The Sun Sets on the ARIN IPv4 Free Pool

ARIN’s free pool is effectively drained, with fewer than 150,000 IPv4 numbers remaining in block sizes of 256 or 512.   All of the angst over how to handle the dwindling IPv4 free supply can be put to rest. The big question is “what now” given that IPv4 number requests have continued to climb over the years.

According to a session led by ARIN’s Leslie Nobile at ARIN 35, there are now only two options available to those in need of IPv4 numbers in blocks sizes larger than a /23: a free pool waitlist or the IPv4 transfer market. The waitlist, which ARIN activated today, is likely to be just that – a wait. Numbers are sometimes returned to the free pool voluntarily by registrants that no longer need them, and ARIN occasionally reclaims numbers from registrants that don’t pay their registration fees, commit fraud or dissolve. On a semi-annual basis, IANA also re-distributes to all the RIRs numbers that are returned to or otherwise recovered by IANA. The expected volume of returns is likely to be modest at best. In contrast, there are approximately 800 million to 1 billion unadvertised IPv4 numbers globally that could be re-distributed in the IPv4 market, which could satisfy demand for another 3-5 years or potentially longer.

It is now generally accepted within the Internet community that the IPv4 market is a necessary phase in the transition to IPv6. In fact, earlier today, ARIN’s President and CEO, John Curran, expressly encouraged organizations that need larger amounts of address space to make use of the IPv4 transfer market. ARIN has made significant progress in streamlining specified recipient transfers – implementing a greatly improved preapproval process and more quickly completing transfer requests. Still more could be done. Eliminating needs based requirements for 8.3 transfers, or even relaxing those requirements as proposed in Draft Policy 2015-7, and posting more and better information about completed transfers would help the IPv4 market function more efficiently and transparently.

The sun is setting on IPv4 free pool allocations. It is now time to embrace fully a free global market as the most effective way to make IP numbers available to network operators – at least until the migration to IPv6 is substantially complete.