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North America Ready to Share IPv4 Addresses with Asia as Supply Runs Dry

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July 27, 2012

North America Ready to Share IPv4 Addresses with Asia as Supply Runs Dry

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

With unique IPv4 addresses dwindling and many computer systems not yet ready for the newer and larger IPv6 addressing system, North America is set to start sharing its supply of IPv4 addresses with the Asia Pacific.

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN (News - Alert)), which assigns IP addresses to organizations in North America, is set to start sharing unused IPv4 addresses with carriers, enterprises, universities and other entities in Asia Pacific that qualify under the guidelines of the Asia Pacific region’s IP registrar, Asia-Pacific Network Information Center (APNIC). ARIN is performing a final review of APNIC’s policies and should be sharing IPv4 blocks by the end of July, according to a recent report from IDG News.

ARIN is one of five regional internet registries in the world, each with its own pool of IP addresses that servers, routers, computers and other devices use to communicate on the internet. The regional registries get assigned their IP addresses by the global Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which assigned its last blocks of unused IPv4 addresses to regional bodies last year, according to IDG.

IPv4 addresses have stayed within the regions they were assigned by until recently, but the shrinking supply has caused both ARIN and APNIC to begin sharing their IP supply with those in other regions who conform to IP policies that are consistent with their own.

Both ARIN and APNIC currently require applicants to prove they need additional IPv4 addresses to prevent hoarding and speculation.

North America has more remaining unassigned IPv4 addresses, but both ARIN and APNIC are running low. North America still has roughly 48 million IPv4 addresses remaining, down from 80 million in March. It is expected to exhaust its supply next year. Asia Pacific already stopped conventional allocations last April, according to the IDG article, and now is strictly rationing addresses. The Asia Pacific region has roughly half the world’s population and a rapidly growing Internet economy.

The remaining fresh IP blocks won’t be transferred directly; instead, unused IPv4 addresses already assigned to a third party in North America will now be transferrable to organizations in Asia Pacific. Most of the transfers that currently take place within a region are driven by bankruptcy, IDG noted.

The transfer process doesn’t currently go through regional registrars directly. Instead, third-party facilitators match buyers with sellers and get the blessing from the registrar in its region.

Prices are stale, but that could change now that the market is opening up. North American prices have not changed much since Microsoft (News - Alert) purchased 666,624 IPv4 addresses from Nortel Networks last year at the price of about $11.25 per address. IPv4 prices in Asia are between 50 and 100 percent higher, however, which leads some analysts to speculate that the new transfer policies will raise IP prices in North America and ease them a bit in Asia Pacific.

Currently, only ARIN and APNIC are in the process of allowing inter-regional IP sharing, although other regional registrars are expected to follow.

IPv4 scarcity is a temporary concern until the newer standard, IPv6, takes hold. There are only about 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, according to the IDG article, less than one for every person in the world. IPv6 has a larger address space that offers magnitudes more than currently is available with IPv4, which should relieve the IP pressure and make inter-region IP transfers a temporary measure that concerns relatively few businesses.

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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