Non-profit NBN ISP overcomes IPv4 address shortage

'No ISP' leased IP addresses from City of Melbourne, hopes to sign up first customer within three months

Victorian co-operative No ISP has so far struggled to sign up customers to the National Broadband Network (NBN), having to deal with the shortage of available IPv4 addresses and a lack of premises hooked up to the fibre network.

The co-op launched in mid-2012 to provide NBN services across Australia, but has been unable to sign up members to the network yet, No ISP secretary, Phillip Stevens, said.

Nextgen, which is providing wholesale services to No ISP, did not have any IP addresses to sell to the co-op, so it was forced to source them from elsewhere.

“It was about a four or five-month process from the point at which we could actually technically connect people, but we didn’t have any IP addressing,” Stevens said. "We could connect them but we couldn’t give them an IP."

He said APNIC, the organisation that manages the IPv4 addressing in the Asia-Pacific, was charging a minimum joining fee of $2450 for IPv4/24 address spaces. Including an annual fee for the /24 range, No ISP’s initial cost for the IP addresses would have been more than $4500.

“Our co-operative model simply didn't allow us to invest so much into IP addressing,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the ISP considered IPv6, which provides around 340 undecillion IP addresses, compared to 4 billion addresses under IPv4, but adoption of IPv6 in Australia has been slow compared to Asian nations.

However, No ISP would still need to apply for the IP addresses through APNIC, which it couldn’t afford, even with the lower price for IPv6. NBN support for IPv6 was also problematic.

“In a nut shell we are dependent upon [the] NBN’s future native support for IPv6 and also Nextgen's support for IPv6,” Marc Boschma, non-executive chair at No ISP, said.

“It is a chicken and egg problem. NBN will need to support. Enough demand would then need to be identified for Nextgen to put in the effort to enable the capability.

“On PPPoE there isn't a strict need to have IPv4 address space to use that for IPv6, but Nextgen does not want to support it for the NBN Connect Suite products. Thus the option isn't open to us through them.”

While Internode is currently offering IPv4 and IPv6 networking through a dual stack configuration, Stevens said small ISPs might struggle with IP addressing issues.

“Other small ISPs interested in the NBN and new services face the same problem regarding the non-availability of IPv4 and the difficulties of using IPv6 on NBN Co infrastructure,” Stevens said.

The City of Melbourne eventually came to the rescue of No ISP in November last year when the council agreed to lease a number of IP addresses to the co-op for three years, with a renewal option for more address space in the future.

Stevens said the City of Melbourne provided more options to the ISP than APNIC and will allow the organisation to support thousands of members and also offer multiple IP addresses to subscribers.

Operating on a non-trading share basis, No ISP will never make a profit and any surplus generated by the organisation will be used to provide discounted services to members.

“Clearly, [the city] only made this [offer] because they want to foster non-profit community involvement in networking within the city,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the organisation has also struggled to sign up members due to the low number of premises so far connected to the NBN. He said it could take another six to 12 months before the organisation sees a large number of people sign up.

NBN Co has forecast 190,000 to 220,000 premises will be passed by June this year, comprising 155,000 to 175,000 brownfield premises and around 35,000 to 45,000 greenfield premises.

“A number of people have come to us and said they would love to be a customer but they don’t live in NBN areas. Just trying to find those people has been very difficult,” he said.

Stevens said No ISP is hoping to connect its first member to the NBN within the next three months.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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