Broadband providers have been urged to upgrade their networks to support the Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) addressing standard.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of Europe's Digital Agenda, has warned that Europe's remaining IPv4 addresses will be used up in the near future.
Speaking at the German IPv6 Summit 2011, she suggested that the stockpile may be entirely consumed at some point during 2012.
"Imagine for a moment that no more IP addresses were available; imagine how that would cramp the development of this global resource, she said.
"Well, if we don't make the change to IPv6, you may not have to imagine for very long. In Europe, total depletion of IPv4 addresses is just around the corner."
Ms Kroes said broadband providers and businesses have been "too slow" to uptake IPv6, and this is impeding the growth and future development of the internet.
Many innovations fail to reach their potential due to the complexity of managing shortages, she claimed.