The Internet is growing faster than ever, with the number of connected IoT devices reaching 14.4 billion globally. This expansion is putting pressure on IPv4, the current dominant IP address system. The number of available IP addresses has plummeted in the past decade, which led to price growth. The cost of a single IP address has almost tripled between 2015 and 2021—and the solution to this problem is IPv6, but the global adoption of the new protocol is still slow.
What Is IPv6 and Why Is It Important?
IPv6 is the next level of the Internet Protocol. With the growth of the Internet, the IPv4 protocol is starting to show its limitations—which can cause serious problems. Basically, IPv6 is the updated version of IPv4, gradually replacing IPv4 as the Internet standard.
The key feature of the IPv6 protocol is the expansion of the IP address space from 32 bits to 128 bits, allowing virtually unlimited unique IP addresses. The extended capacity and capability of IPv6 provides a solution to the IP address exhaustion problem.
Another key difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is the simplified management of networks.
Sometimes, setting up and maintaining a network is a very difficult task. IPv6 offers new features that simplify network address configuration and management. For example, the IPv6 auto-configuration feature automatically configures interface addresses and default routes for you, thereby eliminating the need for a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server.
Moreover, with IPv6 you do not need to renumber device addresses when moving to another Internet Service Provider (ISP). The new protocol makes site renumbering a largely automated process.
It’s important to mention that, while IPv6 may be superior, technical differences cause significant obstacles—preventing IPv4 and IPv6 from communicating directly.
When Will IPv4 Be “Switched Off”?
Although most of the world “ran out” of new IPv4 addresses between 2011 and 2018, it won’t be completely given up. IP addresses are sold and reused, and remaining addresses are used during the transition to a new protocol.
There is no official stop date, so you don’t have to worry that internet access will suddenly disappear one day. As with any new protocol, more networks make the transition, more sites support IPv6, and more end-users upgrade their equipment for IPv6 capabilities. Thus, the world will gradually move away from IPv4.
Why Is There No IPv5?
The IPv4 versus IPv6 discussion raises a question: What happened to IPv5? There was an IPv5 protocol—known as the Internet Stream Protocol (ST). IPv5 was designed for communications over IP networks to support voice and video. It was successful and was used experimentally, but had one shortcoming that undermined its widespread use: the 32-bit addressing scheme, which was the same scheme used by IPv4. As a result, it had the same major problem that IPv4 has, namely, a limited number of available IP addresses. This limitation led to the development of IPv6.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been busy drafting IPv7 and IPv8 concepts. However, they are purely experimental and will not be deployed for public use in the near future.
IPv6 Adoption Statistics
According to Google’s IPv6 adoption statistics, the availability of IPv6 connectivity among Google users surpassed 40% in June 2022. The statistics for IPv6 adoption by country shows that France leads with 70.57%, followed by India with 64.45%. The IPv6 adoption rate in the United States is 51.43%.
IPv4 Addresses Have Become Financial Assets
With billions of additional devices predicted to connect to the Internet in the coming years, the number of IP addresses based on the IPv4 protocol is running out. Inevitably, as demand outstrips supply, prices go up. According to IPv4 Market Group, the price of a single IPv4 address has risen from $11 in 2015 to $31 at the end of 2021—an increase that might price out start-ups and non-commercial organizations. Moreover, almost 70 million IPs changed hands every year between 2017 and 2019.
For many companies, IPv6 is a long way from reaching their to-do lists—either because they see no difference between an Internet based on IPv4 and an Internet based on IPv6, or a lack of funds. Therefore, the full implementation of version 6 remains a target to be reached at some point in the future.