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Do IP Addresses Get Recycled?

Do IP Addresses Get Recycled?

The IP address system can seem hugely complicated, but it is a necessary system to allow the efficient transferal of data and communication between devices on the internet. An IP address acts in the same way as a Zip Code and is used to denote the physical location of a device that is connected to the internet.

The ICANN is responsible for the creation and distribution of IP addresses and is the governing body that oversees this whole process. Usually, the ICANN will allocate blocks of IP Addresses to secondary namespace organizations such as Internet Service Providers (similar to how Zip Codes are allocated to certain areas within a city). These secondary organizations will then distribute IP addresses to the public and their customers. A question that is regularly asked is “Do IP Addresses get Recycled? This is an interesting question as theoretically there is only a limited amount of possible IP addresses that can ever be created.

Understanding how IP Addresses are distributed

To understand how IP addresses are used, we must understand how they are distributed. Generally, there are two types of IP Address – Static and Dynamic.

Dynamic IP Addresses

Dynamic IP Addresses are usually assigned via an Internet Service Provider. An ISP will receive an allocation of thousands of IP addresses and they will put these into a dynamic pool. When an ISP’s customer requests an address, the ISP will simply select one from this pool and it will then be leased by that customer for a certain period of time or until their contract expires. This address will be held by that customer indefinitely until their contract is terminated. Once the contract has expired (for example if a home user decides to switch internet providers) their IP address will go back into the aforementioned dynamic pool. Another customer may then be allocated that same IP address – So in short, yes dynamic IP addresses can be recycled.

Static IP Addresses

Static IP Addresses are specifically requested and do not readily change. Static IP addresses may be obtained for a fee from an ISP and are often used by large organizations or network administrators. This IP address will remain registered to one owner until the lease ends or circumstances change. Generally, static IP addresses will not be recycled, but this depends entirely on how long it is used for. For example, a business could lease a static IP address and have owned it for 10 years, but they may go into liquidation – If this is the case, that IP address would eventually go back into circulation and be used again at some point.

As you can see, although an IP address applies to only one device or a network adapter, it can indeed by recycled, and one organization or individual could actually receive the same IP address more than once! (These chances of this are extremely slim however owing to the huge amount of single IP addresses available).


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