IPv4.5 – A New Solution to Internet Address Limits

    Craig Buckler

    The last remaining IPv4 address will be issued on April 1, 2011. The Internet is now full and it’s unable to cater for additional users.

    Internet Protocol version 4 is the widely-adopted standards-based addressing system on which the net depends. Every server, PC, tablet and web-enabled mobile phone is assigned a unique 4-byte address which allows two devices to communicate with each other. You can view your own IP address at whatsmyip.net.

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Technology (ICANT) is the organization responsible for managing and distributing IPv4 addresses. Although IPv4 permits more than 4 billion addresses, there are 7 billion people on the planet and many of us own more than one net device. IPv6 will eventually solve the issue since it offers 3.4 x 1038 unique addresses. But deployment has been slow — the majority of users still rely on IPv4 and businesses are unwilling to invest in new technology during an economic downturn.

    Fortunately, Professor Michael Rapp has devised a novel solution. IPv4.5 is launched today and will allocate addresses on a timeshare basis. Rapp explains further:

    IPv4.5 relies on the Earth’s rotation and web usage patterns. Each IP address will be assigned to two users at polar opposite points on the globe. If you’re accessing the web at 2pm local time, you will have priority over a someone on the other side of the world accessing at 2am.

    Therefore, a US-based user is likely to be sharing their unique IP with someone in China. In effect, this will double the IPv4 address space without requiring expensive new hardware or system upgrades.

    SitePoint was fortunate to obtain an interview with Mike.

    SitePoint: How will IPv4.5 work?

    IPv4.5 diagram

    MR: At the heart of the system is a address prioritization server which directs data packets to the correct device. If the two devices are in use, the server may send data to both and the receiving application or web browser will determine whether it’s required. Errors are returned so our system can adapt to changing traffic patterns and will become more accurate over time.

    SP: Will IPv4.5 restrict bandwidth?

    MR: A little, but it’ll only be noticeable if you’re using the internet at night. The impact will be minimized because those users are typically playing games, perusing Facebook, tweeting about insomnia or indulging in other frivolous activities.

    SP: Does this solution pose security or privacy risks?

    MR: Data packets will inevitably be distributed to the wrong device. However, the risk that someone would receive data in a language they can understand is negligible.

    SP: What about English speakers in the UK and Australia?

    MR: A small number of geographic anomalies are certain to arise. Fortunately, cultural differences will overcome language similarities: it’s unlikely that either party will understand the other.

    Alternatively, there may be political solutions to the problem. For example, UK residents could adopt French as their native language. Or Australia could become fully governed by the UK so security issues become irrelevant. It’s a win-win situation — everyone would be happy.

    SP: Would some parts of the world have a geographical advantage?

    MR: Yes. Several countries have an ocean at their polar opposite so they will not experience the timeshare effects of IPv4.5. For this reason, many web-based companies are relocating their staff to northern Africa and the Middle East.

    SP: Is IPv4.5 a replacement for IPv6?

    MR: No — it’s a interim solution until IPv6 has widespread adoption. That said, we’re starting implementation today and we all know that temporary IT solutions often last far longer than intended…

    What do you think about IPv4.5? Is it a viable solution to IPv4 addressing limitations? Do the security risks concern you? Have you noticed a bandwidth reduction? All comments welcome.