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Username: baskin
Date/Time: Fri, March 31, 2000 at 5:11 PM GMT (Fri, March 31, 2000 at 12:11 AM EST)
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Subject: Growing Demand for IP Addresses


                You may have seen this Comm Week Intl. article already, but I believe that it is valuable to post it here as a stimulant for discussion.

*Posted with permission of the co-author:
*Joanne Taaffe, Senior Editor
*Communications Week International

GSM Association in urgent scramble for IP addresses
By Nick Ingelbrecht and Joanne Taaffe
20 March 2000

The GSM Association has tabled a request for a huge allocation of Internet address space to support the rollout of general packet radio services (GPRS) later this year.

Larger-than-expected rollout plans for 2.5-generation mobile networks have taken the industry by surprise, leaving only weeks for Internet governance bodies to agree to deliver 32 million IP addresses to increasingly desperate representatives of GSM interests. Industry observers fear that failure to meet the allocations could severely hinder the future development of mobile commerce activity.

Without IP addresses, GPRS network subscribers will not be able to browse the Web or use other new mobile data and mobile commerce services. And with the first commercial GPRS rollouts due to take place in Asia and Europe from the middle of this year, GPRS operators could be "staring down the barrel of a gun," according to Internet registrars.

The GSM Association has asked the Reseaux IP Europeens (RIPE), the Amsterdam-based regional Internet registry for Europe, for a decision within two months.

The request has been described as the tip of an iceberg that could make "a very large dent" in the available Internet Protocol version 4 address space, according to registrars in the United States and the Asia Pacific region.

The initial request is equivalent to two "/8" network blocks or 0.8% of the total IPv4 32-bit address space. This would provide up to 32 million IP addresses, although some fear that a full rollout of GPRS Internet roaming could entail up to 1 billion IP addresses, since GPRS terminals may require multiple IP addresses.

John Hoffman, the GSM Association's director for GPRS and data services, said such a large block of IP addresses is needed to facilitate seamless Internet access while customers roam between different GPRS networks.

GPRS terminals may require separate IP addresses for static and for mobile roaming applications, although the precise number will depend upon how operators deploy their services.

"I would not say it jeopardizes [GPRS rollout]," said Hoffman. "We are trying to find a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix."

But David Conrad, director of engineering for registrar Nominum Inc., of Redwood City, California, said that GPRS operators are "staring down the barrel of a gun."

"They will deploy this stuff by the end of the summer for the entirety of the U.K. and I am skeptical," said Conrad. "How many [mobile data] supporting handsets do they have?"

There may be a little more breathing space than Nominum's Conrad imagines, although not much. Equipment vendors say they won't reach volume production of handsets until later this year.

Wireless operators will not, moreover, have recourse to dynamically allocating IP addresses. Whereas PC users can be given a new IP address each time they log on, allowing a single IP address to be shared among many people, the cellular industry expects GPRS users to be logged on almost permanently, so that they can receive services such as electronic mail.

This means that each GPRS or third-generation mobile terminal will need an IP address of its own, said Joe Barrett, director of marketing for 3G mobility at equipment vendor Nokia Oyj in Finland.

RIPE and the GSM Association have now formed a working party to study the issue.

"We are not under any specific timeframe," said Hoffman, "but with [a projected] 80 million subscribers in four years, we hope to get it right first time."

But given the rapidly dwindling supply of IPv4 Internet addresses, registrars are concerned not to allocate large numbers of addresses without assurances that they are going to be used in a reasonable timeframe, and that they will be used to connect to the Internet.

Without a substantial allocation of new IP addresses, GPRS operators would have to roll out services using fragments of available IP address lists, which would not be sufficient for wide take-up.

Part of the problem, according to Nokia's Barrett, is that the allocation of IPv4 addresses was poorly administered, as no-one foresaw such a demand for them. This has resulted in a dearth of addresses for European companies.

"Most of the [IPv4] addresses have been given to U.S. companies," said Barrett. "They've been given larger blocks."

As a result, U.S. companies are less concerned about running out of IPv4 addresses, according to Barrett. "In Europe there will be an issue a lot sooner," said Barrett.

In theory, IP version 6 will provide a long-term fix to the shortage of Internet address space, because it will have sufficient capacity to provide 4,000 IP addresses for each Angstrom of the earth's surface.

Even so, potential corporate customers for mobile data will not be easy to convert to IPv6, even where it is widely available.

"Most ... corporate networks and solutions rely on routers built on IPv4 capabilities," said Mike Short, chairman of the Mobile Data Association, in London. "We can't ignore what's out there today."

And there are unresolved technical and standardization issues between the protocol and wireless networks, as well as a general lack of interest among operators to implementing IPv6 commercially.

"If everyone knew how horrible it is going to be, people would jump up and do something," said Steve Deering, co chair of the Internet Engineering TaskForce's IPv6 Working Group.

Prof Xing Li, of the China Education and Research NetworkCentre, at Tsinghua University, said that if Internet usage continues to expand at current growth rates, China alone will need more than 1.2 billion IP addresses by 2003.

China Mobile Communications Corp., the country's largest mobile operator, has already made tentative enquiries about IP address space and has plans to roll out GPRS services from the middle of this year.

But no-one is sure how quickly the stocks of IPv4 addresses will be depleted.

"Estimates about when IPv4 will run out is between 2002 and 2012," said Nokia's Barrett.

However, Nokia expects that there will be 1 billion mobile phones on the market worldwide by 2002, of which 60% will be Internet-enabled.

And Richard Jimmerson, registration services supervisor for the American Registry for Internet Numbers, which is based in Chantilly, Virginia, said the GPRS request had the potential to deplete significantly available Internet address space.

"I think we are past the time when on the basis of fairly minimal data you can get large allocations [of IP addresses]," said Paul Wilson, director general of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), based in Brisbane, Australia.

GSM industry projections suggest carriers would notionally require 160 million IP addresses by 2003, equivalent to five /8 blocks.

This is equivalent to around twice the entire address space allocated by APNIC within the Asia Pacific region so far, and would entail making "a very large dent in available address space," according to Wilson.

Nokia believes that the stampede for IP addresses will not happen this summer. Although the Finnish equipment manufacturer has about 30 customers who are trialing GPRS systems in Europe, and who have plans for a commercial rollout of services later this year, uptake will be limited by a lack of handsets.

"There are still not a lot of mobiles available," said Barret. "Volume mobiles will come in the first quarter of 2001."        

Jim Baskin
Link: CWI Article on IP address demand

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