Althea Team

Hawk Networks hopes the Althea microtransactions platform it has built will be the secret sauce for the networks the company is establishing in rural areas to support precision agriculture. We talked to Althea CEO Deborah Simpier recently about the company’s business model, which aims to enable multiple partners to share in network costs and get their piece of revenues generated from that network.

“Althea is a platform to coordinate multi-entity or ownership of assets by a diverse group, with a ‘revenue share’ that is automatic,” said Simpier.

Hawk/Althea networks are operational in eight states, with a ninth coming on soon. The technology can be deployed on fiber or wireless networks. The latter are likely to be based on LTE using spectrum in the CBRS band.

It’s an open access model and as Simpier explained, “the core offering is an open source micro transactional platform.”

Examples of entities that might be part of that diverse group are the network owner/operator, Hawk/Althea, tower companies, the owners of silos used for cell sites and others.

Simpier cited the example of the wireless network in California operated by local internet provider TreeLink. In that example, “several entities built and own the ‘gateway’ or the fiber demarc to the middle mile and earn the subsequent per-gigabyte revenue,” Simpier said.

As she explained, those entities “don’t have to worry about customer service and network management, which is done by the TreeLink company.”

The wireless network uses a mesh approach in which radios at individual customer locations acted as repeaters for other customers and all customers receive micropayments for the use of their radios.

Althea Microtransactions

Network connectivity is becoming increasingly important for precision agriculture involving smart autonomous devices, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial imaging, and GPS driven devices. The Althea platform enables connectivity between the providers of the technology underlying these devices and the farmers who use the smart ag technology.

As Simpier put it, one option is for “farmers themselves to build out a LAN type network, connecting their farm with private LTE, with the ease of the plug-and-play router based core.”

Hawk/Althea is currently developing what it calls a “Liquid Infrastructure platform,” which will enable owners of assets such as fiber or towers to more easily segment, sell or lease their infrastructure.

This, Simpier said, “will provide many different opportunities for flexible investment into the capex of networks and utilize existing infrastructure more effectively.”

More provocatively, Simpier said, “Althea’s thesis is that the friction and rigid legacy models are the problems with the internet now, and not simply a lack of funds of infrastructure.

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