Is there an IPv4 black market?

Sean Buckley, FierceTelecomWith IT and telecom industries seeing little if any issues during World IPv6 Day this week, the underlying trend that will continually be on the mind of the industry players who participated is how to create a successful transition plan from IPv4 to IPv6.

One reason that there were probably no major issues with IPv6 day--at least on the end-user side--is that service providers and several content sites have already v6-enabled their sites for a number of years with various plans in place to proactively deal with potential problems that could arise.

But two events are changing the attitude of how the industry is seeing IPv4 address depletion. In February, the Number Resource Organization (NRO) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) announced that the last v4 addresses were being allocated to the Regional Internet Registries (RIR). This was followed by the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre's (APNIC) announcement that the last v4 address blocks in Asia were assigned.

One way that service providers and their businesses obviously will deal with the multiyear transition from IPv4 to IPv6 will be to run dual-stack fashion. Dual-stack allows a service provider to simultaneously run IPv4 and IPv6 protocol stacks either independently or in a hybrid form.

A number of service providers are already doing this, or have launched initiatives, to start this process today. Just in time for yesterday's event, SFR France announced that it would begin deploying IPv6 services to its residential customer base over a dual-stack configuration that it will support on its customers home network gateway.

At the same time, the depletion of IPv4 addresses is creating what might be seen as a new black or a green market opportunity to sell unused addresses to those who need them.

Evidence of the interest in IPv4 addresses has continued when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) bought out 666,624 IPv4 addresses for $7.5 million, or about $11.25 apiece from Nortel.

Not long after Microsoft made its move, a report emerged there's a growing group of IPv4 trading sites such as Tradipv4.com, which offer IPv4 addresses for $3 for v4 addresses located in ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) and $4 for those in the APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Center) region.  

Of course, there's an obvious caveat emptor that anyone buying addresses from these third party resellers comply with RIR processes.

Regardless of whether these sites are legit, Michael Wheeler, vice president, Global IP Network at NTT America, whose parent NTT (NYSE: NTT) and itself has been running an IPv6 network with dual stack IPv4/IPv6 for a number of years, says the phenomenon signifies that there's now a price associated with IPv4 addresses.

"The market color, whether white, grey or black, ultimately is converting to the color of money (i.e. green) for those companies who may be sitting on a large pool of v4 address space that isn't needed," he said in an interview with FierceTelecom.

While there are going to be various options for businesses and service providers to use in completing what will be a multiyear process, the black or green IPv4 address market will be just one of several methods the IT and telecom industry will use to make the transition to IPv6 a success.--Sean

P.S. Please check FierceTelecom's comprehensive coverage of World IPv6 Day. You'll find our new Six faces of IPv6 feature with Q&A interviews with heavy hitters in the IT and telecom service provider space written by myself and FierceTelecom managing editor Sam Bookman.

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