IPv6 will spawn limitless internet addresses

28 May 2008

IPv6, the successor to the current version of internet protocol, will lead to a thousand-fold demand for internet addresses and will provide “more addresses in cyberspace than there are grains of sand on the world’s beaches,” EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, said yesterday.

Reding yesterday set a target that by 2010 some 25pc of IP addresses used by businesses, public bodies and citizens will conform to IPv6.

IPv4, the current version of internet protocol, provides some 4.3 billion domain addresses, of which only 700 million – or just 16pc – currently remain free.

The new IPv6 will lead to an almost unlimited amount of IP addresses available for an unlimited amount of applications that will use the internet to control everything from street lights and intelligent buildings to web-enabling everyday household appliances.

Most new computers and servers being sold by major manufacturers are already IPv6 compatible, but are only reachable through their old IPv4 addresses.

Europe’s ‘backbone’ internet network for research GEANT is already 100pc IPv6 compatible and has led to Europe having the highest take-up of IPv6 addresses of any region in the world. However, this improvement has yet to filter through to the public internet.

Concerted action across Europe by all industry players is therefore required to ensure that IPv6 usage grows rapidly, with backbone internet networks supporting both IPv4 and IPv6.

Reding yesterday called for member states to put the European public sector at the forefront of deployment by migrating their own internet networks, public sector websites and eGovernment services to IPv6.

The Commission also wants the most important websites of Europe to take the lead and aims to receive commitments from at least 100 top European website operators, such as broadcasters or online news services, before the end of 2008. The EU’s own website http://europa.eu/, managed by the Commission, will be IPv6 accessible by 2010.

To encourage the European IT industry to move forward, member states should make the use of IPv6 a condition for a public procurement, (as the European Commission and the US Government have already done), raise awareness of businesses and organisations and help them with the transition.

“This is very much a case of a stitch in time saves nine,” said Reding. “In the short term, businesses and public authorities might be tempted to try to squeeze their needs into the straitjacket of the old system, but this would mean Europe is badly placed to take advantage of the latest internet technology, and could face a crisis when the old system runs out of addresses.

“IPv6 provides more addresses in cyberspace than there are grains of sand on the world’s beaches. If Europeans are to use the latest internet devices such as smart tags in shops, factories and airports, intelligent heating and lighting systems that save energy and in-car networks and navigation systems, then we already face a thousand-fold increase in demand for IP addresses.

“I call on member states to make sure public authorities and industry have IPv6 widely sewn up by 2010,” Reding said.

David Curtin, chief executive of Irish managed domain registry IEDR which manages the .ie domain, told siliconrepublic.com that the move to IPv6 will be fundamental to the development of the internet.

“The number of web addresses in IPv4 are rapidly running out because of all the multiple devices that will require IP addresses from mobile phones to computers and servers.

“IPv6 will solve this by making it possible to have a couple of thousand addresses for every person on the planet,” Curtin said.

By John Kennedy