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Finally it happened. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has run out of IPv4 numbers. The world now has 2 choices. Either source IPv4 numbers that have been issued but are not in use or switch to IPv6. The 1st option is already well founded. One technique is to use network address translation to split an IP address into several private addresses. Another is to buy IP addresses on the secondary market. When pure VoIP service providers entered the telecoms market, regulators were concerned that making emergency calls would not necessarily reveal the true geographical location of the caller. A common response was to offer telephone numbers (translatable into IP addresses) only to those service providers who offered their customers a means to register changes of location. Other VoIP providers were left to buy their own IP addresses, which meant that the IP address could come from just about any jurisdiction on the planet. The system works fine.

A thriving secondary market in IPv4 could probably serve the needs of many users for the next decade. But that’s not a long-term solution. The turning point has been reached, manufacturers and vendors of equipment such as access devices, terminals, monitors, sensors, etc., are likely to begin the era of IPv6 with serious investments.  Countries such as Japan and Korea and emerging markets such as China started a while back, as did the US government. However, the big growth market is unlikely to be large items but small ones, unlikely to be fashionable consumer products which have ever shortening product life cycles, and more likely to be the billions of small industrial monitors and sensors used in SCADA systems, for example, by utility companies to gauge electricity, gas and water usage or to detect environmental hazards such as earth tremors, security cameras, and so on. These are M2M communications.

IPv6 uses 128-bit (2128) addresses unlike 32-bits (232) for IPv4 and 64-bits (264) for IPv5, an experimental version for Internet Streamed Protocol (later ST2) which offered a mix of connectionless and connected communications. Big numbers, but what about the cost? One estimate for moving the entire US government over to IPv6 is USD7 billion. Sounds like a good way for the White House to stimulate the US economy? But for most corporate users reprogramming rather than replacement seems to be the mid-term solution. For most consumers, it will co
me in the box.

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