The current crop of Internet addresses could start to disappear this week if a regional Internet registry makes one more request for two blocks of addresses.
APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre) is eligible to request two large blocks of IPv4 (Internet Protocol, Version 4) addresses, because users have been snapping up its existing stock quickly enough, according to Leo Vegoda, manager of number resources at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Because there are only seven of these large blocks left, that allocation to APNIC would activate a policy for the IANA to hand out the last five blocks to the five regional registries, Vegoda said.
The timing suggests that predictions that IPv4 addresses will be depleted very soon may be correct. Martin Levy, director of IPv6 strategy at ISP Hurricane Electric, predicted last week that the IANA's stockpile would be exhausted this week. At the same time, two online "clocks" that estimate the date of IPv4 depletion are showing that this event should have passed already or would occur very soon.
This won't mean that suddenly no user can get a new IPv4 address, Vegoda noted. In addition to the remaining numbers held by the RIRs, there are some addresses left in older blocks assigned before the RIRs were established, which the RIRs have split up among themselves. But given the fast adoption of new addresses in some parts of the world, those resources might be used up soon.
The expanded address space is expected to be most critical to users in quickly developing countries such as China and India, as well as for the many new mobile devices being used for Internet access. The transition to IPv6 will be gradual, but even an enterprise that has enough IPv4 addresses should start supporting IPv6 in order to reach the new end points that won't be able to get IPv4 addresses, Vegoda said.