MAC-address analysis

Tags: networking, computers, hardware.
By lucb1e on 2013-03-02 13:18:01 +0100

First, a few things you need to know about MAC addresses: When a NIC (Network Interface Card) is manufactured, it is given (issued) a globally unique MAC address. Don't rely on their uniqueness though because users easily can modify them. A MAC address is 48 bits in size (12 characters hexadecimal, as you probably know them), and they are divided up into two halves: the first and the second half! Hard stuff, I know.

The first half is the "OUI" (like the French word for "yes" while forgetting to release caps-lock). It stands for Organizationally Unique Identifier, and as the name suggests, it determines the organisation which issued the address. In order to issue addresses, you have to register a block of MAC addresses. Because the second half is 24 bits, that means you get 16.8 million addresses for buying just a single block.

Knowing this, it might be useful to see who registers what. Luckily, it's all public. The IEEE, an organisation that issues blocks to organisations (and collects the fees I might add) publicizes the list on their website (warning: large file, your browser might not like it). I downloaded the data and did some analysis. A second list that I got is outdated, but this provides me with historical data :)

Registering blocks isn't extremely expensive, I could buy one if I wanted to, but at $1885 it's not exactly cheap either. I imagine companies might buy a few blocks in advance, but not more than they think they might need within a few years. It's an easy way to see how much NICs they are expecting to sell in the near future.

In 2011, the big four OUIs was a somewhat surprising list, to me at least. Unsurprisingly Cisco, with 499 blocks licensed (8.4 billion devices), was on top with a big lead. The next three, with 111, 110 and 107 blocks, were Motorola, Intel and Nokia. I had not expected to see "old" phone companies in here! Motorola is out of fashion for so long, I can hardly remember ever seeing one. Nokia held up a bit longer, but also went out of fashion years ago. It turns out they were also selling networking equipment. Intel of course makes chipsets, and with that also the NICs for many computers, so they were less surprising.

Nowadays the list changed quite a bit. Cisco, still unsurprisingly (given that they own both Linksys for consumers and Cisco for the corporate market), tops the list with 607 blocks. That licences them for just over 10 billion devices, an increase of 1.8 billion devices or 21.6%. Their market share is about 3.6%.

Apple takes in second position with 208 blocks (3.5bln devices, increase of 2.2bln, or 260%), and Samsung is third with 189 blocks (3.1bln, increase of 1.3bln, 227%). Intel, Nokia and Motorola dropped down to fourth, fifth and sixth position. That means Nokia overtook Motorola, and is still selling quite okay, spending $64090 on licences, and potentially selling 570mln devices. Intel's position above the PC market and below the main telcos remained unchanged, or at least I'm guessing that most of Apple's share comes from mobile devices.

Next up is Texas Instruments. They used to have 47 blocks, but expanded to 72 (171% increase). I only know them from graphical calculators, never even knew they sold networking equipment! Same goes for Alps, that touchpad manufacturer, though they're not selling as much as the big guys (now 19 blocks / 302mln devices, 126% increase).

The real networking manufacturers like Juniper, Netgear, TP-Link, D-link, 3com, AVM and Zyxel are surprisingly small. All of them between 100mln and 700mln devices. Not much I'd say; they're all between a 14 and 100 times smaller than Cisco.

Microsoft is taking up a modest position with 14 blocks, buying 4 in the past two years. I guess they're mostly for Surface, perhaps Windows Phone, and Xbox, though they might also use other NICs.

Sony's position remains pretty much unchanged, increasing with the flow and buying 14 blocks, now at 63 total. Nintendo is doing less good, despite the Wii's and DS' success, buying only 8 and ending up at 44. Still, that's a tie with TP-Link and more than Netgear has.

Xerox are just lucky. They own the first ten blocks, but are also mostly responsible for developing most of the MAC-address standard, so that explains that. In total they have 14 blocks now, so over the course of 30 years they bought 4 new ones. As I said, lucky to be in my list at all :P

Google, surprisingly, only owns two blocks: One under the name Google, Inc. and the other under Google Fiber, Inc.

Most registrants are not in my list. Of a total of 17470 registered blocks, only a small percentage belongs to these big guys. I'm not sure what everyone else uses it for, perhaps own branding? Even Coca Cola is in there somewhere(!).

The Netherlands occurs 149 times in the list, good for 2.5 billion devices.

For the raw outputs and parsing scripts, view Note that if there is no php script for something, like the country stats or finding Coca Cola in there, I used the command line instead of a php script.
Example: grep NETHERLANDS oui-new-unformatted-[tab] | wc -l
Another post tagged 'hardware': From a Nokia to a Note and back again: experiences

Look for more posts tagged computers, hardware or networking.

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