Network operators in Asia are snapping up IPv4 addresses at a faster rate than ever before, putting more pressure on the Internet industry to upgrade to IPv6, the long-anticipated replacement for IPv4.
The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), which doles out blocks of IPv4 and IPv6 address space to carriers in the region, allocated nearly 27 million IPv4 addresses to its members during the first quarter of 2010 – more than any Regional Internet Registry (RIR) has ever issued in a single quarter.
"The allocation rate of IPv4 addresses continues to increase due to the growing number of devices that require IP addresses – mobile phones, laptops, servers, routers and more," says Axel Pawlik, chair of the Number Resource Organization, which consists of the five RIRs including APNIC. "We have also seen many new IP address requests from developing countries, whose populations are coming online more quickly than ever before."
The NRO said 92% of all IPv4 addresses have been allocated.
Experts predict that the remaining IPv4 addresses will be exhausted in 2011 or 2012. When that happens, carriers including Verizon and Comcast plan to provide their customers with IPv6 addresses.
Asian carriers appeared to be hedging their bets on this transition, snapping up both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. During the first quarter of 2010, APNIC also made 186 IPv6 allocations, which is more in three months than it has ever made in a single year.
The trends in Asia are significant because the Internet infrastructure must be upgraded to support both IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6, on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices.
IPv6 proponents said the trends in Asia are a sign that the Internet industry is getting serious about IPv6.
"The great news is that APNIC increased its IPv6 allocations," says Martin Levy, Hurricane Electric's director of IPv6 strategy. "That says that all of the outreach programs are working. We definitely see a growth in announced IPv6 routes and the amount of networks that are starting to enable IPv6. More companies are starting to get the message about IPv6."