In an age where governments are trigger happy at censoring or shutting down networks, it is reassuring to know that Bitcoin can operate sans internet. Network censorship, after all, is not some dystopian storyline but a power exercised by many democratic governments across the world. Thankfully, there are solutions that enable people to send and receive Bitcoin even in a worst case scenario. For an advanced technology, it turns out that cryptocurrency can get surprisingly low-tech.
Also read: Bitcoin and Weak Frequency Signals: Bypassing Network Censorship With Radio
Send Bitcoin by Radio and Circumvent Network Censorship
Imagine waking up one morning to find that the internet is down. Not because the wifi’s been disconnected: instead, your government has pulled the plug . You’ve no idea when it’ll be back online, and in the meantime, you’re cut off from life as you know it, ranging from contact with loved ones abroad to paying for anything by card. Since society isn’t big on keeping cash these days, and ATMs stock up on only so much paper money at a time, chances are you’ll have to sidestep – or engage in – a few fistfights if you’re to put a meal on the table.
Since Bitcoin is, itself, a form of digital currency, it takes a good amount of preplanning to set up a transaction, but in theory, it could still operate even when conventional options are forcefully removed from the equation.
What do –
and Ukrainians have in common?
They all woke one day and the banks were shuttered and capital controls were put in place to avoid an economic collapse.
Bitcoin doesn’t close 🚀
— Jason A. Williams 🦍 (@JWilliamsFstmed) February 12, 2019
While most of us will hopefully never experience a dystopian world of intermittent internet, the productivity sages remind us that a failure to plan is planning to fail. Knowing how to transact with cryptocurrency in a chaotic world is the sort of knowledge that might just come in handy one day, and in the meantime will make you the most interesting guest at the dinner party.
Depending on the political stability of your geographic location, learning how to send Bitcoin without internet could be nothing more than a fun Saturday afternoon science project. Then again, it could provide the way out of a tight spot one day, whether it’s transferring funds to a buddy stuck in the middle of the ocean or bribing a zombie to feast on the coins stored in your brain wallet instead of devouring your brain.
Bitcoin Over Airwaves
2014 saw the earliest mentions of Bitcoin being sent via the airwaves. Hamradiocoin was one of the early vanity altcoins, geared at the ham radio industry. While it wasn’t entirely clear why said niche industry needed a dedicated currency, its current $794 market cap – unchanged since May 2017 – adds to crypto’s rich historical arsenal of questionable coins.
But the idea of marrying Marconi and Satoshi was bound to lead to more useful experiments. A step in the right direction saw Finnish company Vertaisvaluutta.fi propose the creation of a P2P half-duplex CB/HAM radio cryptocurrency. Also in Finland, Kryptoradio partnered with a national broadcaster to pilot a cryptocurrency data transmission system that broadcasts Bitcoin transactions, blocks, and currency exchange data via national DVB-T television networks in real time. The project failed to launch its commercial phase, with founder Joel Lehtonen explaining:
The project raised huge audience and there has been some serious commercial interest but nothing I am really interested in because they would destroy the original idea of Kryptoradio – distributing the Bitcoin ledger autonomously without internet connectivity.
Come 2018, there was a new experiment in town. Ingredients: Brooklyn-based gotenna, a mobile, long-range, off-grid consumer mesh network, and Bitcoin privacy wallet Samourai Wallet. A New Zealand developer transported crypto from a distance of 12.6km away, entirely offline, using only a network-disconnected Android phone and four portable antennas. Though as his Twitter recount acknowledges, it took one heck of a prep, including setting up relay stations.
— ℭoinsure (@Coinsurenz) October 16, 2018
Fast forward to this year, and in perhaps the most simplistic effort yet, Coinkite founder Rodolfo Novak managed to move BTC some 600km away from Toronto, Canada to Openbazaar co-founder Sam Patterson in Michigan, USA. And in that moment, Bitcoin-by-sky went international.
Advocates for Bitcoin by Air
In 2017, computer scientist Nick Szabo and PhD researcher Elaine Ou delved into the topic at Stanford’s Scaling Bitcoin conference, introducing a research project that proposed tethering Bitcoin to…