An Introduction to Althea

Just a little bit ago we got the opportunity to gain some insight and information on the upcoming Gravity Bridge developed by Althea as well as some conversations about the Althea blockchain itself on the Cosmos Network Community Interview (AMA), straight from Justin Kilpatrick, one of the Co-Founders and CTO of Althea Network.

Some Background

Althea is essentially an ISP (internet service provider) in a box: fast, affordable, locally run internet running on block chain technology, anywhere. Althea is a set of internet protocols with payment built in, creating incentives for rapid expansion and investment in the network, it provides a way for people maintaining internet infrastructure to be funded and compensated autonomously, without the need for governments or businesses. Althea’s unique cooperative vision for the internet empowers communities to build multi-stakeholder networks faster and more affordably than legacy telecom models. Althea is faster, because their unique billing system ensures that incentives are aligned with stakeholders that can earn more money by providing faster service.

Justin is Co-Founder and CTO of Althea Network and has been responsible for leading a small development team using innovative technology to change the way we buy internet service for the better as well as building up the Gravity Bridge.

The Gravity Bridge is an evolution of the Peggy bridge, which Althea has been working on together with the Interchain Foundation for much of the past year. Gravity is designed specifically for the Cosmos Hub and is intended to pull as many transactions and as much value as possible into the orbit of the Hub by bridging it directly to Ethereum. It is engineered to be exactly as secure as the Cosmos Hub. Althea is truly creating a service to improve communities for the people.

Gravity Bridge’s IBC Advantage

The fact that Althea’s Cosmos SDK-built blockchain is built with that innate connection to IBC means that it plays a different role than any other bridge in blockchain. It can be easily connected with any chain in the Cosmos Ecosystem, Justin explains that, “IBC of course makes Gravity bridge far more useful than it would be otherwise, by allowing the internet of blockchains to cooperate and better utilize access to Ethereum. “

Why the Gravity Bridge is Unique

The Gravity bridge itself is very unique in that it doesn’t just connect one chain to another, it connects any chain connected to IBC to Ethereum and ERC-20 Tokens. All of this implies that a huge internet of blockchains will commence that will expand the Cosmos’ reach into previous Cosmos’ uncharted territory. Any Cosmos token built on the Cosmos SDK that connects to IBC will have access to this bridge and can therefore be connected to an Internet of Blockchains that connects to anything built on Ethereum. Justin’s two cent’s, “The Gravity bridge is unique because of it’s unique and radically simplified design. The decentralized validator set of the Cosmos chain directly controls the bridge, and this provides gas efficiency and flexibility that can’t be achieved with light client style bridges. “

Gas Fees for Gravity Bridge

Everyone wants to know what the fees look like for using the gravity bridge, in the interview Justin explains that “Fees for Ethereum to Cosmos are paid in Eth and cost the same as an ERC20 send. Fees here go to Ethereum miners. Transaction fees for Cosmos to Eth are paid in the same ERC20 asset you are sending across the bridge. For example if I was sending Dai I would have to pay the bridge fee in Dai. Thankfully these fees are as low as 1/2–1/3rd the cost of a normal ERC20 send. This is paid out to Gravity bridge relayers who pay ETH in exchange for these ERC20 fees.”

Future of The Althea Technology

One of the first questions you could have is whether or not the gravity bridge that is intended to connect to Ethereum could be deployed elsewhere. Justin says that “Gravity [Bridge] supports any evm chain with no code modifications, only configuration changes to point it at that chains RPC “ and that, “It’s possible in theory to have multiple Gravity instances on one Cosmos chain and bridge to multiple EVM chains at the same time. There are no plans to support this at the moment, it’s up to the Atom holders to decide if they want such a feature. “

Who Benefits from Althea

Some people simply don’t have access to internet: they live in a geographically intense location or the local ISP simply will not set up cables to their home. This is where Althea as an ISP steps in. Justin says that “The maximum range of a relay is in the tens of kilometers, exact number is determined by hardware and environmental conditions. Most of our networks are in rural, heavily treed areas already. Because the meshy point-to-point nature of our networks allows us to find a working line of sight or by inserting a short wire or fiber run.

Member owned cooperatives are a good use case for Althea, and we already have some of our networks that are structured that way. Althea coordinates a revenue share for multi-stakeholder networks, meaning that participants can also share the value of the network as well as governing it. Althea works over any connection type, fixed wireless is our most common method of connectivity, but we’re moving into fiber and LTE this year. For a 300 meter run a short fiber cable can easily be trenched and provide high speeds. “

How Did Althea Begin?

It’s interesting to think about how an idea like this is formed. Why does an ISP blockchain service decide to create a Bridge that connects to Ethereum? Justin explains that, “About a year ago Deborah, our CEO, came to me and said that if we wanted a working Cosmos <=> Ethereum bridge for our own chain we would have to build it ourselves. We reached out to the ICF, who helped fund and provide expertise and other support for this work. Later we partnered with the Sommelier team.

Our goal was and is to build an interoperable, flexible, bridge that could help the entire Cosmos community become more liquid and more active. In turn, a vibrant Cosmos community will help the Althea chain by reducing fees through volume and producing a better software ecosystem.

Althea’s router software is stable and we’ve 5x’d our user count since starting development on Gravity. So yes we’re not adding a new features to Althea network at quite the same pace, but Gravity is an essential part of the Althea blockchain and our core bandwidth marketplace is stable and growing.”

How Difficult is it to be a part of the Althea Network?

It seems that it can be very realistic to set up an Althea network in your neighborhood, there are a few different roles that you can participate as within an Althea Network, Justin says that:

“There are four roles in an Althea network.

  1. A bandwidth provider which is a passive role running an Althea node, simply buying a wholesale connection or being a middle mile provider which is connected to an Althea network.
  2. Providing real estate and an Althea node which forwards bandwidth, can be fiber, antennas, etc. This is also a passive role.
  3. The third role is a network operator, a person who gets paid for supporting and installing users on a daily “uptime” basis from live routers in the network. This role is supported by the Network Operations Center.
  4. The Network Operations Center, is run by companies who support the operators with technical support, supply line, and planning. Currently, Althea’s corporation, Hawk Networks is the primary NOC but we expect an ecosystem to grow.”

Some may think that Althea only works for huge bandwith, but Justin goes on to say, “Althea can distribute any source of bandwidth with high efficiency. Gateway nodes and Althea software in general are highly resilient and can run with almost anything. Automated traffic quality systems ensure a good experience even under heavy load. That being said I’d recommend at least one gigabit.”

Applications for Althea

Althea is a perfect ISP to fill in all the gaps in the world’s internet service provision. Any canyon, or valley or any neighborhood where you can choose to live that has poor or no internet infrastructure can Althea implemented.

You can find the full contents of this AMA here:

More Recaps and AMAs

Community Manager at Tendermint working for Cosmos