Despite IPv6 adoption, IPv4 Still Hangs in There – Maybe Forever

IPv4 Not Dead

IPv4 Exhaustion Continues but will Co-exist with IPv6 for Years to Come

It’s been 22 years since IPv6 was introduced as a draft standard by the IETF. Why are we still talking about IPv4? Hasn’t it died already?

Well….no, IPV4 is still very much alive and despite IPv4 exhaustion, many, many organizations, and users continue to use IPv4 now and likely will many years into the future. IPv4 and IPv6 will coexist for years.

Mark Twain once said, “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” The text was from a cable sent by Mark Twain from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published. May of 1897 the English correspondent for the New York Journal, Frank Marshall White, contacted Twain in London to inquire about his health, and then later, to ask for comment about reports that Twain was on his deathbed.

The same is true for IPv4. Globally, IPv4 exhaustion has been reached with the free pools of IPv4 addresses from the Internet Regional Registries (IRR) fully allocated. However, despite considerable effort to encourage IPv6 adoption, IPv4 is still very much alive. IPv6 adoption has definitely accelerated in the last few years but is not the dominant protocol used.

So, IPv4 is fighting back…. it’s not dead, but it has become very expensive. IPv4 exhaustion can be resolved by organizations purchasing more addresses on the open market, now reaching prices of $24 each. Many organizations including higher education, enterprise and ISPs and rural cable operators have existing IPv4 address pools and infrastructure that they must continue to leverage. So, solving IPv4 exhaustion with CGNAT solutions makes sound business sense.

Full IPv6 adoption is actually the summation of three independent technology drivers – devices, networks and content (web sites). If any of these are not fully IPv6, the two addressing schemes will co-exist. Consider the following:

All organizations must balance rapidly increasing IPv6 devices and traffic volume against other network technology initiatives such as software-defined networking, cloud and edge. Connected devices, including cellular IoT devices are expected to exceed 24 billion by 2025 – doubling quantities in 2019. The additional 10B + new devices will likely be IPv6. So, most organizations have to manage a growing base of newer IPv6-enabled devices with older IPv4 devices connecting to both IPv4 and IPv6 content. The two environments will have to co-exist for some time and to accommodate the other technology transitions that are needed.

The real question is not so much the speed of IPv6 adoption, but how long IPv4 will hang in there. As described in a recent Heavy Reading survey and webinar, 80 percent of operators see CGNAT as a required function, even in their cloud-native, 5G standalone (SA) networks that they will be deploying over the next three years. Although the relative percentage of traffic that remains IPv4 certainly gets smaller, traffic is growing so rapidly with so many new devices that operators are having to augment older technology even as they plan and build out the new – just to keep up with demand.

A10 Networks provides CGNAT technology to service providers, higher education, government, and enterprise. The A10 Thunder® CFW solution includes CGNAT, IPv4 to IPv6 migration and core network and data center firewall functions and solves IPv4 exhaustion while providing a path to IPv6. The Thunder CFW solution is still very much in demand for its high performance, completeness of features and all-in-one licensing model. The solution enables organizations to extend depleted IPv4 address pools and infrastructure, build a seamless transition path for IPv6 migration, and secure growing volumes of vulnerable IPv6 addresses. Our customers continue to include Thunder CGN in their existing data centers and as they move to edge, mobile edge computing (MEC), cloud-native infrastructures and 5G.

How long will IPv4 hang in there? It is going to be awhile. In the meantime, A10 Networks is continuing to provide both CGNAT and IPv4 to IPv6 migration technology that meets our customer needs now and into future network evolutions.

For more information on Thunder CGN, please visit

Terry Young
November 17, 2020

About Terry Young

Terry Young is Director of 5G Marketing at A10 Networks. She is responsible for developing programs and marketing material that describe business value of A10 solutions for mobile network operators and other service providers. Prior to A10 Networks, Terry has 20 years experience in the telecommunications industry, including AT&T (mobile and fixed businesses), where she developed market strategy recommendations for new business initiatives for AT&T. As a principal analyst for a syndicated market research company early in the 3G technology introduction, her 3G/4G market analysis and forecasts were published by the UMTS Forum. She also previously held positions with several start-up mobile infrastructure and software vendors, including Infoblox and Palo Alto Networks. Terry has an MBA from Arizona State University and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. READ MORE