We're excited to launch a series of blog posts along with the rebrand of the Althea website in anticipation of Althea L1: the settlement layer for open-access infrastructure. Althea L1 is a purpose-built hybrid EVM blockchain for connectivity and networked utilities, the first to be engineered from the ground up, together with its community of users.
This is the first in a series of posts that detail the vision of Althea, its history, its technical foundations, and where it's heading.
The Althea Vision
Althea's telecom stack and Layer 1 blockchain enable the future of communication between autonomous machines and humans: composable and automatic interconnections, interactions, and transactions.
Today's legacy telecom systems create artificial dead-ends and silos via rental models and inefficient connection agreements. Instead, Althea imagines a future where:
- You can buy, sell and fund telecom and infrastructure assets in new ways. You can own a mile of fiber optic cable or part of a telecom tower without having to buy the entire ISP or business.
- The friction of building and connecting networks is removed. Traffic and payments flow seamlessly and synchronously across networks, creating open markets instead of silos. The cost of connectivity goes down while the availability of bandwidth goes up.
- Prepaid, accessible billing meets people where they are, making underserved areas economically viable. There are no more plastic cards or invoices — all payments are performed via seamless machine-to-machine interactions.
- Building decentralized infrastructure products and services is easy, with open access to Althea's hardware-agnostic, purpose-built settlement layer: a Stripe for machine-to-machine transactions.
In 2018, founders Jehan Tremback, Justin Kilpatrick, and Deborah Simpier observed that telecom and infrastructure networks were expensive, brittle, and inaccessible not because there wasn't enough capital or manpower, but because the systems were fundamentally flawed. And in a small Oregon town with slow, costly, and unreliable internet, the first Althea network was born.
Through the following years, the Althea price-aware mesh routing protocol (Babeld) and billing stack (Rita) solved many communities' connectivity problems. These protocols enable flexible billing and "always on" free tiers, encouraging sustainable connectivity via novel systems of revenue share and multi-entity ownership.
Instead of creating a blockchain with no users and trying to adapt it to real-world use cases, Althea's founders started building on the accessible xDai (Gnosis) chain, which allowed for rapid iteration, deployment in real-world settings, and a continuous feedback loop with early users. This tight feedback loop forged a system that aligns users, network operators, and autonomous machines. Althea works for everyone.
Many different entities began to use Althea technology to solve connectivity problems, from communities in Nigeria, to farmers in Indiana, to OEM auto manufacturers. Today, Althea technology has been deployed in 10 US states and 4 countries.
And these diverse use-cases spawned new, composable tooling that augments the Althea stack. For example, AgFiber — Althea-enabled fiber optic cable deployed for farm machinery — and KeyLTE — an embedded packet core in the home router — further empower users in their choices and deployment of networked infrastructure. They also demonstrate that Althea is hardware agnostic: it works across everything from LTE to fixed wireless, WiFi, or fiber optic.
Conduit for an Althea fiber optic network ready to be deployed in Illinois.
In early 2020, the Althea protocol began to outgrow the xDai chain, accounting for over two-thirds of the chain's transactions. It became increasingly clear that Althea's vision of becoming the global settlement layer for connected devices and networked infrastructure requires a purpose-built chain, designed for open-access infrastructure.
The New Machine Economy
Althea is not just a technology stack; it is the foundation of a new economic system, one that serves both humans and autonomous machines. This new machine economy must enable both new builders and existing entities to coordinate and transact utilizing a robust and reliable settlement layer without having to build bespoke technical infrastructure.
Its settlement layer must provide:
- High reliability and up-time
- Specificity of block space
- Flexibility and composability for easy application development
- Agnostic and credible neutrality
- Multi-chain integrations