Why Are BitMinutes Tied to Prepaid Airtime Minutes?

The world is awash in minutes. Billions of people buy batches of minutes every day to top up mobile phones. The minutes facilitate communication between people and, increasingly in less developed communities, financial transactions. By tying the BitMinute to this fast-growing commodity, BitMinutes become an indispensable token of value exchange.

In the developed world minutes have no limit. Talk all you want without running your supply down. In the developing world, people still pay minute-by-minute, and keep a reserve in their phones to prevent the premature end of their conversations.

The people buying top-up minutes have also found novel uses for the “minutes” that they own. They discovered that they could transfer those minutes to other people on the same network. At first the impulse was sharing between family and friends. “Need more minutes to make a call? Have some of mine.”

From there it was a short step to transferring minutes to pay a small debt. Now prepaid minutes started to act like a convenient method of exchanging value, an informal currency.

At this point, the limitations of the prepaid minute became clear:

  • The owner of the minutes could only give them to people on the same network.
  • Once they were bought, they could not be converted back into cash. The only way to finally cash them out was to make a phone call.

This informal currency needed a vehicle for breaking these two walls down.

Enter the BitMinute. Built with the distributed-ledger advantages of blockchain technology, the BitMinute does a number of things to turn the prepaid minute into a more useful asset.

  • When a mobile operator sells BitMinutes (BMTs) they will be tradeable between networks. A person buying BMTs via Vodaphone in one country can send those BMTs to an Etisalat customer across an international border.
  • Through a Trusted Agent operating in a local distributor’s storefront, the BMTs will be turned into cash again. Buying prepaid airtime minutes in the form of BMTs is not a financial dead end!

As BMTs become more widely bought, owned and traded, they may start to replace the network-specific prepaid minutes sold by mobile operators. The advantages for the MTOs? Happier customers who can derive more value from the phone; and inter-network BMT transfers that may earn the MTOs fees as local service providers for governmental and private entities serving that community. Those entities may decide to accept BMTs as payment because the BMTs they receive will convertible into cash.

Breaking the constraints on the free flow of prepaid minutes between any two mobile phones globally is the BitMinutes mission. We see our work as part of the global war on poverty, with our role one of removing barriers to entrepreneurial spirits and fostering greater financial inclusion in underserved communities everywhere.