Mesh Networks and Monetizing Unused Bandwidth
“We are thinking, what is the future of communication.”
This is one of the key phrases that came from Google’s Fi announcement this week. Big names in western technology are now exploring a communication concept already in use in other parts of the world. Mesh Networks are a primary means of connecting communities to give internet access over a large distance in the developing world. Wireless Mesh Networks allow communication by using radio redistribution points to gain access to the internet. A user will connect between nodes to gain access to the internet. This method uses a series of routers to create a wireless network that can reach over long distances by bouncing data from one node to the other. Established mesh networks can provide fast connectivity with dedicated nodes to boost signal strength or perform routing. Mesh networks are managed in a centralized or decentralized fashion. Centralized servers can be created or the network can be self sustaining in a decentralized manner. In a more decentralized mesh network, as one node becomes unavailable, the network protocol searches for the next available node to transmit to. This is a very cost effective method for creating network infrastructure as there is no single point of failure and it is rather inexpensive to create.
The reliability of mesh networks is creating communities with internet access they could not afford or were not able to previously. Political or geographic constraints are now eliminated with the establishment of a wireless mesh network. Many developing nations do not have the resources to build large scale infrastructure projects. In South Africa, mesh networks are growing in size and are creating new advancements in the technology. A small level of technical knowledge can now give internet access to any sized community. This network lead to efficient sharing between users and created a new marketplace with a bit of ingenuity. This ingenuity is what sparked the creation of a bitcoin company in Santa Cruz with a unique solution for unused bandwidth.
BitMesh has recently created interest as one of the first companies to use bitcoin to sell unused bandwidth. Creating a market selling unused bandwidth reliability and security will take time, but the implications are what excites observers. While away from your home network, you could lease your unused bandwidth and receive bitcoin for acting as a node for someone purchasing your bandwidth. BitMesh has a development phase before a full public release. Security will be the most important factor when creating a decentralized network of any kind. Bitcoin is the vehicle for services like mesh networks that want to create microtransactions that could not be done with traditional forms of payment. Micropayments using bitcoin take advantage of no transfer fees and are leading to the creation of other product markets. An example is the emergence of IoT products.
Creating a safe market built from mesh networks will be challenging. Articles have been published covering the challenges with creating a monetized internet access market with bitcoin. The most common concerns were creating secure networks, protection from false nodes, and participation. Many people already have home networks and may not require additional connectivity. With the announcement of the Google Fi service this week, there is validation that there is a market for retroactive internet connectivity. Mesh networks are designed to be as dynamic as it's users wish to be. Mesh networks providing internet services will be drastically different than BitMesh's service that offers micropayments for unused bandwidth. Technology firms are only beginning to explore this new level of connectivity. These types of communities could become more common in more developed nations once the technology to create these dynamic networks becomes more readily available.