IPv4 exhaustion details

What exactly is "IPv4 exhaustion"?

"IPv4 exhaustion" doesn't mean that the Internet will stop working. Instead, IPv4 exhaustion is the term used to describe when there will be no more unallocated IPv4 addresses available. But this will happen is several stages, and not necessarily in the order below:

  • IANA exhausted its IPv4 free pool (3 February 2011)
  • RIRs exhaust their unallocated pools
  • Expanding networks (ISPs, businesses, etc) exhaust their pools of unused addresses

When will APNIC's IPv4 pool be exhausted?

The APNIC community ensured it will take many years for APNIC's IPv4 pool to be exhausted by creating a policy for the special distribution of APNIC's final /8 worth of addresses (16,777,216 addresses). The policy aims to ensure that new and emerging networks can continue to receive a small amount of IPv4 for many years to come so they can connect to both IPv4 and IPv6 networks during the transition to IPv6. Under this policy, Asia Pacific organizations can each request one, and only one, small slice (a /22, or 1024 addresses) of the final /8.

So how long will it take to hand out these many small slices? There are a total of around 16,000 small slices that can be given out from this final /8. Currently, APNIC has around 3000 account holders and had a membership growth rate of 300 new accounts during the past year. Given these variables, it will take a number of years to allocate all addresses from this final /8. (If you want to do a more detailed calculation, you can find up to date member data in the APNIC statistics portal.) In addition, each year, APNIC receives a number of returned addresses as businesses close down. APNIC will continue to recycle these addresses and make them available to account holders.

As of Tuesday, 27 May 2014, the implementation of Prop-105: Distribution of returned IPv4 address blocks policy makes APNIC account holders eligible to request and receive additional delegations up to a maximum /22 of address space from the APNIC non-103/8 IPv4 address pool.

These changes come after additional IPv4 address space was allocated to APNIC from the 'IANA Recovered IPv4 Pool' as the result of the activation of the Global policy for post exhaustion IPv4 allocation mechanisms by the IANA.

All new and existing APNIC account holders who meet the policy criteria may now receive a minimum of a /24 IPv4 up to a maximum total of /21.

Will APNIC change the final /8 policy?

APNIC policy is the result of a dynamic community development process. It is possible that IPv4 address policy may change in the future.

Keep up to date with policy discussions:

What happens when APNIC's free pool is exhausted?

Most networks will still have a number of IPv4 addresses available for use as their networks expand. However, the APNIC community also recognizes that some of these organizations will not need these extra addresses and may want to transfer them to organizations that do need them. There is a policy available for organizations that may want to transfer IPv4 addresses in this way. For more information, see Section 8 of the APNIC Internet Number Resource Policies.

Don't forget IPv6

Finally, even when all these IPv4 addresses are exhausted, there is a solution: the next version of IP address, IPv6. In fact, IPv6 is available now, and is being deployed across the Internet as you read this. For more information, see IPv6 Program