Very last IPv4 addresses to be assigned later this year
RIPE NCC scrapes together address block remnants
RIPE NCC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, Russia and West Asia, expects to assign the very last IPv4 addresses towards the end of this year. Only Local Internet Registries (LIRs) that haven't previously been assigned IPv4 address blocks will be considered as recipients, and only for /24 blocks (256 addresses).
Because addresses will no longer be available for immediate assignment, would-be recipients will be placed on a waiting list. Addresses returned to internet registries by LIRs in dribs and drabs will then re-assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
The following chart shows how, over time, RIPE NCC has worked through its pool of available IPv4 addresses.
The dark blue area at the bottom shows what's happened with the 126.96.36.199/8 address block assigned to RIPE NCC by global administrator IANA in 2011. That block was the final /8 block available to our region. Since September 2012, RIPE NCC has been redistributing it on a conditional basis: each LIR was allowed to receive one further /22 block (1024 addresses), but only if the LIR already had an IPv6 address block. By attaching that condition, RIPE NCC hoped to promote the adoption of IPv6. As the graph shows, that supply of address blocks more or less ran out roughly eighteen months ago. The chart's light blue central area shows the IPv4 addresses returned to RIPE NCC and made available for reuse. They include some larger address blocks, enabling this 'recovered pool' to serve as a source of /22 blocks. When those run out, RIPE NCC will assign the remaining addresses in tranches of 1,024, made up of multiple /23 and /24 blocks (512 addresses and 256 addresses, respectively). Such fragmented assignments imply additional demands on routing capacity. Once those blocks have gone as well – probably this autumn – the only way of getting addresses will be to go on the waiting list to receive a returned allocation of 256 addresses.
As the above account makes clear, IPv4 addresses have been strictly rationed since September 2012. Hence our repeated assertion that the supply of IPv4 addresses effectively ran out long ago. That's also reflected in the fact that a lively trade in "second-hand" IPv4 address blocks has developed. The going rate is currently about 25 dollars per address, but the price is expected to rise sharply in the years ahead.
Most of the demand for second-hand names naturally comes from ISPs, particularly large cloud service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba. Such firms need IPv4 addresses to make their customers' portals, services and interfaces accessible to the outside world. One effect of the address shortage has been to effectively bar new players entry to the market for internet services. For more information about the economic damage caused by the slow adoption of IPv6, see our earlier IPv6 Inventory and this article. The problems for internet users are described here [1, 2, 3].