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Exec: No shortage of Net addresses

Doomsayers have predicted that IP addresses will soon run out in Asia and elsewhere. "Misinformation," says the head of an Internet registry.

The idea that there is an Internet address shortage looming in Asia or any part of the world is "misinformation," according to a senior executive at the body responsible for Internet addresses in the Asia-Pacific region.

Paul Wilson, director general of APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Centre), which distributes and registers Internet address resources in that region, denies the shortage, saying that it will take one or even two decades before the current address system runs out.

"The source of the rumor has been one I've been tackling for the last five years, since I started in this position at APNIC," he said.

APNIC is one of four regional Internet registries currently operating. It provides allocation and registration services that support the operation of the Internet globally. The registry gets blocks of addresses from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA, in the United States before allocating these to Asia-Pacific Internet service providers and other bodies that ask for them.

Some industry analysts have predicted that IP (Internet Protocol) addresses will run out in as little as two years, as more people get access. The experts also point to the historical imbalance in the way addresses have been issued, with the United States grabbing the most, leaving little for the burgeoning Internet masses of China.

The sums just don't add up, Wilson said.

He said that around five blocks of "slash eight," or /8, addresses are consumed worldwide each year. Each block allows for 16 million host addresses. There are 100 blocks still available in the current IPv4 (IP version 4) system--enough for 20 years, or perhaps fewer when 3G, or third-generation, phones take off, but certainly more than the two years predicted by doomsayers, he said.

Wilson cites several reasons for the birth of the myth of the IP address shortage and the related idea that Asia is a latecomer to the IP address buffet.

"There is a lingering perception that maybe APNIC has been difficult to get addresses from in the past, and people will simply look at the number of addresses allocated in different parts of the world and conclude that somehow things are different in the Asia-Pacific (region). Historically, they were different, but in today's world, they are not," he said.

Today, any organization applying for addresses plays by the same rules, regardless of which country it is from, he said.

"The blocks are allocated as they are required. So we don't have a set of addresses earmarked for the Asia-Pacific. There is no pre-allocation for the region which can run out. When addresses are not available, there will be no more addresses left for the whole world," he said.

The shift to IPv6
There are several good reasons to adopt IPv6 worldwide, he said, but he also hoped that there would be less lobbying from parties with a vested interest in pushing rapid adoption.

He warned of the adverse effect that could occur if panicked companies spent large sums on IPv6 networking hardware.

"The danger of doing that--if you promote that IP addresses are going to run out in a few years, then two or three years will pass, there will be no address shortage. Then what will people think about it?" he said.

However, he added that in the last two years, due to the efforts of APNIC and other bodies, such messages of doom have grown fainter.

In the last few years, the governments of Korea, China and Japan have been strong supporters of IPv6, their efforts strongly backed by domestic network equipment manufacturers and bodies such as the IPv6 Forum.

Equipment makers naturally want ISPs and enterprises to spend money to upgrade to IPv6-compatible products, while Asian governments have felt the new numbering system, with its hugely expanded address space, gave them more room to maneuver.

Japan has a government-imposed deadline to upgrade its information technology sectors to run on IPv6 by 2005. The mandate is expected to stimulate network upgrades and application development.

The U.S. Department of Defense said it will move to IPv6 by 2008. Department acquisitions taking place after October of this year must be IPv6-compatible in order to help the military gear up for the transition.

IPv6 promises both end-to-end security and quality of service, which aims to make sure packets traveling over the network arrive at their intended destination.

CNETAsia's John Lui reported from Singapore.