Every computer or other internet-enabled device (smart TV, cell phone, web server, etc.) on a network must have a unique identifier. Most devices and networks communicate using the TCP/IP protocol, in which each device is identified via a numerical label known as an Internet Protocol address, commonly referred to as an IP address. IP addresses can be either static, meaning a device has the same IP address at all times; or dynamic, meaning the IP address may change from time to time, such as when a device is powered down and restarted. IP addresses are also reusable, meaning if a device no longer requires access to the network, its IP address can be reallocated to a different device.
Top 10 Countries with the most IP (IPv4) Addresses:*
- United States — 1,541,605,760
- China — 330,321,408
- Japan — 202,183,168
- United Kingdom — 123,500,144
- Germany — 188,132,104
- South Korea — 112,239,104
- France — 95,078,032
- Canada — 79,989,760
- Italy — 50,999,712
- Brazil — 48,572,160
*For full data on the number of IPv4 addresses in every country, see the table that follows this text.
Types of IP address: IPv4 and IPv6 defined and differentiated
Current IP addresses each follow one of two standards: IP Version 4 (IPv4) or IP Version 6 (IPv6). IPv4, the internet's original IP protocol, uses 32 binary bits to create a single unique address that is expressed by four numbers, each ranging from 0 to 255 and separated by decimals. For example: 18.104.22.168.
By comparison, the newer and more complex IPv6 standard uses 128 binary bits to create a single unique address that is expressed by eight groups of hexadecimal numbers (which include not only the numbers 0-9 but the letters A-F), each ranging from 0 to FFFF and separated by colons. For example: 2001:23F5:B415:2F61:02A2:8C4B:A375:8149.
Why are there two types of IP address?
IP addresses are unique and have a fixed length. Because of these constraints, the number of possible IP addresses that can exist is finite. There are 4,294,967,296 (Nearly 4.3 billion) IPv4 addresses, 600 million of which are reserved and cannot be used for public routing. This limitation caused little concern in the early days of the internet, because of the vast number of IPv4 addresses available. However, the growth of the internet and the proliferation of internet-enabled devices over the following decades made clear that eventually even four billion IP addresses would be too few.
Several new technologies were formulated to stave off the looming shortage of IPv4 addresses, including network address translation (NAT) and Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR). The ultimate solution arrived with the launch of IPv6. While IPv4 was a 32-bit protocol limited to just under 4.3 billion addresses (2 to the power of 32), IPv6 is a 128-bit protocol with nearly 340 undecillion possible addresses (2 to the power of 128), a functionally infinite supply.
IPv4 and IPv6 networks are incompatible with one another. This means, for example, that a cell phone with an IPv4 address could not access a website stored on a web server that used only IPv6. However, the vast majority of modern devices and operating systems are capable of connecting to the internet via either protocol. At present, IPv4 is still the dominant protocol, thanks to this ongoing device-level support and the presence of more than 4 billion already-allocated IPv4 addresses. However, IPv6 is expected to overtake it at some point in the future.
Per-country allocations of IP addresses around the world
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the organization charged with distributing all non-reserved IP addresses to the world. This process is executed using a nested system in which increasingly smaller satellite agencies allocate the IPs to increasingly smaller territories. The IANA performs the first allocation, distributing IP addresses to Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) in five broad regions (which roughly correspond to the continents.
Regional Internet Registries perform the second round of allocations, doling out the IPs to each individual country's National Internet Registry (NIR). The NIRs then allocate the IPs to smaller Local Internet Registries (LIRs), which allocate them to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which allocate them to individual users and devices. In-use IPs are classified as utilized. In countries that lack local registries, the national registries allocate directly to the ISPs.
Global ISP Allocation Regions (all data IANA 2022/09):
|Region||Area Covered||IPv6 Addresses|
|APNIC||Southern Asia and Oceania||1,066,993||838,810||129,485||98,698|
|LACNIC||Central and South America||1,048,934||994,465||38,471||15,998|
|RIPE NCC||Europe and North/Central Asia, including the Middle East||2,131,964||843,772||1,117,609||170,583|
The number of addresses allocated to a given country does not necessarily correlate with that country's population numbers. Rather, it is more closely tied to each country's need for IP addresses. As a rule, countries that have high incomes, are more developed, or show a high level of innovation and technological advancement have more robust internet infrastructure and a larger number of smart devices, websites, and other internet-based businesses—which translates to greater need for IP addresses—than do low-income and middle-income countries that are still developing.
Countries with the largest (and smallest) allocations of IPv4 addresses
Of the more than 4 billion IPv4 addresses in existence, 1,541,605,760 (about 35.9% of the total number) are allocated to the United States. This is far and away the highest number allocated to any country. Using population metrics from 2012 (the year after the IANA allocated the final IPv4 addresses to various regional registries), this corresponds to roughly 4,911 IP addresses per 1,000 people.
China has the second-highest number of IPv4 addresses at 330,321,408, about 7.7% of the total number in existence. China is followed by Japan with 202,183,168 and the United Kingdom with 123,500,144. Germany has the fifth-highest number of IPv4 addresses with 118,132,104.
Vatican City, which has the smallest population of any sovereign state, has 17,920 IPv4 addresses. This equates to 21,435 IP addresses per 1,000 people (because Vatican City has fewer than 1,000 citizens).
What are bogons?
Factored into the 4.294 million existing IPv4 addresses are millions on bogon (short for "bogus logons") addresses, which are IP addresses that are either inaccurate or which have not yet been assigned by an ISP. Most Internet service providers and firewalls filter out bogons, which are typically created either on accident by misconfigured networks or deliberately by would-be hackers.
Finally, IP addresses are not to be confused with domain names, a similar-but-different identifier that can help pinpoint the country of origin of a website.