The distribution of IP addresses has always occurred in a somewhat socialist manner: “to each according to his needs.” But those days are drawing to an end now. So far in 2012 within the North American region, no less than a quarter of all IPv4 address blocks obtained by new owners/users have been traded in some way. This is despite the fact that ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers)—the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) that supplies North America with IP addresses—still has at least 40 million IPv4 addresses available by one count. More than 100 million by another.
Researchers at Syracuse University in New York and the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands went over the records of the three RIRs (of five) that allow “transfers” from an organization holding address space to another organization in need of address space. Standard operating procedure is for the former to return addresses to the RIR governing their region, and for the latter to obtain addresses from that RIR. However, in the Asia-Pacific region this is no longer possible: APNIC has less than 17 million IPv4 addresses left, and each organization can now only get one last block of 1,024 addresses. Last week, the RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre) in Europe found itself in the same situation—but the study was completed before the RIPE NCC ran out of addresses.
So in Asia, the Pacific, and Australia, the only way to get a significant amount of address space is to find someone with addresses to spare and coax them to transfer some to you. Presumably, this entails some level of monetary compensation. So researchers looked at the period from 2009 until the middle of 2012. In the RIPE and ARIN regions, IPv4 addresses were still available to those who can show they really need them. In light of that, you’d expect to see transfers in the APNIC region, but not in the RIPE and ARIN ones.