Othernet (formerly Outernet) Updates Lantern Backers

Othernet (formerly known as Outernet) are a providers of a free data service broadcast from satellites. They hope to build a system and low cost satellite receiver products where people can easily stream free daily data such as news, videos, books, and live audio down to a computer or phone from anywhere in the world via a device called a Lantern. It is a one way download only service, but may be useful for those in areas with limited internet, disaster preppers, or people in countries with internet censorship. The describe their mission as:

Othernet's mission is to build a universal information service; a truly pervasive multi-media service that operates in the most remote places and functions even when nothing else does.

In the past they ran a trial service on L-band satellite frequencies and used RTL-SDR dongles as the receiver. They have since discontinued that service in favor of a new Ku-band LoRa based service which can provide much more data - up to 200MB a day. The update released today was sent to Lantern backers, which was the receiver they crowdfunded for in their Kickstarter back in 2014. The update notes that the final iteration of the Lantern is close to being ready.

Broadcasting Khan Academy 24/7

Hello Backers,

Yes, we are still here. It’s been a long while since the last update, but that does not mean we have stopped–or even slowed–working on Lantern. We have been making progress, though it has been much, much slower than what everyone wants. Fortunately, we are in the final stage of development.

The last update described the new network technology we had developed. Our original goal was to broadcast 20 MB of content per day, which is what we were doing with our previous network. The new system is operating at 10-times that speed, which is a little over 20kbps and 200 MB of content per day. Some of the work we’ve been doing over the past few months is related to tripling our current download speeds. Our target is 60kbps, which results in over 600 MB per day. The size of the device will be similar to a standard flashlight.

At our current download speed of 20kbps, we are broadcasting both data and a 24/7 audio stream. I know many of you were interested in the educational applications that were highlighted during the campaign, which is why I’m very pleased to share that we are currently broadcasting the entirety of Khan Academy as a 24/7 audio stream. The Khan Academy library consists of over 900 separate lectures, which we’ve turned into a giant audio playlist. Now we just need to get Lanterns into everyone’s hands.

The next update will include a picture of our final antenna design. The antenna that is currently included in our DIY kit is 2-inches/5-cm across and the shape of a cone. We are trying to flatten the cone and also increase the size to about 4-inches/10-cm, which is what allows for greater download speeds. Since we are operating at microwave frequencies (12 GHz), both the design of the antenna and the parts to convert the high frequency to a lower one are pretty tricky. Microwave engineering is widely considered black magic, which is the main reason for the long break since the last update. We are close to turning the corner and are targeting the end of the year for our initial production run.

Unrelated to our technical work is our recent name change. We had been fighting a trademark issue for the past four years. We recently decided that it made more financial sense to change our name, rather than continue spending legal fees to defend our position. We are now Othernet (http://othernet.is). This name change does not mean we are going away, nor does it mean we are not delivering Lanterns. It’s just a legal hiccup.

Thanks for your patience and support while we get through the final stage of building what you all backed several years ago. I know it’s been a long time and we are making every possible effort to deliver something that exceeds everyone’s original expectations. Although it’s taking three times longer to develop and ship the product, what we now have will be ten-times more useful.

Outernet Dreamcatcher - Precursor to the Lantern
Outernet Dreamcatcher - Precursor to the Lantern
 

7 comments

  1. Dougmeister

    Back in the early 1990’s there was an inexpensive satellite-delivered USENET feed with a link speed of initially 9600 and later 19,200 baud. (I still have the equipment.) It was popular with BBS sysops as a way to host a full feed. Dialup access was provided for any outbound traffic. It worked fairly well, until the increasing bandwidth required for a full USENET feed ultimately exceeded and obsoleted the service.

    However one of the additional things the service provided was satellite-delivered email. I always thought that aspect was pretty interesting.

    Modern uses for receive-only feeds might include (ham radio) APRS data, digital currency blockchains, delayed market quotes, OLPC updates, Wikipedia updates, and maybe some kind of Twitterlike feed.

    I’d think there should be a niche but nonetheless viable business model for a project like this.

  2. SDR-Geek

    They have too many problem , communication is weak.
    The official forum is really annoying and mostly dead … they never success to build a community of hacker around their products ….

    I brought the first one in end of life … promotion to sell it on this website … was for sure to clean the stock … for product in end of life !
    Problem with the new one ( last one ) is … this is sold only for US market ….
    Old beam for EU
    is over … and processor on first model is quite low to make a real SDR server … so finally the mainboard was used 1 month ….
    Actually there is no information about a possible EU beam … so all the 2 models are taking dust …

  3. Phil

    This an ambitious project, however it seems to suffer from poor planning (move from L band for example). Many people purchased the original hardware, now must buy the latest gear, an odd approach for something that was supposed to be affordable. I applaud the effort, such development is not a trivial matter, i just think they went public too early.

    • Val

      In fact previously they’ve moved to L-band from some other band, so it’s the THIRD time people have to buy different hardware (many are not going to buy anything after all that).

      The project is interesting and it was the project that sparked my interested in digital radio, receiving signals from satellites, etc, but it was inadequately managed from the very beginning and I don’t think anything has improved. Generally I have a feeling that people behind the project believe they have no obligations – they just do what they want at their own pace and change whatever they want when they want.

      From practical point of view it’s not a very meaningful project. Want free information while having no internet? Get a satellite dish/receiver/tv + a good radio receiver and you’ll get way more information for free than from Outernet/Othernet. Protected from censorship? No more than TV or radio, probably less (they don’t launch their own satellites, they have to rent bandwidth therefore they depend 100% on their provider’s will). I’ve never seen them broadcasting anything even slightly provocative in any way.

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