Trading offers temporary fix for web address shortage

Internet address trading could stave off the much-hyped shortage of IP addresses for two years, according to web watchers at the University of Southern California.

Global internet authorities have been running short of IPv4 addresses for some time, and are expected to announce the last blocks have been doled out this week.

As the USC team points out, “four billion addresses are just not enough for seven billion people”.

Although the upcoming IPv6 protocol allows many more addresses, many believe there will be a delay between IPv4 addresses running out and IPv6 addresses becoming widely available.

Requests for addresses double every year, so trading will only help for two years

However, despite the fact that there are no more blocks of addresses to give out, better use of existing ones could buy more time, according to John Heideman, who has been working on a USC Internet Census.

Heideman said his group had found that although some of the already allocated address blocks are heavily used, many have been used sparingly.

“Even allowing for undercount,” Heideman said, “probably only 14% of addresses are visible on the public internet.”

The addresses not being used in quieter blocks could be traded with busier areas to alleviate the shortage, the researchers said.

“As full allocation happens, there will be pressure to improve utilisation and eventually trade under-utilised areas,” the USC report said.

Making better use of the addresses available could free up two to four times as many addresses as are currently being used. “But requests for addresses double every year, so trading will only help for two years.”

Heideman’s report comes as the Number Resource Organization and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority are preparing to make announcements saying they have given out all the IPv4 address blocks to regional authorities.

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