IPv4 Waiting Lists
By Leo Vegoda
August 1, 2022
In four out of the five RIR regions, there is no more IPv4 space left in the free pool. You can only get IPv4 addresses from a waiting list or from the transfer market. For those in need of these addresses, the critical question is how practical and effective are these queues?
We recently reported that the RIPE NCC’s waiting list is now 18 months long. LACNIC estimates that the last requesting organization on its list will get addresses in 2027. If ARIN’s July 2022 allocation is a predictor of the future, it will take two years before the organizations on the list have some addresses.
Any organization that needs IPv4 address space in the near future must turn to the transfer market. The alternative is a long wait for very few addresses. The market can supply more IPv4 address space more quickly.
What is a Waiting List?
RIRs created waiting lists to provide a way to distribute IPv4 address space that is returned to them. The operating assumption in this creation was that networks with more addresses than was needed might return them to an RIR for reallocation. However, two factors greatly limited the pool of returned addresses. The first and most obvious was the steady increase in the open market value of these addresses. Those with IPv4 addresses are – understandably – reluctant to give away something of considerable value. In addition, those that are returned tend to be from organizations that stop operating altogether.
How Much Space Can You Get?
AFRINIC does not operate an IPv4 waiting list. Organizations can get between 256 to 1,024 addresses, depending on need.
New APNIC members – and only new members – can get up to 512 addresses. It closed the waiting list to existing members in 2019.
ARIN will not allocate space to organizations that already have 4,096 or more addresses. Organizations with less than this can get between 256 to 1,024 addresses, depending on need. If they are approved for 1,024 addresses, they can accept a smaller amount if a precise match is not available.
LACNIC members who already have IPv6 space can get on a waiting list for an initial IPv4 allocation. Organizations can get between 256 to 1,024 addresses, depending on need. If they are approved for 1,024 addresses, they can accept a smaller amount if a precise match is not available.
Organizations cannot transfer address space allocated through LACNIC’s waiting list. LACNIC manages it on a first come first served basis—they do not allow places to be traded.
The RIPE NCC operate a waiting list that serves new members only. They can each get exactly 256 addresses and no more.
How Long is the Wait?
The amount of address space flowing back to an RIR is not a constant. Demand for addresses via the waiting list can vary based on economic activity and even attempts to game the system.
The RIPE NCC predicts that organizations applying to its waiting list will need to wait 18 months to receive an allocation.
ARIN has not made a prediction, but it allocated space to 41 organizations in July 2022 and there are 343 organizations waiting. It would be another eight business quarters before they’ve cleared the current waiting list if they continue at the same rate.
LACNIC has over 800 requests in its queue. In July 2022 the oldest entry on its list was from December 2021. LACNIC estimates that the last request on its list will get some addresses in 2027.
What are the Alternatives?
RIRs only provide enough IPv4 address space to get an organization up and running. 256 addresses is enough for a small network with some core infrastructure, like a website and a mail server.
When more is available, it is not enough to provide access for a large number of servers or subscribers—even with Large Scale NAT.
One option is to focus on deploying IPv6. That is why LACNIC requires organizations to have IPv6 as a condition for entry to its waiting list. But IPv6 deployment varies around the world. Google gets more than 70% of its traffic over IPv6 in France but under 1% in most of Africa.
Fewer than half of the top 1,000 websites can be reached over IPv6. For a large subscriber network, managing traffic to those sites is likely to stress any kind of address sharing technology.
Getting some IPv4 addresses for a fixed term is one way to meet an immediate need. As an operational cost, the up-front pricing is generally lower. But there are no guarantees that the organization offering the addresses will renew the lease. And if they do, the pricing could change.
This is an approach that works well for projects that only need resources for a fixed term.
The best long-term option is to get IPv4 addresses from an organization with more than it needs. Four of the five RIRs have policies enabling market-based transfers of IPv4 addresses. The market rewards organizations with an excess when they transfer addresses to one who does not have enough.
IPv4.Global runs an online sales platform. You can buy address blocks at a fixed price or bid in an auction. If you need to buy large blocks of IPv4 address space, the firm offers privately negotiated purchases. IPv4.Global has assisted in over 3,000 transactions.