If Karrier One has its way, connecting to a 5G or 4G LTE cellular network could soon cost only C$9 per month for Canadians, or they could choose to run their own network and get paid for it. The company plans to shake up the telecom sector just as Uber changed the taxi industry, said Samer Bishay, the company’s chief executive officer.
Karrier One is a decentralized telecom network that was founded in September last year as a response to service outages, over-priced plans, and poor customer service, the company said, adding that it seeks to offer wireless connections to millions of underserved communities worldwide.
The company uses blockchain technology, specifically, KONE (a cryptocurrency) which, it says, helps avoid the heavy premiums associated with large telecom companies and is used to enable the consumer to act as a service provider.
“As blockchain expands throughout the telecom world, wireless customers, particularly those in Canada, should experience better services at lower prices as blockchain technology breaks down monopoly barriers and unjustified higher premiums currently made possible in Canada by a lack of competition,” said Bishay.
Here’s how it works
Customers act as Mobile Independent Network Operators (MINOs), or gatekeepers, to create internet hotspots across Canada. To do so, they need to purchase gateways or professional radio equipment and nodes from Karrier One.
Gatekeepers are paid in KONE for securing and building the network, owned by Karrier One, and to power the costs of usage from their radio hotspot.
The more the gatekeeper’s hotspot is used, the more tokens they receive.
When registering to a network, gatekeepers are also provided with a Karrier One digital wallet through the Karrier One Dashboard, where they will be able to monitor usage, billing, and all aspects of the network.
Karrier One purchases KONE through buybacks with fiat (money backed by the government like Canadian dollar or British pound) and pays for various telecom services and spectrum donors using fiat. Spectrum donors intervene in areas where Karrier One does not own spectrum.
Basically, the ecosystem consists of the gatekeeper, the spectrum donor and Karrier One. For every dollar of usage that comes through the Karrier One ecosystem, 50 per cent goes to the gatekeeper, 20 per cent goes to the spectrum donor and 30 per cent goes to Karrier One, explained Karrier One’s chief marketing officer and co-founder, Kadeem Trotman.
A user registers for a plan on the Karrier One website, starting at C$9 per month for 250MB of roaming data and nationwide coverage, which they can activate through the use of an e-SIM or a physical Karrier One SIM card.
Users with a Karrier One plan will ping onto a gatekeeper when within its area. If a consumer has a Karrier One plan but is not within range of a gatekeeper, they will connect to a roaming partner’s network so that they never lose service, Trotman added.
So far, Karrier One only has access to Band53 licensed spectrum, hence, just iPhone 14 users, whose phones have the built-in feature to switch to Band53, can receive connectivity.
Nonetheless, the company says it does have licensed spectrum within some areas of Canada (mainly Quebec and Northern Canada), allowing users of all devices to connect to the network.
But users regardless need devices that support e-SIMs in order to activate mobile service, or they’ll need to switch their physical SIM card to one provided by Karrier One.
Further, the company currently only offers radios to be mounted in exterior, high vertical areas that would require professional installation provided by Karrier One. But hardware that can be set up by a user within their home will soon be rolled out, Trotman noted.
The equipment is quite pricey. Karrier One offers three choices:
Compact Small Cell 360° for campus and residential areas priced at US$4500
Macro Cell for rural and suburban areas priced at US$7995 plus US$995 for power supply and accessories
Macro Cell for dense suburban areas priced at US$8995 plus US$995 for power supply and accessories
Plus, users interested in becoming gatekeepers have to reserve their spot with a C$140 deposit.
Karrier One acknowledges that having a network of radios without users would be unsustainable, hence, it plans to become a mobile network operator in the U.S., partnering with an existing carrier so that participants in the network can benefit from reliable coverage.
“Focusing on real users is essential for the long-term profitability of operating radios. Our goal is to be the primary carrier for our users, rather than a novelty or tech demo,” the company website reads.
The service is available only within limited areas at this time, notably in First Nations Communities, but the company says it will build out its network in phases over the next three years, with plans to expand into the U.S. and Kenya as well.