"Every Volk phone has a SIM card slot and supports use on traditional LTE networks.
However, a SIM is not necessary and the phone will always prioritize the Volk network first.
The Volk network works as such: every Volk user gets a special router with their phone. The router acts as a wireless Qi charging pad also. The router connects to your existing internet via Ethernet or something similar.
The router is what connects phones to Volk and allows calls, texts, and data to go through.
If a router isn't nearby, the phone will try to find another Volk phone to use as a hop, until it finally reaches a router.
All Volk phones have strong radios and can go more than half a mile if terrain is clear.
If there are no routers or Volk phones nearby to hop to, you'll either not have service, have to use Wifi, or fallback to LTE if you have a SIM card installed and it has active service."
So the backbone of the mesh network is their charging stations / routers, and phones can (?) mesh but not necessarily that far.
What I still don't like about this is that nowhere they talk about the frequencies on which they operate, not even in the "Specs" section of the website. This makes it very hard to verify any range claims they make.
I'm guessing they haven't bought licenses from the FCC, so my bet is that they're using the 900 MHz ISM band.
There's only 26 MHz of spectrum in that band, which isn't much, particularly for a mesh setup that won't be particularly spectrally efficient.
Even with a high 30 dB signal to noise ratio, the Shannon channel capacity in a 26 MHz band is 50 Mbps. MIMO helps a bit, but even in ideal real-world conditions you'll likely have at most 50 Mbps to share between all the users connected to a node. Spread that across a few users/mesh hops, throw in some packet retransmissions and noise, and it's not nearly enough to compete with LTE networks at any meaningful user density.
Incentivizing users to create as many nodes as possible is a good idea, as that allows lower power transmissions and better frequency reuse. It's still a huge struggle to get anywhere near commercial wireless speeds, particularly in areas where there are fewer nodes and a higher density of users.
> The frequencies are what I'm confused by as well. To have a half mile range at relatively low powers it would need to be a low frequency band.
> I'm guessing they haven't bought licenses from the FCC, so my bet is that they're using the 900 MHz ISM band.
Seems likely, and probably even works in controlled tests over relatively short distances. 900MHz meshing radios certainly exist, like this one (no affiliation with them, haven't used the product): https://www.rajant.com/products/breadcrumb-wireless-nodes/lx...
>Even with a high 30 dB signal to noise ratio, the Shannon channel capacity in a 26 MHz band is 50 Mbps.
Impossible in urban areas without highly directional antennas (which aren't small). The effective noise floor in most even semi-developed areas I've worked in is ~-100 to -80dBm - it can be a struggle even with expensive radios and fixed infrastructure. 30dB SNR just isn't going to happen over any appreciable amount of range on this sort of device (a high gain parabolic dish? sure). Using all 26MHz of the spectrum with an omni directional antenna (again, as would be required) also isn't going to happen except over relatively short distances.
900MHz is good technology, and can get robust, long distance links with the right infrastructure (I most work on 1-10mi links). The limitations on a pocket sized device with a pocket sized antenna mean this is unlikely to work @ 900MHz- especially in their fantasized scenarios of being in areas with no cell phone coverage (cell carriers have access to better bands, and far better infrastructure).
What would be the best band for this kind of infrastructure? ( Disregarding any existing FCC licenses )
The frequency bands that have been licensed for cellular infrastructure.
Its all a trade-off. Higher frequencies get you better data bandwidth, but require more power and get attenuated more by stuff (buildings, trees). Lower frequencies get you much better range for a given power level and better building penetration, but lower data bandwidth.
Exceptions to this are the "crap" bands, like 2.4GHz and 60GHz. Microwave ovens (which are great interferers, BTW) use 2.4GHz because it is absorbed by water. Great for heating your food. No so great trying to transmit data in an outdoor environment with rain and fog.
60GHz gets absorbed by the oxygen in the atmosphere, so that's another band that's only good for very short ranges.
