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BTC For All: Blockstream Satellite Network Goes Global

Ofer Sharon
18 December, 2018
3 min read
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The Blockstream Satellite project just announced reaching global coverage of their Bitcoin Satellite network, broadcasting the Bitcoin blockchain to the entire planet for free.

Why This Matters

By eliminating Bitcoin’s dependency on internet access, Blockstream’s Satellite network provides anyone in the world the opportunity to connect to the Bitcoin blockchain network. People without any internet access could now start using Bitcoin for free. This has the potential to help the billions of people in the world who are 'unbanked' – have no access to banking services, like in developing areas such as Africa.

 

More than half of the world’s population has no internet access, according to a recent report from the Web Foundation, and there are almost two billion people in the world who have no access to banking services.

 

Blockstream's satellite broadcasts can now allow anyone in the world, even from distant and cut-off regions, to start performing Bitcoin transactions. All that’s needed is some source of electricity and a satellite dish to receive Blockstream's broadcasts. No internet infrastructure is needed, nor is paying any service providers.

"If you have a portable generator, satellite dish, Wi-Fi hotspot, a laptop with a full node, and a bit of money to send 250 bytes, you can use Bitcoin anywhere with zero infrastructure [...] You could set up a Bitcoin mining operation in the middle of the desert powered by solar."

Adam Back, co-founder of Blockstream

Adam Back, one of the founders and leaders of Blockstream, is interestingly also the inventor of the Hashcash Proof-of-Work (PoW) algorithm preceding Bitcoin. Hashcash was developed by Back in 1997, and has even inspired Satoshi Nakamoto himself, who cited Back's work in Bitcoin's white paper.
 

Until recently, Blockstream's network had only four satellites, covering Europe, Africa, North America, and South America. Their latest blog post proudly announced the next phase of its fifth Asia-Pacific region Satellite has successfully gone live. Blockstream's blockchain network now has global coverage.

Forgot to Pay the Internet Bill?

By eliminating the dependency on internet connections, Blockstream's network is resilient to connection failures and protects full nodes from becoming isolated or partitioned. According to Blockstream’s blog post, their network of ground stations ('teleports') also provides redundancy to ensure their network is kept up and running.

Blockstream also announced the upcoming January release of its Satellite API service, which allows companies to send data over Blockstream's network.

"Via the Satellite API, users can broadcast unencrypted data to everyone with a satellite receiver or target specific users by using encryption. Combined with the Lightning Network onion-routing, it will be possible to send totally private messages where no one can identify the sender, the receiver, or the content of the message."
 

Blockstream blog post, 12/17/18

Blockstream chief strategy officer Samson Mow was recently quoted in a interview saying, "Bitcoin has always been about uncensorable money, and now we have uncensorable communications as well."

"While satellite communications are traditionally cost-prohibitive, Blockstream Satellite will finally allow developers to adopt satellite communications in their applications. The new API will make it possible to send 'Hello World' to the world [...] Natural disaster notifications, secure personal messaging, and sending Bitcoin market data to remote locations are just some of the exciting examples of the power of this service."

Chris Cook, head of the Blockstream Satellite project

Blockstream is a Canadian blockchain technology company co-founded and led by Adam Back. Having raised over $100M of investments, the company is focused on developing Bitcoin applications like the Blockstream Satellite Network, and Blockstream's Liquid sidechain.

 

Blockstream is one of the largest contributors of funding for Bitcoin Core. It has also been one of the factors involved in the development of the Lightning Network, and is currently collaborating with ICE, the company behind Bakkt, on the Cryptocurrency Data Feed.

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