If you had asked John Curran, head of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN), three years ago to pinpoint the date at which we would run out of IP address space under IPv4, he would have said 2025.
Two years ago, his answer would have been 2017.
Last week, he told an audience at the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference that the doomsday date is now 2011. That's not a scare tactic – it's a fact based on the rapidly increasing pace at which blocks of addresses are being allocated, according to Curran.
He said that 68% of all available IPv4 addresses are gone and only 19% are available. The remaining 13% fall into a strange category of being unavailable, which means blocks of addresses that belong to a large company, a university or an ISP and are not used.
Agencies such as ARIN encourage the owners of these addresses to return them to the pool he pointed out that Stanford University, for example, recently did just that with its excess addresses – but internet governing bodies can only request; they have no power to take back those unused addresses.
Curran said that by 2010, agencies such as ARIN will run out of addresses to dole out. In other words, there will be "no more blocks in the central pool". Internet service providers (ISPs) will still have enough addresses on hand to meet customer demand for a year after that, but by 2011, ISPs will run out of their inventory.
This means that unless ISPs and enterprises start moving to IPv6, those ISPs will be unable to sign on new customers and enterprises will be unable, for example, to build out new networks.