For years IP experts have been warning that the pool of IPv4 addresses was finite, and would eventually be depleted as Internet connectivity spread and more devices became connectable. The solution, IPv6, has been available for over a decade but implementation (or at least planning for it) has mainly happened at the carrier backbone level, while support at the CPE, device and apps/content levels has been sporadic at best, primarily due to a lack of business incentive or urgency.
That changed in February this year when IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) announced that the last of the slash-8 blocks of IPv4 addresses had been allocated to the world's five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) under normal processes. At the time, APNIC - the RIR responsible for Asia Pacific - said that once it reached its final slash-8 worth of unallocated addresses, it would implement a rationing system under anyone coming to APNIC for IPv4 addresses would get just one slash-22 block (which equals 1,024 IPv4 addresses). Otherwise, they would get IPv6 allocations from then on.
APNIC had predicted that the rationing system would probably kick in as early as the middle of this year. In fact, it was triggered in April - making Asia the first region to start rationing IPv4 - thanks to accelerated demand for IP addresses, particularly from China, says APNIC director general Paul Wilson.
"In China the situation is quite unique, where you have close to a billion people using mobile handsets and nearly half a billion using the internet, and you've got huge operator turnover as they upgrade their users to smartphones, which is going to bring even more users onto the internet," he told Telecom Asia.
Now that IPv6 has become the default IP address protocol for Asia (with other regions soon to follow), the next move is fairly obvious - if you're a carrier, ISP, network equipment vendor, CPE maker, device manufacturer or content provider and you don't support IPv6, you'd better start planning.
The bad news: IPv6 implementation still poses serious challenges. The good news: there's still time to make plans and do it right.