Dimensioning the elephant: an empirical analysis of the IPv4 number market

Milton Mueller (Professor, based at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, NY, USA)
Brenden Kuerbis (Postdoctoral Researcher, based at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, NY, USA)
Hadi Asghari (PhD candidate, based at the School of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands)


ISSN: 1463-6697

Publication date: 23 September 2013



This article aims to quantify the emerging transfer market for internet protocol (IPv4) numbers and provides an initial assessment of factors and policies impacting those transactions.


The research draws on Regional Internet Registry records and conducts basic analysis of stocks, flows and proportions to assess the nature of this emerging market for IP number blocks and explore some of its implications for internet governance.


There is a thriving and growing market for IPv4 number blocks. The market is improving the efficiency of IPv4 address allocation by moving numbers from unused or under-utilized holders to organizations that need them more. Buyers willingly pay for number blocks they could get for free in order to benefit from more liberal needs assessments and stronger property rights.

Research limitations/implications

Information about prices is not available and some transfers may take place through leasing arrangements, which are not covered by this paper. Future research should continue to investigate the transfer market, including activity skirting or occurring outside the current RIR policy environment.

Practical implications

RIRs should liberalize needs assessments and remove other sources of friction to the transfer market.


No known prior assessment of the transfer market has been conducted. The research has value for policymakers and industry decision makers.



This research was funded by the Next Generation Infrastructure Foundation, The Netherlands. Received 2 July 2013 Revised 2 July 2103 Accepted 11 July 2013


Mueller, M., Kuerbis, B. and Asghari, H. (2013), "Dimensioning the elephant: an empirical analysis of the IPv4 number market", info, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 6-18. https://doi.org/10.1108/info-07-2013-0039

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