Opinion Is there any (Cosmic) Wind in the Satellite-Based Blockchain Services?

Is there any (Cosmic) Wind in the Satellite-Based Blockchain Services?

December 22, 2018

The spread of the blockchain technology, especially that of the bitcoin network has seen a constant development over a previous couple of years. With the popularity of both the technology and its prime example bitcoin, it is no wonder that so many developers are exerting huge amounts of effort to expand the reach and usability of the same tech.

Recently, a company called Blockstream began taking the same bitcoin network into space, more precisely through the use of orbital telecommunication satellites. For some, the same is only a gimmick that just had to happen sooner or later, but others see a lot of potential not just in this company but the overall field.

For them, the addition of blockchain to the space-borne communication channels is the most natural thing in the development of this technology. Here are some of the details of the Blockstream’s venture, as well as the possible way how this enterprise could be only the first visible entity in a growing niche.

Blockstream Satellite Vision

Bitcoin network had a wireless broadcast ability even before the Blockstream entered the scene. But, with the company’s recent lease of satellite bandwidth, the same footprint expanded greatly. The development company confirmed on December 17th that it leased its fifth satellite. It is now used to broadcasts bitcoin blockchain to the entire Asia Pacific region, adding to the coverage of Africa, South and North America and the whole of Europe.

The same service now provides access to bitcoin transactions in an internet-free form as well as information sharing to users across these continents. The company also launched its new API (application programming interface) that will allow a satellite network to transmit encrypted messages. The users who want access to that service will be able to pay for it using the micropayments feature of the Lightning Network.

This decision is very interesting because it takes the development process of Blockstream completely away from any kind of physical internet connection. Instead, it fully utilizes the satellite broadcasts just like satellite TV does and other similar communication services.

Communication Beyond Bitcoin

Samson Mow, the CSO of Blockstream explained that the ramifications of their satellite coverage and the future of the new blockchain-based development projects. He said that in the developing nations, internet connectivity is already somewhat similar to a basic utility service that most of the population has access to.

But, in many other countries, the reality is that wired connection is a huge luxury that many simply cannot afford or reach, especially when it comes to rural areas. Usually, without the ability to be online either by wireless or physically a device would not be able to synch with the bitcoin blockchain or be inside of its mining network. Yet, a satellite would provide the connection solution to the remote and underdeveloped or developing parts of the world.

In that case, the users would simply receive Blockstream Satellite broadcasts using a standard and low-cost satellite dish. With one of those, they would not need any internet connection to receive payments. To broadcast a transmission back to the satellite network, they would use an SMS bridge or get through a mesh network.

At the same time, Mow explained that the intent of the company is to allow the users to be creative and make new solutions using the same service. While this does not mean that the protocol or the system (which would be very complex) would be open source, it does mean that it would include some level of use-base back-end development abilities.

The Network Protection Ability

Lastly, the key aspect of the service will be its backup protection that would prevent, potentially, any big network blackout, being that it would be satellite based. True, the nature of such blackout would be catastrophic and highly unlikely, but it is still good to have a backup element even for such fringe possibility for the bitcoin network.

In that case, having a network of connected and functioning satellites would prove invaluable for anyone who is in any way using BTC tokens, even if they are not employed for financial reasons. Yet, Mow cites a scenario that is not outside of the realm of possibility – the malfunction or cutting off an intercontinental internet cable.

While this would not kill the internet globally and permanently, it would disrupt the flow of information on a major scale. This would see many ventures suffer immense financial consequences, including those who use the bitcoin network. But, thanks to the presence of satellite transmissions, anyone on this network would be able to continue their procedures without any issue whatsoever.

The Network Abilities

One of the biggest advantages of the bitcoin network is the fact that it provides anonymous and decentralized capabilities to anyone who uses it. The backbone of the network are the computers that are providing hashing power, which complete and check all of the transaction, making sure that all the nodes possess all of the needed information to function independently.

Like other ventures from the domain of digital-first technologies like esports, it functions without any need for a particular, top-down central authority. That being said, the network still depends on its nodes to keep the transactions flowing as well as keeping the ledger of all activity fully up-to-date. Satellites are not a crucial element in that equation, but they are definitely a good addition to the overall network abilities.

The Spread of Blockchain Network

In an environment where the majority of individuals and companies who follow cryptocurrencies always focus on price and market cap as the main metrics of a digital currency, network capacity is often disregarded. The case of Blockstream shows that there are clear efforts to change that for the better in the case of bitcoin. Will the satellite-based blockchain make a huge difference in the years to come?

No one can say, but it opens the way for other developers to figure out their applications and possibly make something extraordinary. In any case, the addition of a new channel to a growing network is by no means a bad thing for its future.