The bands the cellular carriers have now are a good trade-off between power requirements, data bandwidth, and other issues (like absorption). The ISM bands exist basically because nobody would pay to use them.
Cell carriers have a wide variety of bands they can deploy, from frequencies above 1GHz, which doesn't propagate well through free space or obstructions, but allows for high-density, high-bandwidth use, to frequencies below 1GHz (600, 700 and 800MHz bands in the US), which propagate well in free space and reasonably well around and through obstructions (but cant be deployed with as high a density, since signals propagate well).
That being said, the infrastructure is the biggest advantage.
My gut says that absent FCC regulations and allocations, for wide area coverage something like 500-900 MHz is an ideal spot between propagation and required antenna size. Guess where TV stations are (historically at least)?
The noise is random, so you can't modulate it because you can't predict what it will be. A probability distribution isn't enough; say you want to modulate by XORing with a random, uniformly distributed stream of zeros and ones. Knowing that distribution doesn't enable the receiver to extract the data.
(Fun fact: GPS signals are under the noise floor, but detectable because they are encoded with a predictable pseudorandom carrier which can be found even in the noise.)
No FCC filings for this device yet that I found. I guess we'll have to see.
If my volkfi phone is acting as a relay for someone else's phone to hop to an available router isn't that going to run my phone's battery down? That's not going to be a nice experience if I'm unlucky enough to be a relay for a lot of people.
That does make the "Global Coverage: Our network is everywhere our users are" claim a bit dodgy, no? Sure, you'll have coverage in the middle of the desert—if there happens to be a chain of Volk phones from there to the nearest point with actual regular coverage... which is highly unlikely.
Our current legislation gave us a relatively "clean" frequency space. Would be so much worse without it
Similarly I'd be willing to help with any p2p type wireless, with a radio, antenna, and raspberry Pi or similar. Sadly most p2p wireless <-> internet gateways are proprietary.
For me personally I would definitely pay the $1/gb to get access to such a network. Right now, I only use my cell data for e-mail and light web browsing. The cost of 3g/4g data is simply too expensive for me.
Altough its far away from good coverage you get free wifi here and there. Especially Coffee Shops and in Big Citys.
Someone else on this thread mentioned gotenna, which seemed like a similarly cool idea. Unfortunately they rejected the idea of allowing gotenna <-> internet <-> gotenna via a gateway I offered to write. They already have a unique id per device and I was going to use a DHT to allow all the gateways to track which user was behind which gateway. Seemed like a killer app to me, after all why limit who you message to being within 2-3 hops of you... why not allow the other few billion folks on the planet?
Sadly they wouldn't allow access to the underlying mesh meta data and instead required using their extremely limited API.
Having near free widgets that can mesh at low bandwidth (think SMS and IM like bandwidths) and then pay per GB for faster links seems like an excellent idea. I can imagine having phones/tablets without a $50 per month WAN charge if it could mesh and use wifi. Would be handy for sensor networks, home security, public safety monitoring (like cars going the wrong way on the highway), etc.
Even have a good VPN supplier picked out.
But these people are always talk and theory, never a simple blueprint for a standardized design.
Guess it's always like this :( I'm not terribly impressed with the Tor organization either.
The public really needs a way to bypass these lying thieving carriers and these gubmint bullshit artists wanting to keep their jobs. But without some sort of credible leadership - such alternatives will never exist.
In any mesh network, the overhead of coordinating nodes dominates network traffic. This is before you even begin to think about the terms of service violations for all of these WiFi access points.
Despite using my phone heavily I often use less than 1GB a month on LTE (probably at least 10x than on wifi). About the only change in behavior I made is having photos backed up only on wifi, preload maps for places I drive, and download podcasts only on wifi. If watching netflix on public transportation or similar I do download it ahead of time.
Volks does has a sim/LTE connection, it's used when needed.
