The End of IPv4 addresses – Exhaustion Timeline

Artem Tereschenko | Published: 30 January, 2020

According to the forecast by Geoff Huston, the chief engineer-researcher of the APNIC Internet registrar, the pool of IPv4 addresses will be completely exhausted in 2020. With the mass implementation of TCP/IP 35 years ago, it was hard to imagine such a problem; addresses were thought to be enough for everyone and any purpose. How did registrars spend whole capacity so quickly, who still has spare addresses, and why did this happen?

IPv4 exhaustion

When 4.3 billion is not enough?

Let’s go 35 years back to 1983. The massive implementation of TCP/IP using 32-bit addressing gave confidence that 4.3 billion addresses would be enough for 4.5 billion people. But the world’s population has almost doubled, and the Internet has become very widespread.

The second reason for rapid exhaustion was improvidence. In the 80s, it was easy to get a pool of public addresses; many companies acquired an excessive number of public addresses, even assigning them to their servers in internal local networks.

And the third reason, which has become especially relevant in recent years, is the spread of IoT (Internet of things), mobile Internet and virtualization. Now, almost everyone at home can have 5 gadgets with external addresses.

The founders of IPv4 made a mistake in calculating the number of devices on the global Internet, and inefficient distribution led to a severe shortage in recent years.

Exhaustion Timeline

Back in the early 2000s, APNIC Director Paul Wilson predicted the depletion of the IPv4 address pool in the next ten years, and his assumptions are coming true.

2011

One of the largest Internet registrars APNIC (provides addresses in the Asia-Pacific region) reports that a single /8 block has left. It leads to defining the new rules for allocating addresses – only one block of 1024 addresses per customer. APNIC gaines time without which the addresses would run out within one month, so currently the organization still has a small number of addresses.

2012

Now the European Internet registrar (RIPE) announces the “very end”, begins to distribute the last /8 block and imposes restrictions on the IPv4 pool. As a result of savings, the organization managed to keep 16 million of free addresses by 2015, but so far there are only 3.5 million left.

To solve the severe shortage of IPv4 addresses, a new IPv6 protocol was launched in 2012. Many global telecom operators have activated the protocol for their customers, including Internode, AT&T, Comcast, XS4ALL, Free Telecom, and others, as well as equipment manufacturers Cisco and D-Link launched the new default protocol in their routers.

2013

APNIC’s new forecast by Jeff Huston  – ARIN will run out of addresses in the second half of 2014. ARIN itself announced that it is starting to distribute the last two /8 blocks.

2015

ARIN has completely run out of external IPv4 addresses pool. Now American companies must get in line and wait for someone, who will free their unused ones to obtain a spare address.

2017

The registrar LACNIC (Latin American countries) also announced the stop of  addresses allocation. And only those companies that have never acquired them before can buy a small pool at their disposal. AFRINIC (African Region) continues allocating, but now it strictly controls the purpose of using IPv4 addresses and gives only a limited number of them per customer.

2019

Currently, all Internet registrars have a small pool of addresses. Most of them are unused and returned for re-allocating. When MIT revealed 14 million unused external IP addresses, more than a half were reselled to companies in need.

The future of external IP addressing

According to recent forecasts, the IPv4 addresses will completely exhaust by February 2020. Telecommunications operators, Internet providers, equipment manufacturers and other companies will need to decide – either to migrate to IPv6 or work with NAT mechanisms.

Network Address Translation (NAT) allows you to convert multiple private addresses to one public. Since the maximum number of translation ports is 65 000, in theory several local addresses can be converted to one external. In practice this value is slightly less.

Future of IPv4

Carrier-Grade NAT as a solution for telecom operators allows flexible and centralized management of the whole set of external and internal addresses, including determining the availability of TCP- and UDP- ports. This is vital for improving port utilization, as well as protection against DDoS attacks.

The network address translation has its problems, and the main issue is that only one external address is displayed for all subscribers. Some sites can block the access of multiple users from one address, or even consider it as DoS attack and block access for everyone.

The best alternative to NAT to be considered is the smooth transition of the entire infrastructure to IPv6 support or using a temporary hybrid scheme. The new protocol addresses will be enough for a long time. It also has some advantages,such as built-in IPSec for encrypting data packets.

However, at this moment, despite the urgent need, only 14,3% of sites worldwide use IPv6. There are difficulties that slow down widespread of protocol that are related both to the migration cost and the technical issues of implementation, including backward compatibility with IPv4.

We will cover this question further in detail. Please contact us to learn more about VAS Experts DPI and how it helps with migration to IPv6.