What is the best response to IPv4 scarcity? Exploring a global transfer market for IPv4 addresses

6 November 2012 - A Workshop on Critical Internet Resources in Baku, Azerbaijan


The economics of IP addresses provides one of the most important linkages between Internet governance and development. Unique IP addresses are “critical Internet resources” because they are required inputs for participation in the Internet economy. Now that the global (IANA) free pool of Internet addresses (IPv4) is exhausted, the scarcity of IPv4 address blocks has become an important factor in the development of Internet industries, especially in fast-growing, developing regions. Although the new Internet Protocol (IPv6) provides a much larger, more abundant address space that would eliminate scarcity for some time, IPv6 is not compatible with IPv4. Thus, during the transition period, network operators and equipment manufacturers must support both protocols (the “dual stack” method) if they are to maintain compatibility with the global Internet. No one knows how long the transition will take. Estimates run from a minimum of 5 years to at least 20 years, while some actually think we may never complete the transition. This means that IPv4 scarcity will continue to be a factor in global Internet governance for some time to come. This workshop will bring together network operators, technical experts, academic researchers, members of regional address registries, address brokers, competition policy experts and Internet users to discuss policy responses to the depletion of IPv4 addresses. The session is intended to be a real workshop, where the parties involved explore proposals to harmonize address transfer policies across the 5 regional Internet registries. The workshop will explore the feasibility and desirability of a globalized transfer policy, taking into account issues such as promoting the most efficient use of the remaining IPv4 address space, aggregation limits, open entry into Internet markets, and preserving the global interoperability of the Internet. It will also explore the economic and technical implications of IPv4 scarcity policies for the migration to IPv6. The workshop will attempt to develop a commitment among participants to continue awareness-raising and education on the importance of policies to handle IPv4 allocation properly in their regions, and to carry mutually acceptable proposals into the regional internet registries’ policy development processes so that a global policy can be implemented.