Satoshi Nakamoto described bitcoin as “a peer-to-peer electronic cash system,” but as prices increased, the vision of bitcoin as a replacement for cash was largely put on hold. Besides bitcoin transactions could only be done from areas which had access to high-speed internet.
Blockstream, the startup is now streaming the entire bitcoin blockchain from five strategically positioned satellites to reach all major continents. Bitcoins will no more require internet access for conducting everyday transactions.
More good news for blockchain users follows with the introduction of a new application programming interface (API) that lets users send encrypted messages to each other from areas considered to be some of the remotest regions on earth. The payment for the messages is paid using bitcoins through the Lightning Network. This has been designed to open up bitcoin to the higher transaction for wider retail operations.
The bitcoin industry which is, now valued at $59 billion, is going into its tenth year with struggling prices and a probably an uncertain future. The cryptocurrency, also dubbed as the “magic internet money,” has broken free from the internet, and now more importantly, from internet service providers.
Blockstream CEO, Adam Back says that he sees increased robustness of the bitcoin network with a lower participating cost, encouraging businesses to rely on the service for backup. This he says will also serve emerging markets to use as their primary access to the bitcoin network at a lower cost.
Blockstream was initially operating with only four satellites that broadcast to North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. With the fifth satellite in use, it will now be able to serve the Asia-Pacific region, covering all major land areas in the world except Greenland and Antarctica.
Furthermore, the data being transmitted by the satellite network has expanded to include all bitcoin transactions instead of the details on the final blocks of transactions that were previously available. In January 2019 the new API will also let users send messages about price and more without having to access the internet.
According to Blockstream’s chief strategy officer Samson Mow, if “Bitcoin has always been about uncensorable money,” it is now about “uncensorable communications as well”. In making bitcoin transactions affordable by letting users send smaller bitcoin payments, the newly integrated Lightning Network enables micro-transactions, allowing users to send messages where the sender, receiver, and content all are protected from any third-party observation.
The new satellite and API are expected to lead to increased development of smartphone and feature phone applications that help link Blockstream’s GreenAddress bitcoin wallet, its Liquid Network for enabling faster transactions between exchanges, and its Cryptocurrency Data Feed for real-time and historical bitcoin exchange data. This has been developed in partnership with the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of New York Stock Exchange.
People would be interested in connecting the two things together, one is to receive bitcoin data via satellite and then relay it through mesh networks in a rural area or a village where access to internet is comparatively expensive , so this serves as a low-cost way to get connected to the bitcoin network and participate in the bitcoin economy. Besides providing a backup for mesh networks, the new Blockstream Satellite can directly connect these interconnected internet substitutes in isolated regions around the world where half the population does not have direct access to banking.
An enterprise version of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are increasingly taking place in the form of large hedge funds. A global infrastructure is being created for the ecosystems building regulatory-compliant access to bitcoin investment opportunities meant for high profile investors. While startups like Blockstream are continuing to build out a global payment infrastructure, which is more into serving the unbanked in developing economies.
Mow doesn’t think that serving the unbanked will create an immediate impact on the struggling price of bitcoin, but will augment bitcoin and make it more robust. He believes this will leverage the bitcoin ten years from now. With services and products connected to bitcoin, it will become stronger and easier to use in the due course.