The internet is about to reach another big milestone during its short 30-year life _ changing from the current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) to the new version 6 (IPv6), due to the shortage of web addresses.
Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers and web companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft Bing and Cisco are uniting to redefine the internet and enable IPv6 for their products and services.
Progress in Thailand towards IPv6, however, seems to be very low-profile.
"Local ISPs have enough IPs and there is no request for IPv6 by users yet, so they thought that they need not upgrade soon," Chalermpol Charnsripinyo, chairman of IPv6 Forum Thailand says.
For the industry, there is an increasing cost in the implementation and equipment that supports IPv6. It also requires additional services for installation and maintenance, so the transformation to IPv6 will not happen immediately. Although the change must happen eventually, it's hard to say exactly when.
Even though the timeline for IPv6 implementation in Thailand is not yet defined, Chalermpol noted that every organisation should get ready to modify their internet systems.
The current IPv4 offers only 4.3 billion addresses and last year the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which overseas IP addresses, allocated the last blocks of IPv4 address space to the Regional Internet Registry. This means there are no new internet addresses available. Asia depleted all of its IPv4 address space in April last year, while the European Regional Internet Registry is expected to run out of addresses next month, and the North American registry is expected to deplete its IPv4 address space in 2013.
Compared to IPv4, which allows 32 bits for an IP address, the IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, allowing 2,128 (approximately 3.4x1038) address characters. This expansion can accommodate vastly more devices and users on the internet. Technically, IPv6 provides substantially larger IP addresses than IPv4, better end-to-end connectivity, better ability for auto-configuration than IPv4, better security for applications and networks, and better mobility features than IPv4.
The migration to IPv6 will not impact consumers directly. Most electronic devices today are already IPv6-ready and most modern operating systems such as Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS support IPv6. Windows Phone 7.5 doesn't offer this adaptation yet, while Android 2.0 and up don't have it.
Smartphones, home appliances and game consoles have also already been embedded with IP because most vendors and manufacturers prepared several years ago. The vast majority of programmes support IPv6 already, including the five major web browsers.
Attaphon Satidkanitkul, research manager at International Data Corporation (Thailand) pointed out that the IP address allocation may have run out, but the utilisation of them can extend over the next couple of years.
Thailand and many other countries have delayed implementing IPv6 and Attaphon believes it's time to raise the awareness of this issue.
"Nobody at the national level wants to be a key person to take action in the IPv6 implementation," he says.
The analyst added that as the issue is not clear-cut, there should be one neutral body to educate the industry, regulate it and make decisions on how to implement IPv6 over next three to five years.
For Thailand, the Master Plan of the ICT Ministry states that all 200 state agencies could migrate to IPv6 by 2015. However, there is no clear deadline.