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Nokia gives cell phones new address

The handset maker plans to incorporate a new Internet Protocol addressing system into some of its cell phones next year.

Nokia is giving its cell phones a new address.

The handset maker said Wednesday that phones it plans to make next year will dip into the next generation of the Internet, known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which vastly expands the pool of unique numbers available for connecting gadgets to the Net. Every device needs a distinct IP address to use the Internet.

Nokia is currently offering prototypes of the phones to carriers--but for testing purposes only, the company said. Phones that use both the new IP system and the current one are expected to become commercially available next year.

Nokia is committed to using IPv6. The company and telephone equipment makers say the the current IPv4 system is running out of Internet addresses. "Nokia recognizes the pressing need for IPv6 technology," said Adam Gould, a Nokia vice president.

The company will likely first target its IPv6 phones at service providers in cell phone-saturated Asian countries, where the number of usable IP addresses is running short, according to some networking industry experts. Some high-profile carriers, including Japanese giant NTT and Asia Netcom, already use the new standard in their networks.

So far, there has been little demand in other regions for the IPv6 products that most network equipment makers sell. IPv6 opponents say there's no danger of depletion of the older address scheme outside of Asia for at least two decades--if ever.

Nonetheless, the Department of Defense recently announced it finished the first phase of testing a North American IPv6 network set up by the University of New Hampshire and several major equipment and software vendors.