That said, the technology might be a pretty cool upgrade to the walkie talkie for groups coordinating in remote areas. But I'm afraid it will be just yet another attempt at selling phones to the unsustainably small niche of wealthy antiauthoritarians. Or it might be a front to scam mesh anarchist talent into working on resilient networking infrastructure for the army, because they surely would fit the bill of "groups coordinating in remote areas" (I don't really believe that, they have wildly different problems and options).
Sure, it's not as nice as a WAN connection, but the average cellular contract is pretty expensive per month. Something like $10 per GB, and often a $30 and up base rate.
So sure, long distance multi-hop mesh stinks for real time voice, but could be quite usable for other use cases.
Also many common delay tolerant network implementations rely on message replication to increase the probability of delivery of the message. This puts additional bandwidth strain on the inter-node hops of the network, which as some of the other commenters pointed out, not actually all that high.
I think specifically with voice it should be possible to send two chunks such that if they both arrive then you get your audio, and if only one arrives then you still get your audio but at a lower quality.
This is the kind of thing you do a test with in a specific targeted community though...
And assuming this could magically work, do you need to build an entire new phone? Or can it just be a software problem? That way you could defer to cellular network in cases where this would inevitably fail.
1. Volk data goes out via their gateway (proxied): They get access to your data. Their IPs get CloudFlare captchas all the time. (Like tor)
2. Volk data goes out from your router: You get to explain the CP access from your network. Your home IP gets CloudFlare captchas all the time. You get to monitor random people's traffic.
Which option is it?
"no more censorship" doesn't seem like a claim that can exist with option 2 – because they're crowd-sourcing carriers, and carriers censor.
So if their marketing is consistent – and ruling out a large-scale reorganization of the internet to be more decentralized – then it's option 1.
Option 1 also means that carriers can kill internet connectivity relatively trivially to these devices. Countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and China will do this if it becomes a big enough threat to their internet censorship endeavors.
This doesn’t seem to be a that much of a problem with commercial VPN providers. Maybe the good actors outnumber the bad actors?
Assuming that a voice call requires 8kbit/s of bandwidth, and assuming that you have about a watt of power, how feasible is it to connect through a phone that is a mile away?
Serious question - I don't know how to do the math here.
(In general, radio engineering is taught at college-level and requires some basic math/physica if you are going with “rules of thumb” and fairly advanced math if you want to understand/derive exact equations).
Generally speaking, line-of-sight is almost always what limits point-to-point comm range for handhelds, rather than raw power. On higher frequencies, even vegetation can be a big deal.
Trick is, you ideally need line of site (in which case your effective range is effectively the horizon), and directional antennas for distances more than a relatively short distance (a few miles maybe).
Some math follows. 30dBm is 1 W, and -100dBm is a low, but probably workable signal. We'll assume 0 antenna gain or loss to make the math easier.
Free Space Path Loss (in dB): 20×log10(d) + 20×log10(f) + 92.45
d=distance in km, f=frequency in GHz
So at 915MHz, we can get about 85km in free space @ 915MHz (this is actually past the horizon, so not really possible except from high elevations).
30dBm − (20×log10(85) + 20×log10(.915) +92.45) = -100dBm
This seems like an overly optimistic scam.
That would require a lot of hops, in some cases, but the traffic could short circuit through others' base stations back to their own through the Internet, without originating the traffic from the intermediaries. I wrote up more about this here:
In this particular case they could originate the traffic from Volk servers instead.
Also, people here may be interested in GoTenna, a portable mesh network hotspot that has been out for a few years, at roughly $75 each.
Another idea to borrow: The campaign also shipped with a global WIFI app. Eg. you put your WIFI password into the global database and could use the ones other people shared.
> Why is Volk Fi invite-only
followed by blather blather about the technology and then finally some invite-sounding text of
> But, because Volk Fi is crowdsourced, it needs a certain user density in order to have full coverage and reliability
which seems to run directly in contradiction to why one would want the system to be invite-only. Can you imagine starting a BitTorrent service, and then trying to ensure the swarm stayed small by only telling your roommates? I guess that's why I'm not in marketing.
