Asia’s pool of IPv4 addresses is nearly dry

As last block is distributed, move to IPv6 becomes inevitable

Tomorrow, techncially, Asia’s Regional Internet Registry announced it was down to its last block of IPv4 addresses and now will begin rationing the remaining addresses to aid in the transition to the next generation of Internet Protocols, IPv6.

The announcement came out on Thursday, April 14, in the United States, but the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre is headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, where it already was April 15.

The depletion of IPv4 addresses is not unexpected. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority made its final allocation of /8 address blocks to the Regional Internet Registries in February. But APNIC is the first to get down to its last address block, a point that director general Paul Wilson called a milestone for the Internet.

Related story:

IPv4: The final farewell begins

“This date effectively represents IPv4 exhaustion for many of the current operators in the Asia Pacific region,” Wilson said in a prepared statement. “From this day onwards, IPv6 is mandatory for building new Internet networks and services.”

IANA allocates the addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries, AfriNIC, which covers Africa; APNIC; ARIN, North America and parts of the Caribbean; LACNIC, Latin America and parts of the Caribbean; and RIPE NCC, Europe, Middle East and parts of Central Asia. IANA in February allocated to APNIC two /8 address blocks, containing about 16 million IPv4 addresses each. This left five address blocks available. According to a previously established policy, IANA distributed the remaining /8 blocks to the regional registries, exhausting its supply.

IPv4 addresses will continue to be assigned from previous allocations still in the hands of the regional registries, and from carriers, service providers and other organizations that still have allocations of the addresses. The U.S. government, which created the Internet and claimed its address space early, is believed to have significant reserves of unused IPv4 addresses. But as the available supply nears an end, registries will begin implementing policies to stretch out the remaining few addresses to help ensure that they go where they are most needed.

APNIC said there is no way to accurately predict IPv4 demand and the eventual exhaustion date.

Once IANA had made its final allocation of IPv4 addresses, APNIC continued to allocate the addresses under its existing policy, but with a strict attention to order of receipt to ensure fair processing. Now that it is down to its last block, policies are being put into place to restrict the amount of IPv4 address space available to each applicant. This is intended to conserve the supply to support the Asia region’s transition to IPv6. Without that block of IPv4 space, new network operators would find it difficult, or impossible, to connect to the Internet, even with large IPv6 address allocations available from APNIC, the registry said in its statement.

The demand for address space in Asia is due in part to the fact that that region came relatively late to the Internet and was not allocated large blocks of address early on as in the United States. But it is also a factor of the area’s economy.

“Economic activity in the Asia Pacific continues to gain momentum,” Wilson said. “The high rate of new entrants to the Internet industry is still increasing, and under this policy these newcomers will always have access to enough IPv4 address space to begin operations in today’s market.”

The good news is that there is a huge pool of IPv6 addresses remaining to be tapped, but the bad news is that IPv4 and IPv6 are essentially separate protocols. Because the two protocols are not interoperable, both versions will have to be enabled on the existing Internet infrastructure to allow all users to have access to online resources. In September the Office of Management and Budget directed civilian agencies to upgrade public facing servers and services to handle IPv6 traffic by the end of fiscal 2012. Internal IP applications and systems must be upgraded by the end of fiscal 2014.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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