We spoke with Managing Director, Derick Smith. Ammbr has arrived at a “distributed model,” which Smith acknowledges is “hard to implement.” The project is built on a concept of distributed networking and capabilities, using Mesh networking, Blockchain, the Sharing Economy and what the company describes as Distributed Security/Identity Technology.
Scaling and Decentralization
The company describes its system as, “the world’s largest decentralized, community-distributed, telecommunications network based on blockchain technology.”
There are other fairly large mesh networks in operation, the most-publicized probably being the Guifi network, with a reported 30,000 nodes, in northern Spain. Smith states that the major difference between Ammbr and other established mesh networks is in the business model. He describes traditional mesh networks as based on a carrier type model. (Guifi is a free community-based network.) But Ammbr he describes as “beyond an MVNO” model.
The basic business concept draws on the “sharing economy” model. Operators in geographic markets that Ammbr enters will acquire mesh server devices from Ammbr. They will then be able to offer Internet access to end users. These operators will set pricing and other rules. Each will be a separate digital entity.
Enter Blockchain – which will enable the operators to trade bandwidth, verify accounts and perform other functions related to security and identity verification. To enable payments, the company is creating a digital token, AMMBR. There will be a limited number of these tokens offered through a public crowd sale, which buyers will hold in digital wallets. (The sale, which had been scheduled to start September 1, has been delayed; Smith says it will start shortly.)
Ammbr will supply the key network element, the Ammbr wireless mesh device (or node), a “multi-band heterogeneous mesh hub,” capable of accessing several different spectrum frequencies. Ammbr state that, based on the use of several radio spectrum bands the node can effectively cover several kilometers. However, its first generation of basic devices, with a $79 target price point will only serve a single frequency per device.
These will be succeeded by a second generation incorporating a proprietary chipset that will accommodate multiple frequencies at a target price of $50. The company also claims that it will develop a new sophisticated routing protocol, to achieve its objectives of scalability and flexibility. This includes: avoiding delays common to mesh networks due to packet congestion, collisions and related causes. Ammbr will provide multiple paths across several bandwidths and protocols.
It will also seek to reduce the amount of hops that traffic must take as it is passed from node to node, by providing increased connection points to backbone networks, peering to exchange points and other means. Smith also explained that the Ammbr nets could probably be operated without regard to Net Neutrality rules and could accept payment for higher levels of services, because of their small size and decentralized mode of operation.
Ammbr’s basic mantra is that of “decentralization,” or, as Smith has written, ” to fully democratize telecommunications.” Their operators are all separate entities that have the power to set many rules, including pricing. The bandwidth market will be “open and autonomous.”
Mesh networks allow handoff, or relay, of signals from one node or set of nodes, to another, seamlessly.
Market Entry Strategy
Ammbr has announced 23 countries that it intends to operate in. However, Smith points out that their success is highly dependent on achieving critical mass in the earliest markets that they enter. He explains that this will rely on achieving adequate coverage early on, in other words, having a large enough and dense enough number of servers in place to offer good service to a given community, that might be part of a city or a suburb, for example.
To achieve this, he foresees them conducting a media blitz in that area and also establishing a crypto currency exchange for the operators to use. He allows that they might need some commercial backhaul initially in the very early markets.
Smith states that they expect the routers to be placed primarily in fixed locations, such as owners’ homes or places of business. However, the devices could be fitted into backpacks, with an optional battery platter, to make them mobile, for use, for example, at a soccer match.
The countries specified by Ammbr range from highly advanced economies, such as Canada, Sweden and others to less developed countries such as Bangladesh. Smith has stated that they will be targeting some emerging markets first, such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda. He told us that there might be limited opportunities in the U.S. for disaster relief or in rural areas.
Our Take: The User Experience
We’ve previously written that we view mesh developments as the beginning of something that is likely to be “highly disruptive” to mobile networking in general. (“Mesh Networks Outlook – An Industry Veteran’s Input,” MCE, 12/15/15.)
We expect intensification of efforts in the mesh area in the next several years. Ammbr appears to us to be a particularly complex (admitted by Smith) undertaking, but one that could test the use of not only new developments in mesh (e.g., sophisticated routing) but also the application of blockchain and crypto currency, as well as the reaches of the Sharing Economy.
We’ve also written in the past of some of the progress of the Sharing Economy in incentivizing very decentralized work efforts towards a common cause. (See: “Spare5: Humans Helping Machines Become Intelligent,” MCE 5/2/16.)
Of particularly great interest to us in the discussion with Smith was – assuming the implementation of the Ammbr network and its related trading and other functions – what was the user experience likely to be. In other words, how much of a burden will be put on the user to become a customer.
Ammbr has discussed the need for the user to install an Ammbr client, software application, on their phone, or other device, and states that: “This client application would require initialization with the digital identity of the user.”
Smith told us that he regards the user experience as the most significant issue that still needs to be worked on to ensure success. He emphasizes that they want to make it as simple as possible, comparable to using Apple devices.
The challenge of shaping the user experience is of as great importance as all of the other innovations that Ammbr has worked on.