The Internet will run out of addresses in another two years as only 700 million separate addresses are remaining for allocation out of the 4.3 billion available on the present network.

When originally developed, Internet planners assumed four billion would serve the world when using the Internet, The Australian reports.

Seeing the situation, all Internet users must move to an upgraded platform - called Internet Protocol version 6 - to access the 340 trillion-trillion-trillion new addresses needed to connect not only billions of new users but also the trillions of sensor devices that will require networking as technology takes greater control of people's lives.

"IPv6 provides more addresses in cyberspace than there are grains of sands on the world's beaches," quoted Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society, as saying.

Geoff Huston, chief scientist of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre, which manages address allocation within the region, said he hovered between calling the situation a challenge or a crisis.

A shortfall in addresses would stifle networking of small and simple devices for energy management for lighting, intelligent building systems and remote-control sensors.

Lower costs are drawing more and more users to access the Internet via their mobiles, and opening up opportunities for advertisers, industry players said.

Flat rates for data are becoming increasingly common, and mobile devices for accessing Internet content are more widely available, said Andre Levisse, of management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

"It becomes cheaper and cheaper to just get one megabyte of data and that enables, probably, some change in the user behaviour," he said during a panel discussion at the start of CommunicAsia, which bills itself as the region's leading information and communications technology conference and exhibition.

"Many people can afford good handsets that can really browse the Web," said Levisse, adding that even second-hand 3G handsets are now available in the region.

On the eve of the conference, Finnish telecom giant Nokia launched two new email-capable handsets for business users, and South Korea's Samsung unveiled its latest smart phone, a touch-screen model.

Last week Apple unveiled its touch-screen-activated 3G iPhone built for high-speed wireless networks, with faster Internet access and more features for users than its previous iPhone.

"I know that there's been disappointments in the past" over digital content, said Mauro Montanaro, chief executive officer of Jamba, a global provider of mobile entertainment, including music, videos and games. The company is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

While the industry tries to offer more entertainment options and easier access, there is also great potential for mobile advertising growth, the panelists said.

"Mobile advertising is the future," Montanaro said.


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