David Goldstein - IPv4 Address Shortage Getting Critical As RIPE Runs Out Of Addresses


    There are no more bulk IPv4 addresses to be handed out by RIPE NCC, the body responsible for handing out internet protocol addresses for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, with their final /22 IPv4 allocation from the last remaining addresses in their available pool handed out towards the end of November. And in a sign of how serious the shortage is, in France the media regulator has warned internet players they urgently need to switch to IPv6.

    The exhaustion of IPv4 addresses has long been anticipated and planned for by the RIPE community with RIPE viewing it as part of their responsibility to provide stewardship of these resources. And with the RIPE community’s responsible stewardship, they have been able to provide many thousands of new networks in their service region with /22 allocations after they reached their last /8 in 2012. RIPE is one of 5 Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) responsible for managing the distribution of IP address space around the world.

    In short, everything that is in some way connected to the internet needs an internet protocol address and that number continues to grow exponentially. For IPv4, there is a theoretical maximum of almost 4.3 billion addresses. For IPv6, the total number of possible IPv6 addresses is more than 7.9×1028 times as many as IPv4, or 3.4 followed by 38 zeros in total. A comparison could be if IPv4 was a golf ball, IPv6 is the sun.

    But even though RIPE has run out of IPv4 addresses, they will continue to recover IPv4 addresses in the future. These will come from organisations that have gone out of business or are closed, or from networks that return addresses they no longer need. These addresses will be allocated to members (LIRs) according to their position on a new waiting list that is now active.

    So while RIPE expects to be allocating IPv4 for some time, the small amounts will not come close to the many millions of addresses that networks in the region need today. Only LIRs that have never received an IPv4 allocation from the RIPE NCC (of any size) may request addresses from the waiting list, and they are only eligible to receive a single /24 allocation.

    To highlight the seriousness of the problem, in France the Electronic Communications, Postal and Print media distribution Regulatory Authority (L’Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques, des postes et de la distribution de la presse), notes that with the supply of IPv4 addresses set to run out by the end of 2019 “it has therefore become urgent, for the sake of competition and innovation, that all internet players switch over to IPv6” with “slowness of progress … especially significant amongst web hosting companies.”

    Once again this year, Arcep has alerted the French public to the fact that the majority of players are not planning for a deployment that will enable them to deal with the dearth of IPv4 addresses, and urges the entire internet ecosystem to accelerate the pace of their transition – which is the only future-proof solution.

    The slowness of progress is especially significant amongst web hosting companies. Only 15.5% of the three and a half million websites with .fr, .re, .pm, .yt, .tf and .wf domain names are currently IPv6-enabled. And the percentage amongst mail servers is particularly alarming: with only 5.8% of them being IPv6-ready.

    To help combat the problem, Arcep established an IPv6 task force whose goal is to help accelerate the transition to IPv6 by enabling participants to tackle specific problems and share best practices. It will meet twice a year.