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DWP sells off unused web addresses to ‘reduce the deficit’

IPv4 standard is being depleted, driving up the value.


The UK government is selling its unused internet addresses.

The batch of IPv4 addresses have been sold to Norwegian firm Altibox for around £600,000. This constitutes part of a stock that was given to the Department of Work and Pensions in 1993.

In total, the governments’ surplus addresses could be worth up to £15 million, according to a BBC report.

IPv4 addresses are valuable due to the limited supply. IPv4 offers 4.3 billion addresses, a stock which is close to being depleted, necessitating a move to the new addressing standard, IPv6. This offers a staggering 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000 billion addresses, roughly 50 quintillion for every human being currently alive.

Great Britain has been considerably slower than other Western countries in adopting the IPv6 addressing standard, as all major broadband providers still assign Internet Protocol (IP) addresses using the IPv4 standard.

According to figures from Apnic, Great Britain is only 0.24 percent IPv6 capable. By comparison, the US is 16.84 percent capable and Germany is 20.75 percent.

"Our decisions on government technology are driven by user needs, first and foremost, but also by our push to focus resources where they’ll do the most good," said Hadley Beeman, Senior Technical Advisor to the Government Chief Technology Officer, in a February blog.

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"Making government cheaper, reducing the deficit and getting great technology for our users at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer – these things matter."

"[DWP’s public-facing IPv4 addresses] are used to number computers, mobile phones, servers and other devices on the internet and as the Internet is growing quickly, there is a shortage of these addresses.

"The next version of the Internet Protocol, IPv6, helps with a much larger supply of addresses, but many networks aren’t yet ready to move to IPv6. So there is a demand for IPv4 addresses.

"Together with DWP’s network teams, we started some discovery work. Other approaches to setting up networks, like IPv6 and Network Address Translation (NAT), mean we may not need all the IPv4 addresses we hold.

"Might there be others who need them more? Mindful that we have an obligation to maximise assets that have been funded by taxpayers, these addresses might do us — and the world — more good if we sell them."

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