October 19, 2009, 8:56 PM — U.S. 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."
"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.