IP Insights

What is an RIR?

Every computer that goes on the Internet needs its own IP address, whether it's in America or Africa. That presents an extreme challenge. How does a computer user in Africa or Asia or Albuquerque get an IP address...on demand? Can one system handle it all for everyone around the world?

The answer is "no," and that's why there is something called a "Regional Internet Registry," or RIR. An RIR is an organization that manages and controls Internet addresses in a specific region, usually a country and sometimes an entire continent. RIRs control assigning and distributing IP addresses and domain registrations. As the Internet expanded throughout the world, greater organization was needed to handle the demand for IP addresses for the growing millions of online users.

RIR Location Map

There are five Regional Internet Registries.

  1. American Registry for Internet Numbers—ARIN: Responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for North America, including Canada, the United States and portions of the Caribbean.
  2. Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre—RIPE NCC: Responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. RIPE NCC is considered the first official registry—the United States government was still too busy being actively involved with managing Internet addressing for much of North America at that time, and therefore was not first.
  3. The Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre—APNIC: Responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for Asia and the Pacific Rim. Founded in Tokyo, Japan, APNIC was the second RIR to be established. APNIC relocated to Brisbane, Australia, in 1998.
  4. Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry—LACNIC: Responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for Latin America and the Caribbean. Headquartered in Montevideo, Uruguay.
  5. The African Network Information Centre—AfriNIC: Responsible for the administration of Internet addresses and domains for the African continent. Based in Ebene City, Mauritius, AfriNIC became operational in 2005.

Why RIRs are needed.

Yes, there are millions of IP addresses available, but that number is not limitless. The current version of the IP address (technically known as IPv4) does not have an infinite number of addresses available. That fact made the Internet administration organizations realize there was an urgent need for up-close and smart management of the inventory of IP addresses. Put another way, the IP world realized there had to be enough IP addresses to go around for everyone, and a system for allocating them efficiently.

The RIR came up with guidelines to make it all work. Each individual RIR is required to follow a neutral policy of IP address allocation and distribution. That helps prevent one RIR from hoarding IP addresses for computer users in its geographical region or doing anything to put other regions at a disadvantage. After all, without ongoing access to IP addresses—which allows people to connect with other users locally and worldwide—a network is doomed.

The Role of the RIR.

The RIRs, as a matter of fact, do not generate the IP addresses that they themselves allocate. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the Internet organization that allocates IP addresses to each RIR, which takes it from there, handling the next level of allocation. An RIR serves:

  • Large regional entities, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • Educational institutions
  • Governments
  • Large corporation and organizations

RIR meets NRO.

All five RIRs combined to form the Number Resource Organization (NRO). The NRO was needed to help the RIRs coordinate technical and policy initiatives among themselves and to ensure that the RIRs could work seamlessly together. The mission of the NRO is to:

  • Keep tabs on the IP address resource pool, protecting available IP addresses
  • Protect and promote the policies of the Internet
  • Serve as a focal point for input from the Internet communities in each RIR

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