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Competition between IP address suppliers? (posted 2005-04-28)

Paul Wilson, Director General of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), and Geoff Huston, Senior Internet Research Scientist at APNIC, have written an article published on CircleID which was well- received on the NANOG list:

Could IP Addressing Benefit from the Introduction of Competitive Suppliers?

Today, IP addresses are distributed by five Regional Internet Registries that each serve part of the world:

  • The RIPE NCC (Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East)
  • LACNIC (Latin America)
  • ARIN (North America)
  • APNIC (Asia-Pacific, including Australia)
  • And as of very recently: AfriNIC (Africa)

In the article Paul and Geoff argue that competition between IP address suppliers would lead to a "race to the bottom": the only aspect on which these suppliers can compete is the (de facto) ease of getting addresses, so the current policies that are in place to conserve the 1.2 billion remaining IPv4 addresses (out of 3.7 billion usable ones) but at the same time allow legitimate use would cease to exist and the remaining IPv4 space would be used up a lot faster.

On the other hand, if the ITU gets its way, each country gets to do this on their own which can lead to both competition as some countries give out addresses to foreign businesses, or hoarding and buying/selling addresses, which leads to addresses not being used. (And the fragmentation of the address space leads to a larger routing table which mean more expensive routers for all ISPs, which is one of my main concerns here.)