According to the Digital Britain report, the number of UK households with Internet access grew by 1.2m in the last 12 months alone, and over 70 per cent of us use the Internet on a daily basis. This is due in part to a technology that we often take for granted but that makes the Internet accessible to all.
Every computer linked to the Internet has been assigned a number that connects it to other devices on the network. These numbers, or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, enable the Internet to work, by allowing devices to communicate with one another across the network.
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) oversees global IP address allocation to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs)1. These RIRs, in turn, assign addresses to Internet service providers, device manufacturers, national governments and other organisations.
The biggest threat to the Internet is that the current form of IP addresses, version 4 or IPv4, for short, is running out. We will shortly see the pool of unassigned addresses shrink to just 10 per cent, and it’s been estimated that the IPv4 address pool will be completely depleted by 2011.
The explosive growth of the Internet and rapid adoption of networked digital devices worldwide has led to this IP address exhaustion. Recognising that a new protocol was required to meet future demand, the Internet technical community developed IPv6, the next-generation of IP addresses, in the mid-1990s.
Unlike IPv4 addresses, whose 32-bit format provides 4,294,967,296 unique addresses, IPv6 has a longer format, allowing for a total of roughly a trillion trillion trillion addresses, enough to meet the demands of continuing Internet development and innovation.
The uptake of IPv6 addresses has so far been slow, but it is paramount that Internet service providers, national and regional governments, as well as private sector organisations make it a priority to accelerate adoption.
Only by ensuring that all devices connected to the Internet are compatible with IPv6 can we all stay connected and safeguard sustainable growth of the Internet now and in the years to come. For further information on IPv4 depletion and adopting IPv6, please visit www.IPv6ActNow.org.