Technological innovations are currently disrupting every major industry ranging from financial services, private transport, the music industry to the healthcare sector and many more. One of the main disruptive forces, which has emerged strongly in the last ten years, are peer-to-peer networks.
Peer-to-peer networks are a concept that enables the so-called ‘sharing economy’ to blossom by allowing participants to share goods and services directly with one another in a decentralized manner. Examples of peer-to-peer networks can be found in the form of peer-to-peer lending, online file sharing through torrents and, of course, in the world’s leading digital currency bitcoin.
Is Peer-to-Peer Mobile Data Next?
In a whitepaper inspired by Bitcoin, written by Johannesburg-based Engineer Daneel Uys, the author suggests that mobile Internet could be replaced in its current form through the establishment of a peer-to-peer mobile data system, which he refers to as BitData, in a similar way in which BitTorrent revolutionized online file sharing or the way Bitcoin created a decentralized network for financial transactions.
In his theory, Uys suggests that every Wi-Fi enabled smartphone could act as a node that enables peer-to-peer mobile data sharing by “rewarding Originator and Transmitter nodes for the work that they do by awarding credits to them, credits that can be used to become Receiver nodes at times when the user needs mobile data.”
By rewarding enablers of the peer-to-peer mobile data network, it encourages more users to partake and maintain the system in the same way that bitcoin miners are rewarded in bitcoin payments for processing transactions on the blockchain. Credit for enabling the network would be stored in a public blockchain so that every user can keep track of who owns BitData credit and can enable the network.
Uys believes that there are many ways BitData could be implemented, citing add-ons to existing apps, a stand-alone app or as a feature within mobile operating systems, such as iOS and Android, as three possible scenarios.
BitData Could Circumvent Mobile Network Provider’s Unethical Cost Structures
Many mobile data providers in Africa charge users less for data bundles the larger the bundle is that they purchase. However, to increase their sales of data bundles, mobile network providers will let these bundles expire after 30 days whether they have been used up or not. This unethical practice has lead to the social media campaign #DataMustFall in South Africa where this is common practice among the leading mobile network providers.
A peer-to-peer mobile data system, on the other hand, would entirely circumvent this issue by matching demand and supply through the BitData credit system suggested by Uys, as enablers and receivers would be able to exchange mobile data without any limitations on size or duration provided, of course, the network reaches critical mass.
BitData Could Mean the End of International Roaming Fees
Furthermore, Uys hypothesizes that the establishment of the BitData peer-to-peer mobile data network could mean the end of expensive international roaming fees, which are a financial burden to every traveler. If you are able to accumulate credits for enabling the BitData network while in your home country, you could, in turn, then use these credits to surf the mobile web while abroad without having to pay roaming fees to a mobile network provider.
Challenges for the BitData Idea
While the concept of a peer-to-peer mobile data network sounds very appealing to consumers, mobile network providers will undoubtedly do everything in their power to stop it, as such disruption to their current service would mean a sharp decline in revenues. Telecoms companies are some of the largest and most influential corporations in the world and building a new technology that threatens their bottom lines will be extremely challenging and met with strong opposition.
Having said that, Bitcoin manages to withstand pressure from ‘big banking’, regulators, and governments over the last eight years and is still flourishing. So, perhaps Uys idea of a peer-to-peer mobile data network could one day become a reality.