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Jul 25, 2009

IP addresses are estimated to be exhausted by 2011-12: 4 billion globally, and at just 3 million in India

The ‘dotcom’ industry, which has evolved gracefully into an indispensable business channel in emerging economies after its boom and bust phase, may be at yet another cross roads at the start of this decade. The reason is that the unique IP addresses allotted to websites are peaking at a number of 4 billion globally, and at just 3 million in India. The IPV4 standard of addressing can accommodate only a finite number of IP addresses, which are estimated to be exhausted by 2011-12.

An IP (internet protocol) address, otherwise known as web address, is the unique identification number given to each web space allocated to a particular individual or corporation. The international standard of addressing for this is IPV4 (internet protocol version 4), which allows a finite number of addresses only.

Taking stock of the situation, an alternate system of addressing named IPV6 has been under development for over a decade now. This system is structured in such a way that it allows infinite number of URLs to be allocated. However, despite a clear indication of exhaustion of IP addresses under IPV4, IPV6 deployment remains below 1% globally and near zero in India.

In fact, Sify is the only web service provider which has converted to IPV6 in India, apart from research networks. “Web clients, servers and internet service providers (ISPs) will much rather look at deployment of alternate technologies to circumvent the addressing problem than attempt a complete overhaul of standards,” said Verisign India vice president Shekhar Kirani. “IPV6 deployment stands at a mere 0.45% in the US and 0.24% in China.”

Incidentally, China beat the United States in the amount of web traffic it attracts in Q1 of 2009-10, at 27.59% of global traffic, compared to US’ 22.15%. The growth in traffic YoY has been at 43% from 19.3% last year, whereas US’ has fallen by a marginal 7% from 22.85%.

“It is clear that it is in emerging economies that the IP address crunch will be felt direly,” said Sify Technologies global infrastructure operations VP P K Saji. “67% of the world’s IP addresses have been allocated to the US, 17% to the US and only 9% to Asia. But, it is in Asia that the demand for IP addresses has grown rapidly in the past year.”

The Indian government’s outlay on e-governance alone is estimated to be Rs.23000 crore till 2011. “According to data from banks, 20% of financial transactions done in this country are done online, and this number is expected to hit 30% by the end of this year,” Mr.Saji said. “But, India has just 0.0006 addresses per person, while the US has 9 addresses per person.”

At a recent forum on IPV6 held by the government of India’s telecom engineering centre, it was concluded that all e-governance projects will have to be IPV6 enabled. Mr.Kirani considers IPV6 penetration highly unlikely as it involves a change in ISP infrastructure, network architecture and web design on a concerted effort. “If it doesn’t happen simultaneously there will be issues with interoperability,” he said.