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Volk Fi: Distributed network smartphone (volkfi.com)
298 points by 4d66ba06 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments



This makes a bit more sense:

"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."

(https://www.reddit.com/r/Scams/comments/aq3hul/volk_fi_claim...)

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.


The frequencies are what I was curious about 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.

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.


I work with 900MHz radios and infrastructure, here's my thoughts:

> 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).


> 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 )


> 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.


The biggest advantage to the cellular bands is that they are exclusively licensed, so noise is a non-issue, or at least an issue that you are in control of, since you are the only one allowed to build infrastructure in a given area.

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)?


What if you used the noise as the carrier wave for the signal? Like, if in an urban area you have a "stable" probability distribution of noise, modulate that.


You're being downvited because, whilst this is a clever sounding idea, unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

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.)


Do you know why digital pulse radios never happened?


Could you... modulate the amplitude of the PD?


Amplitude is about power, that what you want to minimize. If you can affect the amplitude of the noise, that means your signal has high amplitude: you have a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and you already have won.


They mention on Reddit that they are using 900 MHz.

https://www.reddit.com/r/VolkFi/comments/b1u7o3/spectrum/


My real world wifi experience. Domestic 2.4ghz wifi ap with a directional antenna plugged in, 600m direct line of sight across valley to neighbours netgear ap with stock antenna, assumed in his window. Internet achieved. Wifi ap, stock antenna in my house window, looking unobstructed over field, I get wifi internet on my phone about 200m out. Indoors in my stone walled house wifi is perhaps 10-15m. So half a mile range or 600m is almost true in a marketing sense though a bit dishonest in a real world usage sense.


> I'm guessing they haven't bought licenses from the FCC, so my bet is that they're using the 900 MHz ISM band.

No FCC filings for this device yet that I found. I guess we'll have to see.


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.

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.


Better push for fast adoption.


> 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.

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.


It is hard to create coverage from nothing. So they made an hybrid form. "Bring your own coverage unless there is coverage". Something is better than nothing i guess. Even with this hybrid version i think chances are very slim one node will meet another and create a tiny chain by pure coincidence.


If it works as a drop-in replacement for the Pixel line on Fi, I'm pretty much sold.


Sounds like a genius idea to me. In theory at least.


Practicality is an issue though. Mostly because of our current regulation, must be said.


s/because/thanks

Our current legislation gave us a relatively "clean" frequency space. Would be so much worse without it


I thought "because" is a neutral word (I'm not a native speaker). The distinction between regulatory and technological problems is an important one to make - regulations can be changed. E.g. what would happen if we separated a whole band with enough bandwidth for an open mesh network?


If government regulates away personal sovereignty, you just tell a hundred million people they have personal sovereignty, and watch them decide if it's worth it to impede.


Ok, I have the following idea: instead of having to do house chores ourselves, our phones do them. How? Well, at night they transform, like in Transformers, into household robots and do all the cleaning, maintenance and food prepping. Then when you wake up it transforms back into a simple phone.

Genius right?


This will have Gotenna like speeds, that is it will take several seconds to send a small text message. That’s in an optimistic scenario where the recipient is within a mile or two of you. In a mesh scenario, the speed is going to go way down. In an area urban enough that there are other VolkFi owners to mesh through, there is almost always going to be cell service. It’s just a gimmick to let them sell some slightly modified Android phones. My guess is that they will almost always be connected through the cellular network. If the user would then like to imagine that they are connected to some kind of physics-defying mesh network, I suppose that’s nice. They could probably save on production costs by omitting the 900mhz chip with almost no effect on the service.


The claim is that they'll always prioritize Volk over LTE. Which is an interesting promise, because if you're correct, they'd potentially be prioritizing the slower connection.


I'd happily put a large omnidirectional wifi antenna on my roof to help out with something like this.... if I could get a fair rate for the bandwidth used. My city has 70k people or so, and is perfectly flat.

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.


I've always wondered about this as well. Get independent hobbyists to setup micro wifi networks. Run all traffic through a vpn or some sort so the operator doesn't risk their IP/ISP banning their service. Monetize the whole thing on a pay as you go service. $1/gb and give 70 cents of that to the independent operators. The big telecoms already have these little mini-wifi networks in bigger cities that you can get access to but only if you are a subscriber to their services.

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.


In Germany there is exactly this for free. https://freifunk.net/en/

Altough its far away from good coverage you get free wifi here and there. Especially Coffee Shops and in Big Citys.


I pay $0.05 per GB or so at home ($60 per TB). I'd happily sell my data at a small profit just to offset whatever the equipment is that's required.

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.


LoRa might enable this, and easily reaches 10-20km range (up to 100km in theory). A lot of projects in Europe experimenting with it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LoRa


This would be a great feature for gotenna. Especially if places near where you would be using a gotenna have internet access.


Well the gotenna network is pretty slow, and internet is not particularly friendly to store and forward with high latencies. I was thinking more along the lines of sharing your location (like APRS) and SMS/IM type traffic. That way you could have cover a large area with minimal infrastructure.


There's things like https://www.nycmesh.net/, https://tomesh.net/ and a bunch of others I can't find right now.


