The emerging market for IPv4 addresses is about to cross a new threshold. A letter with the following words has been circulating among businesses for the past month:
Our client is offering for sale 16,777,216 IPv4 numbers in a single, contiguous, number block commonly referred to as either a “Class A” number block or a “/8”. This “legacy” IPv4 block is not subject to any Regional Internet Registry (RIR) agreement. The seller’s exclusive rights and interest in the number block has been fully researched, documented and independently certified. The Buyer will acquire all the attendant rights of use, transferability and exclusivity. The sale and transfer of the number block is not subject to any RIR transfer policies. Due to the unique attributes of this number block, such as its Certification, its size, and the applicable global routing policies, to name just a few, this asset is both highly desirable and extremely valuable. There are no costs, no risks, and no hidden obligations to exploring this opportunity further.
The letter comes from Addrex, the IP address brokerage that facilitated the Nortel – Microsoft exchange of IPv4 addresses. According to Addrex, more than two dozen companies have sent in expressions of interest. The deadline for submitting expressions of interest is February 17.
We cover this because Addrex is openly marketing the address block as outside of the RIR system. This makes it an interesting tipping point in the governance of IP addresses. Whoever is selling the blocks – and we do not know which organization it is and Addrex does not wish to disclose it – has nothing to lose and everything to gain from fully leveraging the block’s legacy status. The buyer of the addresses likewise would benefit from the block’s legacy status, as it could be obtained without reference to ARIN’s obsolete “needs assessment” policies. But because such a trade would erode ARIN’s control over the IPv4 address space, it might try to threaten negative repercussions on buyers. As far as we can tell, ARIN has no legal grounds on which to stop such a trade, but as we noted in an earlier article they like to drop hints that such numbers might be “disputed or unreliable” in order to scare sellers off. This makes for an interesting showdown. No doubt the trading price of the block will reflect the degree of uncertainty, another reason to keep your eye on this impending trade.