It generally is accepted that to think ahead one and two years when designing an ISP network is reasonable. Beyond that, given the rapid growth of the Internet, it is very difficult to predict what new technologies will be available or which direction the business might be headed.
In the early 1990s, available address space was more limited than it is today. CIDR hadn't yet been deployed on the Internet backbone, and Class B space was rapidly running out. There was real concern about the rate of address space consumption, and the growth of the Internet Route Table was exponential. Some predictions were made that IPv4 space would run out in 1998. This concern spurred on the introduction of CIDR and the classless Internet. Since then, the registries have been making classless network assignments, and DHCP has made addressing and renumbering on the LAN very trivial. What was a problem in 1994 was no longer one in 1996.
An ISP might go into business to service a particular marketplace. However, local operating conditions might change, or new "killer applications" might appear on the
Internet. As a result, the ISP's original business objective could change completely. Furthermore, address space requirements usually change when this happens.
The three Internet registries look for an estimate of address requirements for a year or more ahead and make allocations on that basis. They do so because most ISP business plans operate around similar concepts, and this means that ISPs don't have to constantly revisit the registries to get their next allocations.
It is important to sit back for a few minutes and look seriously at the avenues of growth for any ISP business. This isn't easy in a marketplace that is growing exponentially. However, it pays in terms of engineering time to try to get a realistic picture of where the business will lead. Think about whether there likely will be more PoPs or larger PoPs, more backbone links, new services, new equipment with increased port density, and so on. An ISP operation usually has a business plan to guarantee funding from sponsors or shareholders. The existence of a business plan implies that some thought has been given to the direction of growth of the network; the two are interlinked.
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