Have been trying to do that for many years now first with the EFF scheme "openwireless.org", then with soprani.ca. https://wom.community/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/operatives. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/595zg5/sopranica-...

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.


Check out althea.org


I would bet almost any amount of money this isn’t going to work.

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.


Why not? Keep in mind that most phone use these days is not voice traffic. Even the voice calls are often done from home, work, or somewhere with wifi (like restaurants, bars, airports, libraries, grocery stores, schools, universities, etc).

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.


Spectrum is limited. Multihop meshing burdens the shared medium harder than a conventional network. Mesh believers always argue that it would work well if only it had enough members, but I believe that you reach too many nodes before you reach enough.

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).


And you haven't even mentioned the fact that mobile phones can move around, leading to high rates of dropped connections as devices come and go. There's no way this is going to work.


Whoops, my phone connected to someone on a train that just went past! My phone call just dropped.


Think of it the opposite way. You have no coverage, are trying to get a message out and the nearest gateway is miles away. A moving car/train is close to you for plenty of time to transfer a few 100 bytes, and someone in the car/train has a mesh aware widget. It stores a copy and waits to go near a gateway where it upload it for you.

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.


Ah, but now you're talking about solving an additional problem, delay tolerant networking, on top of mesh networking. This adds a whole new layer of complexity on top of the mesh network, and would probably only work as you say for a subset of services that are made to handle this type of unreliable network.

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.


Indeed, seems only practical for things like SMS/IM type traffic where even a Long/LAT + 30 character message every few minutes would be quite useful.


Why would your call be routed just via one single phone?


Are you going to send the message over more than one route? That doubles the required bandwidth over the entire mesh.


You could do something smarter with error correcting codes. Using a rateless code you split your message into an infinite number of chunks, then send these chunks out on your multiple paths, and then once enough chunks have been received you ACK each path. No bandwidth wasted.

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 similar to Multipath TCP, for anybody interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multipath_TCP


Cellular phone deal with this when you are in motion anyway. You just need redundant routes to offset the volatility of the network. A half mile per hop range could work, if the network is sufficiently dense (and the number of egress points is sufficiently high).

This is the kind of thing you do a test with in a specific targeted community though...


So they’re proposing to use WiFi to connect to other phones, right? And the only way to exchange data from me (pointA) to somewhere else (pointB) is to have a chain of phone users connecting my location to pointB. And how close would each connection need to be? It’s not like cellphones have antennae the size of cellular towers. So stupid.

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.


"Volk One devices can connect to each other, from several miles away. They can also hop, to reach devices farther away." I think it must be something other than WiFi. Not sure how they are getting that kind of range, but it would make things a lot more practical.


I like the idea, but I'm not sure how the abuse will work on those networks. There are two possible cases:

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?


Our approach at NYC Mesh is to give each donor of home internet a router which VPNs all mesh traffic through our ASN. This boosts privacy and neutrality for our mesh users, and protects transit donors from their ISP's interpretation of the 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.


>Their IPs get CloudFlare captchas all the time. (Like tor)

This doesn’t seem to be a that much of a problem with commercial VPN providers. Maybe the good actors outnumber the bad actors?


>Volk One devices can connect to each other, from several miles away.

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.


If you want to learn how to do the math, this is old but a good starting point: http://www.ti.com/lit/ml/slap127/slap127.pdf

(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).


One watt wouldn't be a problem at that distance, but any frequency this can operate on requires line-of-sight or close to it. "Several miles away" might be realistic in the middle of a desert, but in areas with hills or lots of large buildings? Not likely.

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.


Trivial with the correct infrastructure - you can easily get 8kbps in 12.5kHz of bandwidth (a reasonably common channel size in the sub-GHz bands).

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


Several miles? Sure, maybe, if conditions are good and you're line-of-sight. Good luck turning every phone into a cellphone tower.

This seems like an overly optimistic scam.


This sounds great. One idea I had to stop abuse was to force traffic from a phone to route out to the public Internet through its own base station.

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:

https://stevenjewel.com/2014/01/android-mesh/

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.


That's cool. A few years back I ran an indiegogo campaign for a static mesh network. It encoded geohashes into ipv6 addresses and used physical location as a waypoint for next hop routing using Vincentys algorithm. Clever solutions were designed to handle local congestion and mobile devices. Ofc it went nowhere, but maybe Volk can steal those ideas...

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.


Sounds a bit like Fon from the 2005s.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fon_(company)


I don’t get the invite model. Ask someone already invited to send you an invite? I guess it prevents spam reservations but I don’t have Facebook or twitter, so I guess I’m out of luck.


I was also curious, and found https://volkfi.com/whyinvite which has a constructive sounding heading

> 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.


Speaking of Bittorrent... This is a YC '19 company and...

https://igamerss.com/index.php/2019/03/19/here-are-the-85-st....

"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.


Proximity is important. They want people to invite their friends, who are more likely to live near each other than a random person on the internet. They need density, not just users.


Makes complete sense to me. The assumption probably is that people you invite are usually close to you.


I'm guessing so they don't get people signing up where there are no other users anywhere nearby, and then posting bad reviews when their device never connects to any other devices.


