What next for IP?

Well, my name is not Agnes Nutter, so you have to treat this more as musings that predictions...

IPv4 finally hitting the end stops - so what next?

Well, lets look at IPv6 first. It has suffered from chicken and egg syndrome a lot for many years - with people not deploying IPv6 services as there are no users, and users not seeing any point as there are no IPv6 services...

Can that work for us now? Can the fact we now have an egg help create chickens faster? I hope so. I hope that momentum will mean IPv6 take up goes really quickly. I hope in a years time we are looking back and laughing at it all. I don't know, and I worry that IPv4 will some how cling on to the bitter end with NAT and mapping and SRV records and all sorts somehow keeping it going... Let's hope not.

We know the big stumbling block has been IPv6 capable consumer routers. At last it is happening. Give it a few months and you will not be able to buy a DSL router that does not do IPv6. And bear in mind, people do not keep this kit for years - you are lucky when things last longer than a 12 month warranty these days. So a couple of years and all end users will, by simple updates, be using an IPv6 capable router.

The ISPs are not daft either. They know they have to move now, and will. Thankfully,  whilst it may be months of planning, it is not that hard. Normal maintenance and a few months work and some equipment and systems upgrades... Give it 6 months and ISPs will be IPv6 ready - they have to be.

At that point you have consumers everywhere that happen to have IPv6, without planning it or thinking about it - it will just happen naturally. People won't even realise it has happened and won't realise that www.google.co.uk is now working via IPv6. I will be surprised if this is not within 2 years.

Then, we have a case where IPv6 only services are really viable. Until then it is tricky as some people can't get to you. But there will be a tipping point when IPv6 is no problem. We saw it with browsers - there was a point when any sensible web site did not try and use javascript - now you can safely use it anywhere.

So, that is the rise of IPv6, all looking good and just a question of how long it takes.

What of IPv4? This is where I am really pondering. There are around 3.5 billion IPv4 addresses out there and they are now a limited resource. The last gold mine has been mined dry. What happens to that?

A simple and obvious thing that has to happen right away is the value of IPv4 addresses rises. Until today they were free if you needed them (excepting membership fees). Any higher value was speculative. Now you cannot get them for free any more. They have value. But what does that mean?

Everyone providing any services that consume IPv4 addresses will have to consider the price for that service. It is worth more. It has a higher price than IPv6 usage. It does not matter if broadband, hosting, virtual servers, ssl web sites, whatever. If it uses an IPv4 it is worth more. You can charge more. You need  to charge more else you use up what IPv4s you have left.

So the economics change, drastically, and quickly. Simply having IPv4 space is now an asset - it is really worth wasting it on customers? We are not there yet, but how long before ISPs start using NAT even when they do not need to because they need to maximise a disposable asset? Some people will really need IP space, and some could just do with it, and some will have it. This creates a market place. Could there be IPv4 hording? What of IPv4 trading for the sake of IPv4 trading, like trading art - people not actually using the space, just holding it as an asset that will gain value? If fact, using it de-values it as it is harder to stop using it when you sell it...

When IPv4's start trading at £100 each, it may be worth selling a small ISP that has 100,000 IPv4s? No plans to, but what if they get to £1000 each?

Scams... We have not seen what the world of fraud will come up with! I am not sure I can even speculate on that. There will be scams of all sorts. The registries have made changes to make it hard to hijack IP space or sell it when it is not yours, but that won't stop the scams...


  1. I still find it amazing that so many datacentres aren't yet providing IPv6 - I've got services from various companies in various DCs and whenever I ask about IPv6 the answer is always the same: waiting on the DC to offer it...

  2. Not sure whether this is a silly question, but what's to be done with all those devices like TVs, home cinema boxes and PVRs which have an internet connection but only allow the use of IPv4 addresses? I have three of these. There must be millions in use. Is there any prospect of Sony and co adding IPv6 in the near future?

  3. The thing is that we will not be switching over to IPv6. It runs in parallel. So all that means is those devices stay on IPv4 and your machines continue to talk IPv4 to them. Eventually that will mean they cannot talk outside your house maybe but you probably don't need them to.

    But yes, I expect they will do IPv6 in newer versions. And I expect some stuff will be upgraded to IPv6 by software updates.


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