The Five Stages of IPv4 Exhaustion Grief

By Dean Pemberton – Task Force Technical Convenor

Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) the organisation who allocates IP addresses to European organisations has announced this week that they are now allocating from their final block of IPv4 addresses.  Members can still be allocated addresses, but they are only allocated a maximum of 1024.  The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) has been operating in this same mode since dipping into its last block back in April 2011.

These are two of the five global Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) who are charged with allocating Internet Protocol addresses out to organisations across the globe.  The remaining three ARIN, LACNIC and AfriNIC from North America, Latin America and Africa respectively are still allocating normally from only slightly healthier IPv4 reserves.

The interesting thing to consider is how members within these regions are handling this exhaustion and how it fits with the widely accepted stages of grief.

The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as The Five Stages of Grief is categorised as the following: Denial -> Anger -> Bargaining -> Depression -> Acceptance

Denial –  “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
This seems to be where members from the three RIRs still with IPv4 reserves are sitting at the moment.
Back in 2010, when APNIC was looking down the barrel of having to start allocation from its final IPv4 address block. ARIN allocated 8 million addresses to US based cable operator ComCast.
Anyone still thinking “we have good volumes of IPv4 addresses” can count themselves well and truly in this stage.

Anger – “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
Less than a week into their austerity measures, RIPE members seem to be looking for people to blame.  Online tech publication The Register reports:
The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions is sitting on up to £1bn worth of IPv4 addresses that it is not using, according to an online petition.
With quotes such as “If [these addresses] are being used for internal, private networks then this is a phenomenal waste of public funds”.

APNIC members have already gone through this stage with members from economies showing recent large scale technology growth leading spirited debate on why they are not able to have large IPv4 allocations when they require them.  They were quick to point out that economies who enjoyed their growth spurt decades earlier were granted IPv4 allocations as they required them.

Bargaining – “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…”
Within our own region, some APNIC members seem to be embracing the concept of trying to bargain their way out of IPv4 exhaustion.  Posts to the APNIC-Talk mailing list have included enquiries from members looking for larger address blocks.

Dear All,
Is there any one, who wants to transfer IPv4 addresses! we need some /19 ip network for our new company. Please feel free to contact with us.


One could also look at the deployment of ‘Large-Scale-NAT’ to prolong the life of IPv4 as a form of Bargaining.  The same could be said of the aggressive mergers and acquisitions taking place to secure companies with IPv4 assets.

Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m nothing left so what’s the point?”; “I can’t do it the old way, why go on?”
With the progression through the Five Stages of Grief looking like it’s proceeding exactly as planned, it is interesting to speculate what form this stage will take.  I suspect we are starting to see a few glimpses of this with new network operators struggling to make a sustainable business model with access to only 1024 IPv4 address.  It would certainly be classed as depression when they realise that they can’t compete with incumbents who have managed to recover, buy or acquire through mergers a much larger stockpile of IPv4 space.

Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
This is where we all want to be eventually.  There are some signs that individual organisations have made it here.  Verizon Wireless presented at the recent APNIC34 meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that their new 4G LTE network will be build on and deliver IPv6# to the customer.  China Mobile announced that they were deploying IPv6 in the testing of their 4G LTE network.

Some people are getting there.  It might be time to ask yourself which of the Five Stages of IPv4 Grief you are sitting on at the moment.  We hope to see you at Acceptance shortly, I also hope it’s not too rocky along the way.

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