A Dive on Helium and its Multiprotocol Future
April 11th, 2022

Note: Long-form version of a thread posted on Twitter

20 years ago, “build it & they will come” was said of “emerging telecoms” that are today’s giants.

Today, Helium is pursuing a vision as the “people’s network”, using blockchain and tokens to underpin network buildout, operations, and improvement in a decentralized fashion.

The Chicken and Egg - Building a Network

Network buildout is difficult and expensive - how do you coldstart the flywheel? To incentivize buildout (growth) there has to be an adequate value proposition for utilization. Innovation and investment come next to increase the value of a network, leading to more growth as the positive feedback loop grows stronger.

Secondly, there are supply and demand sides of the equation with buildout:

Supply - Obtaining capital & participants for network creation
Demand - Get businesses and users to utilize the network

Supply Side - Network Buildout with Tokens and HNT’s roles

Using tokenomics, Helium is able to better address the supply side of the equation and uniquely is a project that both utilizes blockchain and creates real-world usage

For Helium, this means onboarding new individuals, groups, and businesses to participate in hotspot buildout and operation. This group of adopters have formed into the Helium community today, with 150k+ members on Discord, many with telecom or networking backgrounds.

The community is integral for buildout and operations, and in return is directly rewarded in HNT token, with attractive payback periods on capital spent on miners or gateways.

The token itself is quite interesting - with multiple use cases:

With HNT token, you can mine, stake, burn, and vote:

  1. Earn by mining HNT from hotspot deployment
  2. Stake HNT as a validator for a % yield
  3. Burn HNT to mint Data Credits - network usage reduces token supply
  4. Vote on governance/upgrade proposals with HNT

The Long Term - An Omniprotocol Network and the Technology that Makes it Possible Today

The long term vision of Helium is multiprotocol. Helium has had extraordinary growth in phase 1 as an IoT network (LoRaWan). With FreedomFi, the network is bootstrapping a US-based 5G network in a similar way. The future encompasses 5G service internationally as well as WiFi

What tech make Helium possible today?

  1. LongFi: Combines IoT & blockchain to allow permissionless network operations and invented by the Helium Inc. team

  2. Magma: Open source platform infrastructure for creating carrier-grade networks, through a partnership with FreedomFi which creates a core for deploying these networks on magma

  3. CBRS Spectrum: In 2020, the FCC created public-use (“shared”) spectrum (what data travels through) for 5G

Success means supporting large activity on the network by users - the network must generate revenue and useful tx volume.

The Demand Side - Data Credits, Usage and Partnerships

Data Credits (DCs) are used to transmit data on Helium and are minted from HNT token burning (usage is beneficial to any hotspot owner or HNT holder)

Today, network usage happens in 2 ways - Direct Connections & Roaming

Direct Connections:
Ex. Lime using the Helium network to manage its fleet of scooters with IoT trackers.

Roaming: Helium as a backup network:
Ex. When you travel abroad, you’re on a “roaming” partners’ network

The Helium team is working to drive usage, making it easy for users & enterprises to use the network:

  1. DC are fix priced per data transferred
  2. DCs are purchasable with fiat (credit card or HNT burn)
  3. Web Mgmt tools (Console) and integrations with toolkits and data platforms

Partnership Deep Dive:

The Helium team has been locking enterprise partnerships for IoT/ 5G which will bring more traffic to the network

For 5G, FreedomFi is a major partner with its Magma Protocol gateways. They’ve also been active in governance and upgrade proposals.

Dive into the partnerships below:

IoT Roaming:
Senet: Operator of the 1st national carrier-grade LoRaWan network
Actility: Notable for its ThingsPark Exchange (IoT peering hub) with 25+ connected global networks
X-Telia: Expansion to a new market with a Canadian IoT network leader

IoT Usage:
Telecom Liechtenstein:: Marks a digital infra player deploying IoT services on existing telecom assets. We’ll likely see more of this

City of San Jose: Pilot program with 1,3k+ households to help low-income residents pay for internet through setting up Helium hotspots

Dish - 5G Roaming Partnership:

Dish, in its aim to become the 4th major US carrier, is innovating buildout with technologies like AWS. Dish is exploring blockchain through Helium and will be a major player in future network traffic. Kudos for this landmark partnership.

Gigsky - 5G Roaming + Data Plan:

The first cellular plan on the Helium network, possible today due to the latest
phone models having dual-SIM capability (physical and software/eSIM). This allows future innovation for earning HNT on your phone as Helium becomes multiprotocol

The Community and the Pipeline Today

There’s work to be done to bring 5G to fruition and for Helium to become multi-protocol. Through HIPs (Helium Improvement Proposals) the community is working on the right mechanisms and upgrades to the network

A look at the pipeline - 62+ manufacturers and discussions with various MVNOs, carriers are ongoing, providing a pipeline for enterprise agreements

The Helium team and community truly share in network operations and governance. A portion of operations are spearheaded by the Helium community, particularly the DeWi alliance, which assists with grants, improvement proposals, and manufacturer approval

What else is in discussion for future possibilities?
HNT re-denomination 1000:1 (approved, date TBD)
Flushing out HIPs for 5G and Wifi coverage and rewards
Helium DAO and SubDAOs

The full list of HIPs can be seen here: https://github.com/helium/HIP

Credit: FreedomFi FAQ https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bMm2alBigBj3detA775Dn0Gz9UM5XczAeK9vnjBB3l0/edit#

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