Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 12:50 UK

OECD warns on net address change

Earthquake damage in Japan, AP
Japan is using IPv6 for its earthquake monitoring network

Slow progress on the net's new addressing system risks breaking it into regional blocks, warns the OECD.

The problem may come as nations move to the new scheme at different paces, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The need to update is getting more urgent as the pool of addresses for the existing system begins to run dry.

The remaining 14% of these addresses will run out within three years, warns the OECD.

More work

In a report prepared for a forthcoming ministerial meeting on the future of the internet economy the OECD recommended that governments and businesses get on with the task of shifting to Internet Protocol version 6 .

IPv6 is the latest version of the specifications used to ensure data travelling across the net reaches the right destination.

Currently the net uses IPv4 but its potential pool of 4.2 billion addresses is close to depletion.

Shifting to the new addressing scheme was "critical for the future of the internet economy" said the OECD.

But it admitted that progress towards IPv6 was "very slow" because the benefits of adopting it were hard to quantify in the short term.

The OECD said technical workarounds that translate between the two versions could help companies cope as transfer to IPv6 rolls on.

However, it said, the only real solution was to fully implement IPv6.

The report said that economics might force the issue as the cost of using IPv4 might rise as firms are forced to take ever more extravagant efforts to cope with the diminishing pool of addresses.

It urged governments to mount extensive education campaigns, beef up IPv6 expertise at all levels of government and encourage its adoption by specifying it in tenders for work.

There were some deployments of IPv6, said the OECD, citing work in Japan to use it for communication between earthquake sensors. China is also using the 2008 Beijing olympics as a test bed for IPv6 networking.

The OECD report warned against delay, saying: "Experience to-date with IPv6 also suggests that IPv6 deployment requires planning and co-ordination over several years."

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