

  1. Users in developed nations employ multiple devices to access the Internet including mobile phones, laptops, desktops and servers, all of which require individual addresses; the trend is towards even more Internet-enabled devices such as TVs, game consoles and media players
  2. Growing numbers of new users from developing nations such as China, India, and Brazil, amplified by the emphasis on mobile Internet access in many countries without good telecommunications infrastructure
  3. The Internet of Things is increasing the pressure to provide connectivity, including smart grids for electricity, water and other utility services

The group promotes a newer technology, IPv6, which they say would facilitate over four billion addresses for every person on the planet. This is because unlike the current protocol, which uses 32-bit addresses, IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses.

One of the primary concerns when it comes to dwindling availability of IP addresses under the current protocol is the effect on the economy.

“Without IPv6,” says the group, “new start-up businesses wishing to offer services on the Internet will find it very difficult or prohibitively expensive to secure globally routable addresses for new services, such as eCommerce websites. Addresses may even become a black market commodity, which could be a massive hurdle for businesses and would significantly slow Internet growth.”

Some governmental and commercial outfits, in Europe and especially Asia, have begun to run the new protocol. It is far from being universally embraced, however. To do so requires running the two systems in tandem for a while on a large scale. That, in turn, introduces the complicating issue of cost in a time when neither public nor private groups find themselves with a lot of liquidity. From changing firewalls to cable modems, this is not a light undertaking.

What do you think? Is this an urgent issue or an eventual one? Or is it over-hyped altogether? If it is a necessary change, what is the best way to switch over?

Dublin Castle photo by GLIC

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