Europe is just fresh out of its IPV4 address reserves, Hello IPv6?

RIPE, The organisation that allocates new IP addresses across in Europe, the Middle East and parts of central Asia has announced that it has exhausted its IPv4 addresses.

We have now run out of IPv4 addresses,” said The RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) in Amsterdam, which allocates IP addresses across 76 countries to ISPs and other organisations.

IPv4 addresses are the 32-bit numbers used to identify devices on the internet. There are only 4.2 billion IPv4 addresses in existence and the rapid growth in the number of devices — everything from smartphones to PCs to TVs or Internet of Things sensors — has rapidly eaten through the supply.

This is however not a total surprise; rather, it has been largely expected since 2012 when RIPE NCC got its final allocation of IP addresses from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

The process has also been anticipated since the 80s, and top-level exhaustion actually happened in 2012. At that point, all IPv4 address spaces have been allocated to the five regional Internet registries AFRINIC for Africa, ARIN for Antarctica, Canada, parts of the Caribbean, and the United States, APNIC East Asia, Oceania, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, LACNIC for most of the Caribbean and all of Latin America and lastly RIPE NCC for Europe, Central Asia, Russia, and West Asia.

Any IPv4 addresses returned to RIPE NCC from now on, such as from organisations that have gone out of business, or from networks that return addresses they no longer need, will be allocated via a waiting list. This is expected to account for a few hundred thousand per year. “Nowhere near the many millions required by networks today,” RIPE NCC said.

Despite warnings, the successor to IPv4 — IPv6 – has still not been widely adopted, and much of the internet today still runs on older IPv4 networks, which means operators may be required to use complex and expensive workarounds or to adopt IPv6, RIPE NCC said.

Registration services and policy development manager at the RIPE NCC, Nikolas Pediaditis called on stakeholders to support the roll out of IPv6 in a statement, saying:

“With IPv4 exhaustion, we risk heading into a future where the growth of our Internet is unnecessarily limited – not by a lack of skilled network engineers, technical equipment, or investment – but by a shortage of unique network identifiers. Therefore, we call on all stakeholders to play their role in supporting the roll-out of IPv6.”

IPv4 scarcity is a major concern for the RIPE community and in 2019, a survey of 4,161 network operators and other stakeholders revealed that a third of respondents ranked IPv4 run-out as among the top three challenges facing their organization with over half (54%) saying they will need more IPv4 addresses in the next two to three years.

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