The IPv4 trading market is essential to the success of the IPv6 transition.

When ARIN depleted its IPv4 free pool on September 24, 2015, the news quickly spread across the trade press:  IPv4 is gone.  Time to transition to IPv6 NOW.  “What’s new this week,” noted an article posted on, “is that ARIN says that its North American region really is out of digits this time, and the only solution, is to take the IPv6 plunge.”  Few articles even mentioned that IPv4 numbers are readily available through the IPv4 trading market.

All this press  (including messaging directly from ARIN) would make you think IPv6 is just around the corner.  Except that’s not what the facts on the ground tell us.

  • The number of transfers and volume of numbers traded in the IPv4 market are growing significantly. By the end of Q3 2014, the ARIN registry recorded transfers of nearly 2,000,000 numbers.  By the end of Q3 2015, ARIN’s registry reflected the transfer of 23 million numbers.
  • Companies participating in the market are buying for the future. They’re investing in IPv4, anticipating need for the next 3-4 years.
  • Needs justification requirements are still in favor. ARIN’s core membership remains uncomfortable with the relaxation of the 24 month needs justification requirements connected to 8.3 and 8.4 transfers out of concern that unchecked stockpiling by large buyers securing more than 24 months of supply would deplete the inventory of secondary numbers too quickly.
  • IPv6 adoption is still slow. Google content stats, World IPv6 Launch stats and Alexa Top 1000 stats collectively show companies are moving toward IPv6 but they’re moving slowly, recent events notwithstanding.
  • It’s a long road to 2025. Engineers and network operators responsible for their companies’ infrastructure changes overwhelmingly agree that it may take as long as a decade for IPv6 to take hold as the dominant Internet protocol.

“IPv6 or bust” is the messaging of Internet institutions that are vested in moving the Internet community as quickly as possible to IPv6. But it’s still an IPv4-dominated Internet, and this messaging ignores the real challenges faced by companies trying to navigate a costly and resource-intensive transition.  It also disregards the global implications of a migration to IPv6 that leaves behind companies without the financial resources to make an immediate infrastructure investment in IPv6.

According to ARIN’s mission as stated in its bylaws, “ARIN supports the operation of the Internet through the management of Internet number resources throughout its service region; coordinates the development of policies by the community for the management of Internet Protocol number resources; and advances the Internet through informational outreach.”  Now that the free pool is dry, and the market is the only means for organizations to obtain the IPv4 numbers they still need to run their public-facing networks, ARIN’s policies and community outreach should focus equally on promoting an efficient IPv4 “transfer” market and encouraging IPv6 migration.

Companies need to know there are options that will enable them to plan an IPv6 migration that minimizes costs and fits with their natural technology cycle.  ARIN and other Internet registries can play a significant role in making that happen – by dismantling policies designed to restrain market activity, encouraging policies that will facilitate market transparency and registration accuracy, while also informing the business community of ways to address the real challenges of implementing IPv6.

With the depletion of the IPv4 free pool, the IPv4 trading market is inextricably intertwined with the success of the IPv6 transition.  The full implementation of IPv6 presumes that companies must first develop, implement and then operate dual stack infrastructures.  Given how few companies have gotten that far, participation in the IPv4 market will be a necessary step for many.  Putting up roadblocks will only slow the journey.