Blockstream, provider of blockchain and financial cryptography has announced the availability of Blockstream Satellite, a new service that broadcasts real-time Bitcoin blockchain data from satellites in space to almost everyone on the planet. Blockstream Satellite enables further participation in Bitcoin, including the billions of people in the world without internet access and people in places where bandwidth prices make participating cost-prohibitive. With today’s announcement, Blockstream Satellite is available across two thirds of the Earth’s landmass, and additional coverage areas will soon come online to reach almost every person on the planet by the end of the year.
“Bitcoin is a powerful and transformative internet native digital money that has blazed a trail of disruption, with its full potential yet to unfold. Because it’s permissionless, Bitcoin enables anyone to freely create new financial applications and other innovations that use the blockchain that haven’t been possible before,” said Dr. Adam Back, co-founder and CEO at Blockstream. “Today’s launch of Blockstream Satellite gives even more people on the planet the choice to participate in Bitcoin. With more users accessing the Bitcoin blockchain with the free broadcast from Blockstream Satellite, we expect the global reach to drive more adoption and use cases for Bitcoin, while strengthening the overall robustness of the network.”
Blockstream Satellite is the world’s first public satellite service that allows anyone to operate and maintain Bitcoin nodes, without the constraints of traditional network connectivity. Blockstream Satellite sends blocks in real-time, as well as recirculates older blocks, providing free access to the Bitcoin blockchain for both long-time and new users of the cryptocurrency. In addition, Blockstream Satellite provides an additional layer of reliability for blockchain data in the event of a network partition.
The Blockstream Satellite network currently consists of three geosynchronous satellites at various positions over Earth that cover four continents — Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. By the end of 2017, additional satellites will be added to the Blockstream Satellite network enabling worldwide coverage and reaching nearly every person on the planet. Ground stations, called teleports, uplink the public Bitcoin blockchain data to the satellites in the network, which then broadcast the data to large areas across the globe. Additional teleports are being built out in phases to enable worldwide coverage.
Blockstream Satellite makes extensive use of open source software. GNU Radio, an open source software development toolkit, enables the cross platform implementation of software-defined radios (SDR). The use of SDRs eliminates the need for specialized hardware, which greatly reduces cost and makes the technology widely available. To further ensure performance and reliability, Blockstream Satellite utilizes the Fast Internet Bitcoin Relay Engine (FIBRE), an open source protocol based on several years of experience operating and studying the Bitcoin Relay Network. Together, these open source technologies power the Blockstream Satellite network enabling Blockstream to provide this free service reliably and cost effectively.
Blockstream Satellite will help extend Bitcoin everywhere in the world, including in countries across Asia, South America, and Africa where the number of nodes today is small. “When I first heard of Blockstream Satellite, I immediately recognized its great potential to bring Bitcoin to regions of the world where internet access is either unavailable or expensive. Not to mention providing redundant access when Internet access is temporarily unavailable,” said Tim Akinbo, who runs the only bitcoin node in West Africa.