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Crashed RadioShack flogs off its IPv4 stash

Old-skool addresses worth about $400,000 at auction

Collapsed retail store RadioShack will auction off its public IPv4 addresses as part of its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.

The 32,000-odd addresses will be sold off in /24 and /20 subnets by auction site, which specializes in the sale and resale of the increasingly valuable online space. The website says it has "exclusivity" on RadioShack's IPv4 blocks.

With the current market rate of between $12.50 and $13 per address, that means the IPv4 blocks will be worth around $410,000. The failed electronics chain owns a bunch of stuff in the 139.60.x.x range plus a few other bits and pieces:

Addresses (according to ARIN) Number of addresses - 1024 - 4096 - 6144 - 1024 - 2048 - 1024 - 3072 - 2048 - 14336 - 8 - 8 - 8

The sale and auction of IPv4 address blocks has been going on for a number of years, largely behind the scenes. But as new IPv4 address have now basically run out, and IPv6 continues to lag in adoption, the value of the addresses has gone up and what was once a shadowy black market has become increasingly open.

Typically, IPv4 addresses only appear on the market after a company goes bankrupt. In the early days of the internet, IPv4 blocks were handed out a little too generously to what were then the large computer and telecommunications companies. As those companies die off, so the blocks have become salable assets.

For a long time, the organizations in charge of allocating address blocks – regional internet registries (RIRs) – insisted that any spare addresses and capacity should be returned to them, for free, for reallocation.

But with the addresses worth increasing amounts of money as companies try to expand but resist efforts to shift over to IPv6, that approach became untenable and the RIRs developed rules for the transfer of IP blocks between groups. They are still not keen on people effectively buying IP addresses at auction, however.

The organization that runs North America's address blocks – and hence Radio Shack's property – ARIN calls such a shift in rights a "specified transfer" and has specific policies to cover it. Its CEO John Curran told us that there is a "robust IPv4 transfer market – including auctions."

Money, money, money

In April of this year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology threw open the doors on that approach when it announced it wanted to sell its very large /8 block of 16 million addresses in order to fund expansion of its IPv6 network.

The philosophical opposition to the sale of IPv4 addresses is also somewhat undermined by the companies purchasing them: big computer and internet infrastructure companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Despite some claims that IPv4 addresses would soon become worth $100 each, the gradual acceptance of the market in address blocks has – so far at least – kept prices relatively constant.

Microsoft paid just over $11 an address in 2011 when it bought Nortel's huge block for $7.5m. The most expensive block on right now is asking $15.50 an address; a typical price is $13.

RadioShack's IP addresses have taken a long route to the market. Intellectual property specialist Hilco Streambank was hired in 2015 to sell them off, along with RadioShack's trademarks, patents and customer databases. It did so – to General Wireless IP Holdings – as it attempted to relaunch the RadioShack name.

That effort failed earlier this year and the addresses returned to Hilco Streambank, which broke out the IPv4 addresses separately from the rest of the IP and is now selling them off.

"Recovering value for creditors while helping to alleviate the scarcity in the IP address market is a win for everyone involved," CEO of Hilco Streambank, Gabe Fried, pitched in a statement. ®

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