"Volk Wi-fi: Volk is making an Android smartphone with a free information plan, no service required. The co-founders say they’re utilizing long-range wi-fi to share connections and construct a community of telephones. Co-Founder Greg Hazel was the Chief Architect at Bittorrent, whereas co-founder Straya Markovic was the lead engineer at mesh messaging platform Firechat."
So yeah, they should know better.
Using an invite only system to bootstrap a distributed network that inherently relies on network effect makes absolutely no sense.
Having an amateurish website that consumes so much resources it doesn't render faster than 5 FPS on an MBP should make you question the marketing prowess of this company.
Straya Markovic, one of the lead engineers for FireChat is a co-founder. This is both a pro and a con. Like most engineer led companies they don't seem to understand the tremendous effort required to bootstrap this network and focus only on the technology aspects in their marketing.
Display: 6.2 inches, 1080 x 2280 pixels, 402ppi, Aspect Ratio: 19:9
Sensors: Fingerprint, Hall, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, RGB Ambient Light Sensor, Electronic Compass, Sensor Hub
Ports: USB C, Support USB Audio, nano-SIM slot
Battery: 3700 mAh (non-removable)
Audio: Bottom-facing speaker, 3-microphone with noise cancellation, Support AANC, Dirac HD Sound®, Dirac Power Sound®
Vibration: OHaptic vibration motor
Connectivity: Volk Fi, LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 155.2 x 76.1 x 7.7 mm
Color: Midnight Black / Snow White, Anodized Aluminum & Glass
Operating System: Android
CPU: Snapdragon 845 (Octa-core, up to 2.5GHz)
GPU: Adreno 630
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4X
Storage: 64GB or 256GB UFS 2.1 2-LANE
Camera: Dual 16 x 16 MP, Auto-HDR, 4K resolution video at 30fps, 1080P resolution video at 60fps, LED Flash, Aperture: f/1.7
Presumably this is using something like Wimax so it shouldn't be difficult for other players to introduce compatible devices. In fact it should be possible to make a Wimax version of the portable Mifi routers that connect to mobile networks then you could use your existing devices and some kind of VOIP solution.
Seriously Volk Fi: fix this asap (like before you continue working on your business)
Doesn’t someone need to pay for a connection?
Volk Fi counts data usage and bytes shared via WiFi. Every user gets the amount they share, unlimited. If a Volk user consumes more data than they share in a month, there is a 5GB data cap. After that, the user can pay the super cheap price of $1/GB for additional data.
Uh huh. In the old days, we called this a "Multilevel Marketing scam".
(And the best part is that I would pay for my own internet line, AND pay for my phone use use my internet line.)
But radio technologies are pretty widely understood and while I'm no expert I've not heard of anything that could achieve what they're suggesting. So I'll remain skeptical until I understand better what that "long-range radio hardware" is and how it makes such a mesh network feasible.
As long as it's a mesh network restricted to one company... no dice.
The cellular networks standards, though truly horrible, have done an incredible job of allowing a connection to jump between base-stations, and to allow a user to connect to almost any base-station.
WiMax was an attempt to do something like WiFi with higher range. But it lacked the whole inter-working back-end that would allow a user to seamlessly jump between base-points.
Moreover, a network operator tends to have a lot more 'body' if only because it works on licensed spectrum. This means, at the very least, that if things go wrong you can sue it. Thus, there is at least a simple basis for trust.
For WiFi access, since anyone can easily get on it, trust is much more a no go. Not just regarding malicious users, but also about simple reliability.
On the other hand, the infamous "BILD" tabloid started using that prefix brand again in 2002, with the Volks-PC and has been marketing 200 products with that prefix since and other companies/projects/products followed (like Volks.Fahrrad - which had to rename because of the product proximity to Volkswagen).
"Ein Volk, ein Reich, eine Netzverbindungmitteilungsgesellsschaft"