Australia could be home to one of the largest education networks to operate on the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) platform within two months.
Technology pundits have called for vendors and users to migrate to IPv6 as vacant IPv4 addresses space dry up. Regional Internet Registries have warned that less than 10 per cent of addresses remain and are predicted to run out by 2012.
About 30 schools covering more than 7500 students across the country are using IPv6 mail and collaboration managed by StudentNet, a commercial spin-off from the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.
StudentNet director, Kevin Karp, said he anticipates hitting 10,000 student subscribers which would make the network as large as the Greek School Network.
"[World Wide IPv6 Forum president] Latif Ladid announced last year that the network is the second largest behind China and Greece," Karp said.
"Our subscribers are from the smallest to the biggest independent schools across Australia."
Karp said IPv6 can make it easier to make students more accountable for their actions at school by tying actions to static IP addresses: "IT doesn't have to cross-reference or crawl through logs as you would in DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)".
The graduating year of 2009 and upcoming students can keep their IPv6 static addresses after leaving school, since the availability of addresses is significantly higher than those free on IPv4.
Subscriber numbers increased by 40 per cent last year and are expected to grow by more than 20 per cent by the end of the first quarter of this year according to the company.
Students using the company's NextMail IPv6 service access the system via 6to4 tunnelling, which allows IPv6 packets to be transmitted over an IPv4 network. Karp said the company has about 100 schools using its virtualisation hosting service.
Internet co-founder, Vint Cerf, has said the growth of the Internet is making the switch to IPv6 a priority. He said the Internet had some 1.6 billion users as of 2009 and will explode as new devices and sensor networks become online-enabled, including household temperature systems and even outer space technology.