Anthony Levandowski’s newest moonshot is a peer-to-peer telecom community powered by cryptocurrency – TechCrunch


A brand new cellular knowledge community — accompanied by the quinfecta of a web site, Medium put up, white paper, devoted subreddit and Discord channel —  quietly launched late Tuesday night in San Francisco, promising a brand new option to trade knowledge anonymously and at excessive speeds with out counting on legacy carriers and at a less expensive value. The peer-to-peer open supply wi-fi community known as Pollen Cellular will incentivize its customers with a cryptocurrency to run their very own mini cell towers and construct out the community’s protection within the Bay Space the place the service is initially launching.

Anthony Levandowski’s autonomous automobile know-how startup Pronto AI is launching the challenge. Levandowski, a polarizing, early pioneer within the autonomous automobile business, was pardoned final yr by former President Donald Trump after being sentenced to 18 months in jail on one depend of stealing commerce secrets and techniques.

Why is an autonomous automobile startup making a decentralized telecom incentivized by cryptocurrency? The catalyst of Pollen Cellular stemmed from Pronto’s want for dependable, reasonably priced cellular connectivity for its autonomous autos, Levandowski, who remains to be CEO of Pronto, instructed TechCrunch in a textual content message dialog. Pronto has been utilizing Pollen internally for its AVs for months.

“The explanation why is easy, we wanted dependable, reasonably priced cellular connectivity for our AVs and we couldn’t discover it,” he wrote. “So we constructed our personal and realized it may very well be one thing others need.” He added later: “Necessity is the mom of invention.”

The distributed Pollen Cellular community, which plans to start its preliminary launch within the coming days depends on a community of knowledge transmitters it considerably oddly calls flowers, bumblebees and hummingbirds — code for radio towers, connectivity validation gadgets and cell phones.

An FCC rule change in 2020 allowed the corporate to construct its personal cell towers and create mini-mobile networks for the websites the place its autonomous autos function, in response to its put up on Medium.

“We bought to excited about all the opposite issues that folks don’t like about present cellular corporations. We noticed a chance to construct one thing actually revolutionary — one thing that tackles what we see because the “4 Horsemen” of cellular networks,” the Medium weblog put up states. These “4 Horsemen” are a scarcity of privateness and anonymity, poor protection, excessive prices and no consumer voice.”

Small cell towers known as “flowers,” which vary from the dimensions of a pizza field to as much as six toes tall, present protection of between a number of blocks as much as one mile. These flowers are put in by “flower house owners” of their houses or workplaces and hook up with the web and supply protection to different Pollen customers. Flower operators earn PollenCoin (PCN) from the group of customers relying on the protection space, service high quality and quantity of knowledge transmitted, in response to data the corporate posted on its Discord channel.

Operators pay the upfront value for the bodily knowledge transmitter {hardware}, the most affordable (and smallest) flower prices $999 whereas the most important and strongest transmitter prices greater than $10,000. Justifying the excessive upfront value means operators taking a leap of religion that the community will succeed and the worth of PCN’s mounted provide will enhance.

Pollen Mobile

Picture Credit: Screenshot/Pollen Cellular

One of many many open questions for the nascent endeavor is how or if ISPs will reply — the distributed community might be piggybacking onto flower operators’ house web and might be channeling peer-to-peer knowledge by means of these networks.

The community at present has greater than a dozen radio towers working within the Bay Space in response to the corporate’s community tracker.

Pollen Cellular will ship smaller gadgets known as “bumblebees” that accumulate knowledge concerning the power of the community’s protection. These gadgets, which validate “flower” protection, are additionally owned by customers and may be positioned of their automobile, drone or bike. Bumblebee house owners additionally earn PCN primarily based on the variety of distinctive protection validations supplied every day.

Lastly, there are the “hummingbirds,” that are the cellular gadgets that use the Pollen community.  Telephones would require an eSIM obtain to hook up with the community, and different gadgets like laptops can join through a particular adapter (known as “Wings”), the corporate stated. Customers pay for connectivity utilizing PCN.

Ultimately constructing out a community of customers prepared to pay for a knowledge community in its earliest phases will rely upon promoting the imaginative and prescient of a extra nameless cellular community which doesn’t promote or log buyer knowledge. The information-only community additionally gained’t enable for telephone calls or SMS messages and customers paying for the service gained’t get a telephone quantity.

Pollen has to date been operated internally by Pronto as a subsidiary. Levandowski stated will probably be turned over to a decentralized autonomous group, or eDAO, and run independently from there. The group will finally govern how the community evolves and dictate how and the place customers are incentivized to construct out protection.

“We’re not controlling the place flowers go,” Levandowksi instructed TechCrunch. “We designed the community in order that the group and market forces will decide the place rewards circulation.”