Helium migrates to Solana blockchain

Helium has completed the transition to Solana blockchain, which promises faster transaction speeds, scalability and better reliability.

The migration from Helium’s own blockchain to Solana started yesterday and was done over a 24-hour period. The move to Solana, which was announced last year, should give the community a lot more resources to manage its wireless networks.

A quick recap: Helium as a concept pre-dates the blockchain era; it was founded by the team at Nova Labs, which is now a sister company that operates as a separate operation, explained Helium Foundation COO Scott Sigel.

Helium’s original focus was on IoT and smart devices and in 2019, it launched blockchain as a method of incentivizing and supporting the IoT network. The idea is that anybody should be able to buy a hotspot device, install it in a home or office and provide coverage for smart devices passing by the facility.

With the transition to Solana, most of the community shouldn’t notice any difference other than the Helium network performing better, according to Sigel. The current native token, HNT, will no longer be mined by LoRaWAN hotspots, which will instead mine IOT.

Helium started down the blockchain path using its own architecture and realized that was limiting its growth, he told Fierce.  

“Solana is an absolutely fantastic partner,” he said, noting that co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko is a former Qualcomm engineer and there’s a great cultural alignment between the two teams. “Solana is in the business of building that infrastructure and building a general purpose blockchain,” so rather than Helium trying to do that, it’s turning to Solana.  

Interestingly, Sigel was the first hire by the Helium Foundation and he went full-time at the end of 2020 or early 2021. It has since grown to a team of 26 full-time employees. A new head of communications will be starting in May.

San Francisco-based Abhay Kumar started as a community contributor and was recruited to help build out the blockchain architecture and products; he became the CEO of the foundation last year.

Helium is now the largest LoRaWAN network in the world, with almost 1 million hotspots deployed and coverage in more than 77,000 towns and cities in 192 countries, according to Kumar’s blog posted today.

The Helium 5G network, which uses unlicensed CBRS, has deployed more than 8,000 radios in less than a year. FreedomFi sells Helium 5G hotspots as gateways. Nova Labs acquired FreedomFi last year.

According to the Helium Foundation, some of the cities with complete LoRaWAN coverage are Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., London, Zurich, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Berlin, Sydney and Lisbon.

With the move to Solana, “the network is going to be more scalable, more resilient,” and frees up more technical resources for the wireless network, Sigel said.

Crypto market decline

Given the crypto crash, how’s Helium managing? In March of last year, Helium (HNT) tokens were trading at a rate of $24.68. Today, HNT is trading at about $1.77, according to CoinGecko.

Right now, it’s very much a heads-down approach, according to Sigel. 

“We kind of keep our eyes on the wireless side of things as opposed to crypto… It’s still novel. There’s going to be ebbs and flows. Part of our job as the foundation is to make sure we’re educating the folks on where there’s real practical utility here. We’ve had some great fans in the public sector who really see the value of what we’re building.”

“I’m very optimistic about the future of what we're building,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of energy and enthusiasm” around the Decentralized Physical Infrastructure Networks (DePIN) sector in general.