US ISPs are requesting more IPv6 addresses and fewer IPv4 addresses than ever before -- a sign that carriers are investing in the future amidst one of the deepest recessions in modern history.
The shift in IP address requests shows that North American carriers are getting ready for the long-anticipated upgrade of the Internet's main communications protocol from IPv4, the current standard, to the next-generation IPv6.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion individually addressed devices on the Internet. IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses and supports an inconceivably huge amount of devices: 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 also offers built-in security and enhanced network management features when compared to IPv4, which is expected to run out of address space by 2012.
In the first nine months of 2009, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) received 300 requests from carriers for blocks of IPv6 address space. This compares to 250 requests received in all of 2008 and 2007.
"We're seeing an uptick in IPv6 address space requests; it's a very significant growth rate," says John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN. "We've seen a slight slowdown in IPv4 address space requests…It's probably dropped off 10% or 20% year over year."
Curran says ARIN is beginning to see ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon Wireless put a great deal of effort into migrating from IPv4-based networks to those built using IPv6.
"ISPs are asking for IPv6 addresses so they can make their networks IPv6-enabled so they are ready [for the future]," Curran says. "We give each ISP enough IPv6 addresses to support 4 billion networks, and each network can contain trillions and trillions of hosts."
Curran says the recession is not hampering carriers' interest in IPv6.
"IPv6 solves a problem that hasn't happened yet. So seeing any demand is surprising, and it means that organizations are planning ahead," Curran says. "The current weakness in the economy…is not dampening down IPv6 demand significantly because IPv6 is right around the corner for ISPs. We may be two years away from the IPv4 free pool of addresses running out, but two years if you're an ISP is enough time to get one network deployed. Two years is within everyone's planning horizon."
ARIN will detail the latest statistics about IPv6 address demand in North America at a policy meeting that will be held this week in Dearborn, Mich.
ARIN also will discuss several proposed policy changes related to IPv4 depletion and the push towards IPv6 adoption. These include:
- Allowing ARIN to reduce the size of IPv4 address space allocations to carriers as the industry gets closer to IPv4 address depletion.
- Increasing access to IPv6 address space by removing the requirement for carriers to first demonstrate that they have hundreds of customers.
- Allowing carriers to run multiple, discrete IPv6 networks that don't have to be connected to each other, such as community networks.
- Reconsideration of a current policy that requires the regional registries including ARIN to evenly divide up any IPv4 space they are able to recover.
ARIN will hold elections at this meeting for several open board of trustees and advisory council openings.