Helium Mobile launches $20/month plan nationwide

Fed up with major wireless carriers’ price increases, Helium Mobile is rolling out a $20/month plan with unlimited data, talk and text across the country in an attempt to democratize access to “reliable nationwide cellular coverage.”

Helium Mobile, a player in the decentralized wireless (DeWi) space, takes a “people-powered” approach to network coverage. It uses T-Mobile’s 5G network under a MVNO arrangement, but also encourages customers to become network owners and operators by deploying hotspots on their property.

That said, this $20/month offer is available to anyone and they do not need a hotspot to do so, according to a spokesperson for Nova Labs, which founded the Helium Network in 2013. Helium Mobile doesn’t sell devices; its service is based on a bring your own device (BYOD) model.

“Traditional carriers think they have Americans over a barrel. At Helium Mobile, we believe that cell phones are an essential service and unlimited data, text and calls are table stakes,” said Helium Mobile CEO Amir Haleem in a statement. “We are tired of carriers that hide high subscription rates, roaming and additional data fees behind free phone upgrades that lock you into years of expensive plans. Americans deserve better.”

Helium Mobile said the average American spends $157/month on their cellular plan and it wants to make unlimited service available to everyone. The spokesperson acknowledged that under Helium Mobile’s service, data speeds may be reduced after 30 GB of data usage per monthly billing cycle.

One of the ways Helium manages costs is in its “people-powered” network. With Helium Mobile hotspots, subscribers can own and set up “mini cell towers” to expand the network for themselves and the community. The outdoor Helium Mobile hotspot sells for $499 and the indoor Helium Mobile hotspot sells for $249; both are now available for purchase nationwide. Subscribers who help map Helium’s network coverage are rewarded with cryptocurrency.

Given the status of cryptocurrency, one might wonder why entities like Helium are so committed to the crypto model. Nova Labs General Manager of Wireless Boris Renski told Fierce in a recent interview that the Helium community has proven that using crypto as an incentive is a lot more powerful than just using money.

The community takes pride in doing the work to deploy and operate hotspots and they’re all building the network together, he said.

Last week, Helium Mobile announced it was named as the official wireless sponsor of the Miami Hurricanes Athletics.  

Miami is a distinctive place for Helium Mobile. It was selected as the first market for its launch of a  $5/month plan and it’s where Helium launched its indoor hot spot initiative in October. At that time, Renski said the Miami-Dade area historically has been an area where a lot of Helium community members are located, it’s crypto-friendly with a high concentration of people and the topology works in their favor.