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Is the Internet Running Out of IP Addresses?

With the advent of newer web-based and wireless technologies which rely on IP style routing, the internet is rapidly consuming available IP address space. Or is it? Cell phones, televisions, video game consoles, internet phones, computers and other end user products are certainly gobbling up IP address space, but will we soon run out? It is highly unlikely.

The internet relies on two important addressing schems: IPv4 and IPv6.

IPv4 is the most familiar. Using a 32-bit architecture, IPv4 limits available address space to 4,294,967,296 or 232 unique IP addresses. A small portion of these addresses, approximately 6.7%, are set aside for private networks and multicast addressing.

Private addressing space includes the following networks:

10.0.0.0/8

172.16.0.0/12

192.168.0.0/16

Multicast addresses include the 224.0.0.0/3 range

IPv4 also includes reserved addresses, often referred to as bogons or non-routable addresses, APIPA?s, and allocated addresses or address blocks assigned to specific organizations.

As of August 25, 2009, 4,001,462,554 IP addresses have been allocated, reserved or assigned to private address space, leaving a little over 290 million available IP addresses in the IPv4 space. Further internet growth will eventually exhaust IPv4.

In response to the limitations of the IPv4 address space, the Internet Engineering Task force (IETF) created a solution known as IPv6.

IPv6 expands available address space from 32 to 128 bits. This change increased address space from a little less than 4.3 billion to 3.4028 x 1038 or 2128. While not widely used, IPv6 transition has been in place for several years. Most operating systems and many networks are able to use IPv6 now.

IPv6 should take care of both foreseeable and unforeseeable IP addressing needs for the next several decades and longer.

Is the Internet running out of IP addresses? No.

Proper management of IPv4 and the advent of IPv6 will insure and enable efficient exponential internet growth into the distant future.