Which organisation is responsible for allocating public IP addresses?

  • A public IP address, as unique on the Internet, is an outward-facing IP address used to access the Internet.
  • In today’s digital age, a complex system of public IP addresses ensures that our online activities are seamlessly connected.
  • There are four major organisations responsible for allocating public IP addresses: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), National Internet Registries (NIRs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The Internet Protocol (IP), a set of guidelines that control data transmission over networks, is the foundation upon which the Internet functions. An IP address is given to each internet-connected device, serving as a digital identity for it. Devices can send and receive data packets using this address, facilitating global computer and server communication.

As the number of internet-connected devices continues to grow exponentially, it is essential to have a structured system for allocating IP addresses. It thus guarantees that every device can effectively communicate and has a unique address.

Many organizations have taken on the task of assigning IP addresses over time. These groups cooperate to guarantee the sustainable, equitable, and effective distribution of IP addresses.

What is a public IP address?

A public IP address is an outward-facing IP address used to access the Internet. Public IP addresses are provided by an internet service provider (ISP) and assigned to the router. It is a unique IP address on the Internet.

A public IP address allows users to configure a server (VPN, FTP, etc.), provides remote access to the machine, and many other benefits.

Also read: How did the internet start?

How to allocate public IP address

The allocation of IP addresses involves a structured process that ensures fair and efficient distribution of address space. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), and National Internet Registries (NIRs) have established rules and regulations that regulate the process.

IANA allocates a portion of each newly available block of IP addresses to the corresponding RIRs. Within their assigned regions, the RIRs then further distribute the allocated address space to ISPs, businesses, governmental bodies, academic institutions, and other organizations.

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), responsible for coordinating some of the key elements that keep the Internet running smoothly, plays a vital role in the allocation and management of public IP addresses. Established in the early days of the Internet, IANA was originally tasked with coordinating the assignment of IP addresses among other technical aspects of the Internet.

IANA’s role in public IP address allocation emphasises on the distribution of address space to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). The RIRs then further distribute the allocated address blocks to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other entities within their respective regions.

Also read: Interview with Lu Heng: The man who wants to decentralise IP addresses and save the internet

Regional Internet Registries (RIRs)

Mostly for their members, the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) offer services for managing, distributing, registering, and administering Internet number resources. RIRs are essential to the distribution and administration of public IP addresses in their respective areas. The global expansion of the internet made it clear that a decentralized method of allocating IP addresses was required to guarantee effective distribution and administration.

There are currently five RIRs operating worldwide: the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for North America, the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) for the Asia-Pacific region, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) for Africa.

Each RIR is responsible for managing and distributing IP addresses within their designated region. Their main responsibility is to make sure that IP address space is used fairly and effectively, taking into account variables like population density, ISP count, and overall IP address demand in the area.

National Internet Registries (NIRs)

Within a particular nation or territory, the National Internet Registries (NIRs) act as intermediaries between Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and local organizations. NIRs concentrate on the administration and distribution of IP addresses at the national level, whereas RIRs manage IP address allocation on a regional basis.

NIRs act as a point of contact for local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), enterprises, and other organizations in their respective countries or territories. They offer advice on best practices for IP address management and help these organizations obtain IP address space.

The role of NIRs varies from country to country, depending on local needs and regulatory frameworks. While some NIRs function independently, others are incorporated into government organizations in charge of internet infrastructure or national telecommunications regulatory bodies.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are essential players in the allocation and management of public IP addresses. They serve as the link between end-users and the wider internet, providing connectivity and access to online services.

ISPs play a crucial role in obtaining and distributing IP addresses to their customers. From Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) or National Internet Registries (NIRs), they obtain IP address blocks and allocate them to the devices linked to their networks.

ISPs are responsible for efficiently managing their allocated IP address blocks. They have to make sure that address space is used efficiently and that no assignments are overlapped or wasted. This entails keeping an eye on how IP addresses are being used, updating address assignments regularly, and taking action to preserve address space when it can be.

Global internet governance

In summary, the process of allocating public IP addresses is intricate and requires collaboration between numerous organizations and interested parties to guarantee an equitable and effective distribution of address space. While regional and national Internet registries (RIRs) and NIRs, respectively, handle IP address allocation, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is primarily responsible for overseeing IP address allocation worldwide. ISPs, or internet service providers, act as middlemen by allocating IP addresses to users and overseeing network infrastructure.


Fiona Huang

Fiona Huang, an intern reporter at BTW media dedicated in Fintech. She graduated from University of Southampton. Send tips to f.huang@btw.media.

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