When Satoshi Nakamoto released Bitcoin for financial use, the pseudonym person had a plan for decentralization and to reach the unbanked. Current trends have proved that BTC lived up to Nakamoto’s plan to reach the marginalized. Currently, users are able to send and access the BTC blockchain without an internet connection. Here is how you can go about it. However, you will require an internet connection to read this guide – pun intended.
Bitcoin lives on to fulfill Satoshi’s mandate
As with most other industries, the Internet has become indispensable to the crypto industry. It has served as the foundation for the vast majority of infrastructure used by individuals to interact with the crypto ecosystem. There are still obstacles to BTC’s functioning without an internet connection.
The Internet is one of the primary channels through which Bitcoin transactions are transmitted across the blockchain network and distributed to its public ledger. Without the Internet, thousands of computers worldwide would be incapable of validating transactions (a process known as BTC mining) in order to update the network.
The odds of the lack of internet would significantly slow down the network, but a record of the most recent BTC transaction would persist on all network computers. Until the Internet is restored, transactions can still be processed using alternative communication methods.
In as much as the lack of internet stands as a hindrance to BTC global adoption, there are ways to circumvent that and still enjoy the financial benefits set forth by Bitcoin. In the event the Internet is shut down or an absolute lack thereof, there are alternative methods to send Bitcoin transactions. The most probable ways to use BTC without the Internet are using radio, satellite, and SMS. Here is how:
In 2019, two BTC engineers used radio waves and Bitcoin’s layer 2 Lightning Network to exchange BTC over a 4000km distance. The transaction was sent from Rodolfo Novak, Co-Founder of CoinKite in Toronto, to Elaine Ou, a Bloomberg journalist in San Francisco. Although time-consuming, Bitcoin can be sent and received using a meshed radio network to anyone with an appropriate antenna.
BAM! #LightningNetwork invoice from me in #Toronto to @eiaine #SanFrancisco transmitted via 20m on JS8 then paid and broadcasted via iNet. 21 msgs 😂 d5c7efecf8edb9c56aec87aa326dea0ffc483a8621a2f23a0e008e14397ce3c6 Bitcoin FTW — NVK ⚡️🌞 nvk.org/nostr (@nvk) March 1, 2019
Blockstream, a company devoted to enhancing Bitcoin’s functionality, revealed in 2017 that it had created a satellite-based BTC transfer option. The network, now known as Blockstream Satellite, distributes the BTC blockchain around-the-clock without the need for the Internet. On the ground, anyone with a modest satellite receiver can then receive the Bitcoin blockchain. According to Blockstream, the option can reduce costs and improve network stability in addition to protecting against Internet vulnerabilities.
SMS messaging could still function in a world without the Internet, as it has been demonstrated that it is capable of transmitting BTC transactions. As each SMS is limited to 160 characters, transactional information is divided across multiple messages and then reassembled at the recipient. The SMS service was developed particularly for those battling Bitcoin censorship.
How users are using BTC without internet access – South African case study
Thanks to a solution called Machankura, an increasing community of Africans without stable internet access are nonetheless using Bitcoin for peer-to-peer transactions. In 2022, South African software developer Kgothatso Ngako created Machankura, a solution for accessing Bitcoin despite the continent’s limited mobile internet connectivity.
It provides access to the Lightning Network via an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data interface, which makes use of mobile phones’ Subscriber Identity Module telecommunication network. USSD is comparable to IVR (Interactive Voice Response).
More than seven African nations, including Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Namibia, have approximately 2,900 users of Machankura. Users dial a number and are then presented with a menu that allows them to learn more about Bitcoin or create an account. All that is required to register an account is a 5-digit PIN, after which you will be presented with a new menu: Send and receive Bitcoin.
The silver lining is that this circumstance presents Africans with a rare opportunity to develop tools for rural and developing regions that have not been investigated elsewhere. Other offline Bitcoin solutions, such as Locha Mesh in Venezuela, rely on mesh networks to relay messages from device to device until they reach an internet-connected device.
There is still a long way to go until offline bitcoin solutions are as borderless as the Bitcoin network itself. All things considered, investors feel that in the next years, we will continue to witness more bitcoin-based inventions that are unique to the global south. African bitcoiners are just getting started.