A Bitcoin transaction was recently completed via JS8Call — a weak signal, high-frequency radio transmission protocol — in a chain from NVK to Samuel Patterson and finally Adam Curry, documented on Twitter.
The transaction is verifiable on Blockchain.info and did not require an Internet connection or satellite, but instead traveled via the Earth’s ionosphere. The transaction was sent from Toronto, Canada to Michigan, USA through a snowstorm.
A Point to Point Radio Bitcoin Transaction
NVK constructed the BTC transaction details with Brainwallet and sent the BTC directly over the JS8 HF radio protocol, where the recipient received the transaction and generated a confirmation message that was returned indicating the initial transfer was received.
The recent JS8 transmission is an impressive feat and offers some compelling long-term consequences for Bitcoin’s network topology. NVK even received the funding back from Samuel Patterson using the Bech32 address format of Bitcoin’s SegWit upgrade.
Bitcoin transactions via radio transmission were covered in the past by Elaine Ou and Nick Szabo in a 2017 proposal. They outline the potential of a multi-homing Bitcoin network where its resilience is underscored by a diverse network topology, including the Internet, satellite, and radio waves.
With Blockstream’s Satellite project already live, Bitcoin’s network topology is gradually diversifying, albeit it is still dominated by Internet transactions and has a long ways to go in building out satellite and radio capabilities. Nonetheless, Bitcoin’s ability to be used over radio waves is an exciting proposition.
Although governments largely control radio airwaves, pioneering in the field with HF radio transmissions is ongoing, as aptly demonstrated by the NVK to Samuel Patterson transmission. However, public radio transmissions require a HAM license and cannot be encrypted, something which the transmitting parties had to take into account with their setup.
The forwarding of the transaction in a chain to Adam Curry also mirrors a similar trend currently taking place on Twitter with Bitcoin’s Lightning Network (LN) Torch. The LN Torch is an LN invoice that has been passed among prominent figures in the Bitcoin community and even made its way to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — who also took part in forwarding the relay.
Bitcoin’s censorship-resistance is already strong. However, Internet censorship programs in China and potential Internet infrastructure tampering by Russia present real risks to precluding Bitcoin broadcasts in authoritarian states. Expanding avenues by which transactions can be sent only serves to make Bitcoin a more sovereign-resistant digital currency.
Initiatives that innovate in widely overlooked technological areas like HF radio waves have compelling consequences and offer a hopeful glimpse into a more robust Bitcoin network.