Analysis

Bitcoin: can cryptocurrency work without the Internet?

Yes, Bitcoin is able to work without an Internet connection! Several initiatives are already working to free cryptocurrencies from their dependence on the global computer network.  Blockchain can notably rely on radio waves or satellites to operate. We take stock of some existing alternatives.

There are many reasons why scientists and engineers are working on alternatives to the Internet to make Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, work. First of all, it will be recalled that not all regions of the world have a quality connection.

In some countries, such as those in the process of development, breakdowns are not uncommon, whether on the fixed or mobile side. Similarly, the use of an Internet network makes users dependent on the infrastructure set up by access providers, such as Orange, SFR, Free or Bouygues Télécom.

By court order, operators can theoretically suspend access to certain users or to certain sites. In addition, the Internet falls under the surveillance of governments. Under these conditions, some experts are currently working on alternatives.

Bitcoin satellite transactions 

For several years, the Blockstream firm has been seeking to emancipate Bitcoin from the Internet. To achieve this, the company relies on satellite communication. In 2017, the Canadian company launched a satellite service called Blockstream Satellite .

Currently, it is possible to “transmit data from the blockchain” through four geostationary satellites around the Earth, recently explained Neil Woodfine, marketing manager at Blockstream. “Blockstream Satellite broadcasts Bitcoin blockchain to the entire planet via satellite, making Bitcoin less dependent on Internet access” announces Blockstream on its website.

According to the firm, its free service offers a plethora of benefits. First of all, Blockstream Satellite saves users money. “The blocks can be received free of charge,” says the company. In addition, the satellite network promises to be much more stable than the Internet, a major advantage for users located in a white area for example. To take advantage of this system, all you need is a small satellite antenna and a simple USB receiver.

Via radio waves

It is also possible to carry out Bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) transactions over the radio waves. This is the objective of the open-source Locha Mesh project .

Following repeated network outages in Venezuela, a team of researchers decided to “find a solution for situations where there is no Internet access at all, either for lack of infrastructure or censorship”, explains Randy Brito, project leader and member of the Bitcoin Venezuela organization.

Thanks to two dedicated portable devices, named Turpial and Harpia, anyone can connect to the blockchain using long range radio waves. In detail, Turpial is a radio transmitter capable of transmitting information over distances of one to two kilometers.

Less complete but more compact, Harpia needs a computer to work. Unfortunately, this promising alternative is not yet completely independent of the Internet. A transfer via radio waves with Locha Mesh software still requires an Internet connection to connect to the other nodes.

According to Randy Brito, access to nodes can also theoretically go through satellite dishes. Researchers are still working on improving their system. For the time being, the project is still looking for investors.

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