“Essentially, what we have in the years to come, I believe, is global wifi. I believe almost everyone in the world will have the ability to or have access to own a phone,” said Jamie Smith, global chief communications officer of Bitfury during an interview on Laura Shin’s Blockchain Unchained podcast. She’s not the only one to think that, either. Mark Zuckerberg has made an effort to wire up the world via drone satellites, and many companies and organizations are trying to find the best possible solution for this.
Mesh networks offer a decentralized solution to global wifi that could happen much quicker than proliferation of satellite drones. Why not pass internet through smart devices that we already own? Smartphones have wifi, hotspot, and Bluetooth capabilities already that can pass on the internet. Mesh networks use nodes, or router points to give access to devices that aren’t near an internet port. Right Mesh is an example of a mesh network that is working with existing smart devices to create internet connections. By simply owning a smartphone, you can activate hotspot mode, and other smart devices will be able to find you and connect to your signal. In dense environments, such as campuses and offices, Right Mesh excels and is able to transmit several Mbps from the technology they are implementing.
What if you want to create distance between the router and the receiver? Our phones don’t quite have the signal for this yet. Ammbr offers a hotspot device that users bring around with them, which allows them to trade bandwidth with other participating Ammbr users. Ammbr tokens are used to buy bandwidth from whoever you may be taking from at that point in time. With enough users, it can really create a decentralized internet space where users can become the network. Ammbr has already received official endorsements from Guinea-Bissau, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Gambia, and Sierra Leone.
Hardware mesh networking vs Software mesh networking
Both approaches have advantages. Mesh Networks such as Right Mesh take advantage of existing infrastructure to create our mesh. This software could potentially be “hardware agnostic,” having the ability to be implemented not just in our smartphones, but in much bigger routers, cell towers, etc. But this is a huge undertaking. Ammbr’s wifi hotspot is easy to use with an already rather large range capacity. There will be multiple models that will give out either higher range with less LTE throughput, or vice versa (you can see models on page 23 of the whitepaper). But to connect the entire world with a specific product may be complicated. This is also a huge undertaking.
But it must be done, one way or the other (before Zuck beats us to it)
Access to the internet is becoming essential for competing with any market. The longer people go without access, the greater the divide will become in socioeconomic playing fields. Mesh networks will not only decentralize the network, they will give users to ability to create their own version of the internet. A localized internet is community building, and if all of the information in just on a few devices that are used by the mesh, then they technically have their own server. A coffee shop could create a mesh device with a chatroom on it, that could be accessed just by those who are in the coffee shop. That chatroom could help bring total strangers sharing the same space together, as it does get easier to communicate when it’s not face-to-face. In fact, Sarah Grant did just this with Subnodes, a project that turned a Rasberry Pi computer ($50) into a local web server with a chatroom.
Whether on a large scale or in a coffee shop, mesh networks make it possible to get internet in places that we normally wouldn’t. It can bring together local communities and even create its own server and internet platform. Maybe we will be able to create a mesh network big enough to compete with the internet that we see today, which has sadly been swallowed up by Google and Facebook. Mesh networks are already helping in disaster relief situations, such as the most current in Puerto Rico.