Samsung and Qualcomm back FreedomFi, Helium’s 5G crypto network partner

Samsung and Qualcomm back FreedomFi, Helium's 5G crypto network partner

In short

  • FreedomFi, which makes firmware and hardware to power Helium’s new token-powered 5G network, just raised $9.5 million.
  • Samsung and Qualcomm are among the companies that have supported FreedomFi through their respective subsidiaries.

Helium’s bet on construction a decentralized wireless network to power Internet of Things (IoT) devices appears to be paying off, with more than 640,000 active nodes earn tokens worldwide. Now the project is expand into 5G connectivity— and its partner FreedomFi just added allies like tech giants Samsung and Qualcomm in a new round of funding.

FreedomFi announced today that it has raised $9.5 million in Series A to continue building its decentralized 5G network alongside Helium. Samsung’s Next Venture subsidiary participated in the round, alongside Qualcomm Ventures and Blueyard Capital.

FreedomFi provides the firmware and small cell hardware that powers Helium’s new 5G network, allowing individual node operators to access the decentralized network and earn HNT tokens to deliver services to users of smartphones, computers laptops and tablets nearby.

It’s a big step up from Helium’s original network, which uses low-powered nodes that collectively create a distributed network for things like sensors and trackers. Helium and FreedomFi’s 5G network will have to handle a lot more data from smart devices, and the hardware needed to join the network is also a lot more expensive.

FreedomFi CEO Boris Renski said Decrypt that a current 5G small cell deployment set from the company costs around $2,500 all-inclusive, between the gateway and the 5G cell. Since launching the hardware in October, FreedomFi has sold about 10,000 bundles, about half of which are currently operational on Helium’s fledgling 5G network.

While $2,500 is a considerable investment, Renski said typical mobile carrier 5G small cell deployments cost around $28,000 each, per data sourced from Qualcomm. FreedomFi has already significantly reduced the price of its version and aims to further increase the total cost to around $500 as the hardware components become cheaper.

“We want to cut out all the middleman and simplify the process,” Renski said, “so anyone on the Helium network can – for $500 – get a cellular miner, plug it in, and get it working.”

5G powered by crypto

FreedomFi is currently the only manufacturer of the Helium 5G gateways, and the company aims to roll out 50,000 units by the end of 2022. And it’s about to get more help scaling the hardware needed for the new network. of Helium.

Today, FreedomFi announced that hardware manufacturer Bobcat, vendor of the most popular miner (or node) for Helium’s IoT-focused LoRaWAN network, will also build 5G gateways using FreedomFi’s firmware. . Bobcat’s Bobber 500 Gateway will be released in April. Nearly a quarter of a million former Bobcat LoRaWAN Helium nodes have already been sold.

While the Helium 5G network powered by FreedomFi is currently much smaller than the original Helium IoT network, it could be much more useful over time.

Trackers and sensors don’t use a lot of data, but smart devices are everywhere and 5G-enabled ones are on the rise. If hardware costs can indeed come down, and HNT token rewards provide enough incentive to justify the initial purchase, then an expanding distributed 5G network could prove vastly valuable.

“When we started – about a year ago now – working on it with Helium, it was like a totally crazy, alien concept,” Renski said. “Crypto is on the cutting edge of innovation, and telcos are almost like government organizations that are super conservative and slow to embrace anything new.”

“The fact that Qualcomm is actively engaging with us, and to such an extent that they’re actually investing in our business,” he continued, “I think that’s pretty good validation of [the idea] be a little less crazy at this point than just a year ago.

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