IPv4 exhaustion close due to Asia-Pacific's accelerated growth

Monday, 07 February, 2011

Economic development across the Asia-Pacific region is causing unprecedented demand on a key, shared resource - Internet Protocol addresses. Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) and the internet community are fully prepared for this event, having achieved a plan for IPv4's replacement protocol back in 1999 with the release of standards defining IPv6. These plans included IPv6 addressing architecture and a model to cope with the exhaustion of the IPv4 address space.

Until recently, the IANA free pool had stood at seven address blocks. According to normal operating procedures, APNIC recently applied for two of these '/8' blocks after allocations reduced its existing regional free pool. This triggered a globally agreed policy, developed cooperatively by the communities of all the RIRs. This policy calls for the remaining five /8s to be equally distributed, one to each of the five regions, immediately depleting the remaining free pool.

There was never any question that the global pool of IPv4 addresses was a finite resource. Predictions for IANA's IPv4 exhaustion have been debated for years and, as it has happened, the moment of global exhaustion occurred only slightly earlier than the most recent predictions.

However, it is safe to say that IPv4 exhaustion has been accelerated by the explosion of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region during the past decade.

APNIC Director General Paul Wilson said, "It's an exciting place to be at this dynamic time in global economic development."

Previously low penetration rates for domestic broadband, combined with an unprecedented surge in the rollout of networks providing mobile internet connectivity, has seen millions more devices connecting to the internet.

"This region is home to not only some of the largest populations in the world, but also the fastest-growing economies. Nearly all Asia-Pacific economies are either in a strong developmental position, or they are accelerating at a rapid pace," Geoff Huston, Chief Scientist, APNIC said.

One example is China. The recently published '27th China Internet Development Status Survey Report', produced by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), shows China alone has more than 457 million fixed broadband internet connections, yet this still represents an internet penetration rate of only 34.3% of the population.

Also indicative of spreading trends across the region, China also has 303 million mobile internet subscriptions.

Speaking about APNIC's plans to control the final stages of IPv4 exhaustion,  Wilson said, "Strict allocation policies are in place to ensure IP addresses are available to those with a demonstrated need. However, the Asia-Pacific community is consuming vast amounts of address space as it fuels growth across the region. It is APNIC's duty to manage the available address space responsibly and equitably for the benefit of everyone in the Asia-Pacific."

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