Here you go, plenty of invite codes on their subreddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/VolkFi/comments/b1dyqy/lets_just_ge...


Thank you!


These data collection scams are getting more and more elaborate.


Very interesting. This website is completely unusable on Chrome 72 (MacBook Pro 15" Mid-2015) but is smooth as butter on Safari.


It's absolutely unusable for me on Safari. Scrolling is less than 1fps. Haven't tried another browser.


Same here. It was literally killing my CPU.


Weird, it seems to be totally smooth for me on Chrome 72 (MacBook Pro 13" 2017).


What's with the name? Sounds very iffy to me. Posts like this on the subreddit don't help: https://www.reddit.com/r/VolkFi/comments/b0xpmn/volkfi_viral...


Volk is German for 'People'. It's like the English 'Folk'. That reddit link sounds like just a single dude trying to expand the reach, who isn't affiliated with volkfi, but I would say he is trolling using the name like "stormtroopers"...


I love the amount of unfettered optimism in this thread, but lets be clear this likely will amount to vaporware (at least the mesh part).

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.


Specs for those having issues with the website:

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

Weight: 179g

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


I wrote an article about Volk-fi for those of you looking for more information.

https://1fixcomputermedic.com/volk-fi-promises-free-cell-pho...


I'm concerned that providing a bounce for someone else's call will use large amount of battery. This means, trying to conserve battery won't be possible if people keep using your phone to bounce off.


The hard part will be getting enough such mobiles out in the market for the mesh to ever work and getting the price down low enough for people who are not ever so interested to buy it.

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.


When I first heard about Project Fi, this is what I imagined it to be like. I was a little disappointed when I found out it was just glorified wifi-calling.


This is amazing. I think it delivers on the promise of https://n-o-d-e.net/hyperboria.html much more than Hyperboria+cjdns itself. Very excited, I expect there could be a compatibility layer with existing mesh networks which use cjdns.


Website just about crashed my browser. I hope I can find out what it's about here.


confirmed... worst website experience this far in 2019! and I tried both Chrome and Safari!

Seriously Volk Fi: fix this asap (like before you continue working on your business)


How can internet connectivity be free?

Doesn’t someone need to pay for a connection?


To answer my own question, as per the FAQ:

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.


I'm a bit puzzled about this: how do they plan to enforce such a cap in a distributed network? Doesn't this require distributed trust (about multiple users accounting the usage of each client)? Or are they assuming that the network will only consist of their phones running their unmodified software, so each phone can be trusted to do their accounting honestly?


Perhaps you only need to do the accounting at the exit nodes? That means you only need to trust the exit nodes, and identities included in the packets.


So as someone who starts out with a YC '19 * Volk Fi phone, your sharing will be at 0, and therefore immediately subject to a 5GB data cap with $1/gb afterward.

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.)

* https://igamerss.com/index.php/2019/03/19/here-are-the-85-st...

"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."


I would love for this to be just an app on a standard Android device.


Apparently because their special phones have "new, long-range radio hardware" that makes this all possible.

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.


I would gladly pay with Bitcoin on the Lightning network to get internet access, but the market is not ready yet.


Ah, yet another carrier offering Unlimited* data.


This type of networking will become more feasible with 5G because it has unlicensed spectrum and better support for radio convergence. 5G home routers might need just little configuration.


This would work if the mesh was standardized and royalty-free, so that any company could make hardware for it.

As long as it's a mesh network restricted to one company... no dice.


I would love to see a version for amateur radio that uses amateur bands with more power. It would of course need to be un-encrypted but that is fine with me.


Ham radio already does this to a certain extent I believe:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMPRNet


This is a product I might buy - if I could actually buy it.


Hi everyone, I really want to test this network but I have no invitation, can someone send me? allexbruno@protonmail.ch


This is slightly off-topic, but why don't we have WiFi networks that work on a scale as large as Cellular networks?


Pure WiFi lacks the range. Moreover, there is very little on inter-working.

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.


An incredible job at enabling Feds (and any other amateur!) to use Stingrays/cell catchers


I'm not sure I would be comfortable with running a base station in my pocket all the time.


(YC '19)


You should add a Bitcoin option for checkout/reservation.


it reminded me of similar project open garden https://www.opengarden.com/


There will be serious security concerns with this, opening so many possibilities for Man in the Middle attack.


Just encrypt everything in transit ?


pls someone invite me


pls someone invite me - i don't do social networks



hi brother, I do not know anyone who has a volk fi but I really want to test this network and the cell phone, can you send me an invitation? allexbruno@protonmail.ch


Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Smartphone!


Name reminds of https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksempf%C3%A4nger

Probably intentional.


That prefix certainly comes with baggage. There were a lot of affordable "Volks-" (read as: "for the people") products created by the DAF (German Labour Front) between 1933 and 1945. The more (internationally) known ones are the Volkswagen, Volksempfänger (radio receiver), Volkskühlschrank (refrigerator), Volksgasmaske (gas mask).

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).


Me too. They could maybe recycle a few old slogans too:

"Ein Volk, ein Reich, eine Netzverbindungmitteilungsgesellsschaft"




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