Althea is a system that lets routers pay each other for bandwidth using cryptocurrency. Althea routes around congestion and damage in the network, as well as routing through nodes that charge lower prices. This introduces a competitive element into the system, allowing different networks to mesh and serve consumers in an automatic free market.
For wireless ISPs (WISPs), this technology can give them a way to expand their networks and revenue by allowing subscribers to build out the edges of the network by selling bandwidth to their neighbors. Althea does not interfere with a WISP’s existing billing model and does not cost anything extra to install. It allows subscribers to become entrepreneurs by hooking up their neighbors, and taking a share of the profit. This lets WISP networks expand without legwork or investment by the WISP.
Here’s a typical scenario: Many WISPs operate by owning or renting towers which have line of sight to homes and businesses in an area. There are always subscribers who have neighbors whose view of the tower is obscured by trees, other buildings, or the landscape. It would certainly be possible to connect these neighbors with inexpensive directional wifi gear, or even a weatherproof cat5 cable a few inches under the lawn. But for a lot of WISPs, it may not be worth the time and effort to manage these neighbor to neighbor connections.
By installing an Althea router on their network, and letting their subscribers run Althea, WISPs can increase revenue without lifting a finger by letting their subscribers do the selling and installation. The subscriber can continue to pay under whatever billing scheme the WISP already has, or pay for their own access with Althea as well. The subscriber’s neighbors load up their home routers with Althea tokens and use them to pay into the system for access. Some of the tokens pay the subscriber, and some of them go to the WISP. These tokens can be exchanged for dollars or other national currency on online exchanges. Let’s take a look at how the numbers break down in a hypothetical neighborhood:
|Data purchased through Althea||N/A||N/A||200gb|
|Paid for own use||N/A||$50**||$44|
|Bill reduced to (Payment for own use minus revenue)||N/A||$36||N/A|
* Revenue includes normal $50 monthly charge to subscriber and $30 from Althea
** Subscriber is still being billed under WISP’s normal $50 monthly rate
In this scenario, the subscriber and WISP have kept a conventional monthly flat rate unlimited subscription. However, Althea is being used to allow the subscriber to resell to their neighbor. With the neighbor using 200gb of data per month (Althea is a usage-based billing system), the subscriber is making an extra $14 every month, while the WISP is making an extra $30. Remember, this is in addition to the $50 flat rate the WISP is already charging the subscriber, resulting in a total revenue of $80 monthly revenue for the site, instead of $50 without Althea.
Let’s look at what happens if the neighbor sells to another neighbor, going one hop further:
|Data purchased through Althea||N/A||N/A||200gb||200gb|
|Paid for own use||N/A||$50||$38||$52|
|Bill reduced to||N/A||$26||$24||N/A|
Althea’s price scaling algorithm adjusts forwarding prices in response to several parameters so that using the system remains an attractive proposition for all participants. The subscriber has increased their revenue by $10 and the subscriber’s neighbor is making money as well. The WISP, meanwhile, has increased their total revenue from the site to $102. Without Althea, they would only be making $50. By incentivizing their customers to resell service to their neighbors, the WISP has doubled their revenue with no installation or legwork. Of course, the WISP must still pay for the increased bandwidth demands of the site, but this is a comparatively minor part of their expenses.