Blockstream is a blockchain firm which has been working for the mass adoption of the revolutionary technology since its launch by Samson Mow and Joseph Weinberg in 2017 after securing funding of more than $101 million from companies like Khosla Ventures & others. The startup has launched an impressive lineup of products since then, which includes the recently launched off chain solution ‘Liquid’ – about which I wrote a piece earlier in the year. Making good on its original promise of connecting everyone on the planet when 📡 Blockstream Satellite 📡 was launched in Aug. 2017, the company recently installed a fifth leased satellite to cover the Asia Pacific region in transmitting the complete Bitcoin blockchain for transactions & Crypto information to practically all the population of the World. In layman’s terms, you can now access the Bitcoin network internet-free be it the Sahara desert or Siberian Tundra. Some remote regions like the Arctic, Greenland & a thin strip of western Asian continent still needs to be covered.
CSO Samson Mow, who is a strong proponent of DLT & Bitcoin laid out the concept in the following words:
“Bitcoin has always been about uncensorable money, and now we have uncensorable communications as well.”
The image above depicts the Blockstream satellite coverage of the areas where you can access the Crypto kingpin (BTC) network. Before moving on to the utility & advantages of this new addition, let’s briefly look at some of the other projects by Blockstream & how they are addressing the shortcomings in the current blockchain solutions while bringing offline access for all.
⦿ Liquid Sidechain – Liquid network works as a scalability solution to the existing Bitcoin blockchain where it keeps a copy of the digital records of the main blockchain, with the transactions being executed on the sidechain never occupying any space on the blocks of the main Bitcoin blockchain, thus avoiding any network fees. Basically Liquid offers faster & reliable transactions with increased privacy by employing the native token L-BTC (Liquid Bitcoin) which is pegged to the price of BTC and is readily exchangeable with the parent token (BTC) at any time.
⦿ The Blockstream Store – It was launched in Jan. 2018 to kickstart Lightning solution on the Bitcoin main net. The store acts as an e-commerce outlet for bitcoin retail style transactions where you can buy merchandise in the cryptocurrency. This store acts as a real-world micro transaction use case for the faster & cheaper bitcoin payments enabled by Lightning network protocol layer.
⦿ Cryptocurrency Data Feed – This utility brings an in-depth real-time & comprehensive market data for over 200 million trade and quote updates per day across 133 Crypto and fiat currency pairs. The service is a result of a partnership between Blockstream & ICE exchange (parent company of NYSE), which is backed by ICE’s SFTI Network & other redundancies to bring uninterrupted quotes & transparent summaries of the market.
⦿ Block Explorer – Acts as a real-time search engine for the finding information on Bitcoin main blockchain and Liquid sidechain – including block height, hash, transactions, block size & address etc.
⦿ Blockstream Satellite – And finally the most ambitious & perhaps the most popular solution towards mass adoption of Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies is the offline access of BTC blockchain (for now) 24/7. The satellite access brings a host of advantages including the following:
- No need for the Internet. Bringing bitcoin payments to the World, be it a trek through the Amazon or an international flight across the globe (the airline needs to support BTC), the access will always be uninterrupted.
- This also increases the potential of mining manifold as you can set up a farm anywhere, anytime – you can even power the farm with solar energy in a remote sunny location since the blockchain access would be free.
- Access for third world countries & Remote Regions. Financial inclusion would become widespread as the previous “outsiders” to the mainstream financial system can now access & use the digital money infrastructure. Unreliable or no internet access would not be hindrances any more.
- Avoiding Government regulations & International sanctions. This one is a little controversial & probably not welcomed by the financial authorities & governments. Great news for bitcoin holders though in countries like Iran, Venezuela & India where the mainstream Cryptos are currently banned for a variety of reasons. These users can bypass the firewalls & website blockages of crypto websites with satellite access. The central governments like Iran & Venezuela who are facing international economic sanctions can potentially use this tool to circumvent the same.
Starting in 2019, Blockstream is bringing a new Application Programming Interface (API) for users to send encrypted messages to each other from the remote regions by paying for the service in Bitcoin using the Lightning network. The encryption would use the Onion routing technology, which is used by the Tor browser to access the Dark web.
Steps like these will go a long way in making Bitcoin more robust, accessible & easier to use. While the internet free access to bitcoin blockchain might not have an immediate impact on the struggling price of the Crypto kingpin, it would certainly contribute to the long-term growth of Bitcoin in particular & Cryptocurrencies in general. However, more than 3 billion people without internet access & 1.7 billion without banking would be the biggest beneficiaries of this endeavor.