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It was only a matter of time before crypto and wireless service collided. On Tuesday, Nova Labs, the company behind the Helium crowdsourced network that provides connectivity for random IoT devices, announced a five-year deal with wireless carrier T-Mobile.
The partnership will allow anyone who subscribes to Helium Mobile, a 5G crowdsourced network, to access both Helium's 5G network and T-Mobile's wireless network throughout the US.
Currently, Nova Labs has over 900,000 Helium hotspots that provide LongFi coverage around the world. The LongFi signals broadcast by hotspots create the Helium network, along with devices like the Invoxia LongFi tracker to update its location as long as it's within range of a nearby hotspot.
The hotspots are installed by random people (of which, I am one), and leverage a local internet connection as the backhaul for the network. In exchange, hotspot owners are rewarded with crypto for each interaction on the network, including when data is transmitted.
Nova Labs has since expanded its offering from LongFi to include 5G, with just over 2,500 total 5G hotspots deployed at the time of the T-Mobile announcement. The approach for the Helium 5G network is the same -- 5G hotspot owners can install a 5G node, using their local internet connection to provide connectivity to nearby Helium Mobile subscribers. And in exchange for hosting a hotspot, the owner receives Mobile token rewards.
But because the Helium 5G network is going to be spotty at best, the deal with T-Mobile makes sense while more hotspot owners install 5G cells to extend and strengthen the network.
In addition to rewarding those who host a Helium 5G hotspot, Helium Mobile subscribers can opt-in to provide data about the network's coverage and earn Mobile rewards as well.
The service will officially launch in the first quarter of 2023. Nova Labs notes that the service is designed with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach in mind, but the company is working with smartphone makers to create a "specialized, crypto-friendly cell phone devices that will be more efficient at validating network coverage, earning more Mobile token rewards for their users when compared to generic, BYOD phones."