The growing popularity of smartphones and other gadgets with Internet connectivity is sucking up all of the available IP addresses, and it's beginning to impede emerging Internet markets around the world.
Cyberspace has about four to seven years before it runs out of IP addresses totally, according to a report by market researcher Frost & Sullivan. For some countries, the problem is now, according to Sam Masud, principal analyst for carrier infrastructure at the firm.
It's been known for years that the number of IP addresses was dwindling, but there wasn't as much specificity as to when. Now Masud is predicting 2010 will be when the world runs out, based on current rates of consumption. The U.S. won't be as impacted since so many are allocated here, but emerging markets will take the hardest hit.
China, for instance, has fewer IP addresses allocated than Stanford University. And the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has more IP addresses than all of Asia.
This wasn't done to be nasty to China, he said. It's just that when IP addresses were doled out 20 years ago, the Internet was a DoD project and Stanford was heavily involved, so they kept a lot of addresses for themselves, said Masud.
With its 32-bit size, TCP/IP has room for 4.3 billion addresses. That may seem like a lot until you realize that one-third are currently accounted for and another third of that pie is claimed but not in use.
IDC said there will be 17 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2012. And obviously they will not all be using unique IPs.
TCP/IP has already extended its lifespan by 10 years, thanks to network address translation devices (define) and classless inter-domain routing (define), but it only bought time. It didn't increase the pool of addresses available.
The solution is to move to IPv6 (define), which has 128-bit addresses, said Masud. That comes out to 360,382,386,120,984,643,363,377,707,131,268,210,929 possible addresses, in case you were keeping count.