The Status of IPv4 : Where do we stand

In my last post I gave a brief account of the history of the Internet: early IP allocation principles, the creation of the World Wide Web, the emergence of the current Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system and its role in managing the fair allocation of IP addresses.. In this post I shall look at the status of IPv4 today and what this means.

The Internet has been built largely on the IPv4 protocol of IP addresses. This finite pool of IPv4 addresses contains around four billion unique IP addresses (4,294,967,296 to be exact). However, the explosive growth of connected devices has resulted in the depletion of available IPv4 addresses.

To prepare for full IPv4 depletion, in 2009, the five RIR communities agreed on a Global Policy: when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority's (IANA) central pool of IPv4 addresses had only five /8 blocks left, each RIR would receive one final /8 allocation each (one /8 is equal to 16.8 million IPv4 addresses). Each RIR would then continue to allocate IPv4 address space to members in accordance with its community-based regional policies until the pool of available IPv4 addresses was fully exhausted.

As of 3 February 2011, the central pool of IANA's available IPv4 addresses was depleted. The RIPE NCC is expected to reach the last /8 of its available IPv4 address space later this year. As of 7 May 2012, the RIPE NCC had approximately 37,000,000 IPv4 addresses left.

The full allocation of IPv4 addresses is an important milestone in the development and evolution of the Internet. It highlights global levels of Internet penetration and opens the door for the next wave of the Internet.

As the Internet grows, it is important that businesses, governments, content providers, ISPs and vendors are encouraged to upgrade and plan for IPv6 adoption. More information about IPv6, the next generation of IP addresses, is available at IPv6 Act Now.