How many Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) are there?

  • A Regional Internet Registry (RIR), abbreviated as RIR, is an institution tasked with registering the IP addresses and autonomous system numbers (ASNs) within a specific geographical area.
  • There are currently five RIRs and these registration databases help to prevent duplication or overlap in the IP address space.
  • Alongside IP address allocation, RIRs also allocate ASNs within their designated regions. ASNs serve to identify network operators online and are vital for BGP routing. Similar to IP addresses, ASNs must be distinct worldwide.

Each computer connecting to the Internet, whether from America or Africa, requires its unique IP address, presenting a significant challenge. How does a computer user, whether in Africa, Asia, or Albuquerque, obtain an IP address promptly upon request? Is there a single system capable of managing this global demand?

The answer lies in the existence of RIRs. These organisations oversee IP address registration within specific regions, typically covering a continent. RIRs are responsible for the allocation and distribution of IP addresses and domain registrations. As the Internet expanded worldwide, the necessity for enhanced organisation became apparent to meet the escalating demand for IP addresses amid the burgeoning number of online users.

The role of the RIRs

The RIRs do not generate the IP addresses that they allocate. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the Internet organization that allocates IP addresses to each RIR, who then take it from there, handling the next level of allocation. An RIR serves large regional entities, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), educational institutions, governments and large corporation and organizations.

Also read: What is ARIN? Inside the organisation that runs the internet for North America

Also read: What is APNIC? Inside the backbone of Asia’s internet

The five RIRs

Each Regional Internet Registry (RIR) is an organisation governed by its membership community. This community includes Internet service providers (ISPs), telecommunications companies, large corporations, academic institutions, and other entities deeply invested in the internet’s ongoing functionality.

RIRs operate under the oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is tasked with coordinating the global Domain Name System (DNS) and allocating unique IP address blocks to RIRs, ensuring a structured and unified approach to internet governance worldwide.


AFRINIC serves as the RIR for the African region. Established in 2006, AFRINIC was born out of the necessity to oversee IP address allocation and assignment across the continent. AFRINIC’s membership encompasses various stakeholders, including internet service providers, telecommunication firms, government bodies, educational institutions, and non-profit organisations. The core mission of AFRINIC revolves around fostering the sustainable development and utilisation of the internet throughout Africa. In recent years AFRINIC has encountered numerous problems, including corruption, staff theft (of millions of IP address to resell on the black market) and legal issues.

Also read: What is AFRINIC? The role and challenges of the African Regional Internet Registry


APNIC stands as the RIR for the Asia-Pacific region. Its primary aim is to promote internet development and collaboration across the Asia-Pacific landscape. APNIC achieves this by offering guidance and support for technical coordination, educational initiatives, and policy formulation. Within its role, APNIC allocates valuable resources like IP addresses and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) to its members spanning the Asia-Pacific region.

Recently, APNIC’s Director General Paul Wilson resigned, after leading the RIR for 25 years. His departure came after he was accused of bullying APNIC staff, and of running the RIR as a one-man dictatorship.

Also read: Paul Wilson resigns as Director General of APNIC


ARIN holds a pivotal role among the five regional Internet registries tasked with overseeing the allocation of unique Internet number resources, including IP addresses, within their designated areas. Operating within North America’s geographical expanse, ARIN’s jurisdiction extends over Canada, various Caribbean and North Atlantic islands, and the United States of America.

Established in 1997 through the amalgamation of former NICs for Canada (CANetworks), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and the Caribbean Islands Registry Network (CARIN), ARIN’s core mission revolves around ensuring equitable and unbiased distribution of Internet number resources within its domain. To uphold this mandate, ARIN maintains a comprehensive public database of whois information, offers tools and services to enhance awareness of internet number resources, and collaborates with law enforcement agencies to combat cybercrime effectively.


LACNIC operates as the RIR overseeing the Latin American and Caribbean territories. Its fundamental objective revolves around ensuring the robust and secure functionality of the Internet within this area. By formulating public policies, delivering training sessions, and fostering collaborative ventures, LACNIC strives to advance the development of internet infrastructure and the utilization of internet technologies across the region. Additionally, LACNIC endeavors to enhance comprehension and uptake of internet technologies among local communities.

Established in 2002 and headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay, LACNIC operates as a membership-driven entity boasting over 4,000 members hailing from more than 80 countries. Among its array of services, LACNIC facilitates IPv4 and IPv6 address allocation and assignment, ASN assignment, DNS resource registry, and reverse DNS delegation. Moreover, LACNIC extends its support through training initiatives, capacity building programs, and hosting conferences and events, all aimed at nurturing the expansion and advancement of the Internet within the Latin American and Caribbean sphere.


RIPE stands as the RIR catering to Europe, the Middle East, and portions of Central Asia. Its principal duty entails the allocation and oversight of IP addresses and autonomous system numbers across the RIPE service zone, encompassing the entirety of Europe, the Middle East, and segments of Central Asia. In addition to these responsibilities, RIPE NCC extends support and training provisions to its members, aids in coordinating network operators’ endeavors, and advocates for the cultivation of a sustainable and inclusive Internet environment.

Among its diverse membership base are ISPs, telecommunications entities, major corporations, research networks, and passionate Internet enthusiasts, collectively contributing to RIPE’s mission. Structured as a membership association under Dutch jurisdiction, RIPE operates from its headquarters in Amsterdam, supplemented by offices situated in Dubai.

Do we really need the RIRs?

While the Regional Internet Registries have done a good job to date for their regions, with the depletion of IPv4 addresses their core function has been fulfilled. There are some in the industry that say the RIRs are a legacy part of the internet that are no longer efficient, effective or even required.

Modern technologies, such as blockchain, could provide a far more effective, safer and fairer way to manage the registration database, allowing ISPs and other businesses to directly own and manage their IP addresses.

Read more about this idea here: Interview with Lu Heng: The man who wants to decentralise IP addresses and save the internet


Iris Deng

Iris Deng, an intern reporter at BTW media dedicated in Fintech and Blockchain. She is studying English at Hangzhou Dianzi University. Send tips to

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