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500 Million New IPv4 Addresses Coming! Well, Maybe. Or Maybe Not.

Tags: , , , Date/Time: June 2, 2022 @ 11:43 pm, by raindog308

IPv4The idea of changing up the IPv4 protocols to free up reserved ranges is not new.  Heck, I posted about it on LowEndTalk at least ten years ago and it wasn’t new then.

The idea is simple: when IPv4 was first created, a number of IP ranges were reserved.  Some such as 10.0.0.0/8, 172.16.0.0/16, and 192.168.0.0/16 are designed for private LAN networks that do not route to the Internet.  Other ranges, such as 224.0.0.0/4 and 240.0.0.0/4 are reserved for multicast and future use.

There are actually all kinds of other little blocks that most people don’t know about.  For example, 192.51.100.0/24 and 203.0.113.0/24 are both reserved for testing, and there are others.  But when thinking about possibly harvesting some of these IPs, the two big prizes are 224.0.0.0/4 and 240.0.0.0/4, which together comprise over 500 million IPv4 addresses.

To put that in perspective, that’s a bit more than 29 /8 networks.  And if you include 0.0.0.0/8 which is also unused, that’s another 16.7 million.  And who needs a full /8 for 127.0.0.0?

These IPs were never used as intended because the Internet developed a different way, so they are unused relics, essentially a large swath of completely wasted network space.

Let’s Use It!

The barriers to using this IP space are:

  1. The protocols say otherwise and so every operating system and router firmware would probably have to be patched to make use of them.
  2. The IPv6 mafia resists any change because they fear it’ll drag adoption of their new protocol.

Recently, Seth Schoen, a co-founder of Let’s Encrypt, has made several proposals to reclaim IPv4 space.  They include:

  • Taking back 240/4 and 224/4
  • Respecifying 0/8 as rotable
  • Change 127/8’s reservation to 127/16
  • And somewhat less usefully, change the “zeroth” address (e.g., X.X.X.0) to no longer be reserved

Will these proposals fly?  Too early to say, but personally I hope they do.  If IPv6 was going to be quickly adopted, it would already have been.  It’s the future, but in the meantime, people are going to be using IPv4 for a long, long time so anything to ease the supply constraints would be beneficial.

In other words, free the IPs so my cheap VPS prices don’t go up!

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