What is Helium? Exploring 'The People’s Network'

The Helium Network, commonly known as Helium, is helping to bring about advancements in the domain of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. With the introduction of its flagship product, the Helium Hotspot, in 2019, Helium brought to market a new approach to wireless networks through its blockchain-based solutions.

In this guide, we’ll explore Helium's diverse functionalities, its transition to Solana, its ecosystem, its array of tokens, and much more.

What is Helium Network?

Helium isn't your typical wireless network. It’s a global ecosystem of hotspots operating on blockchain principles. These hotspots, driven by token incentives, work collectively to provide and maintain wireless coverage in a cost-effective, decentralized, and community-centric way.

Forget big telecom giants with vulnerabilities, such as single points of failure and compromised security — Helium is powered by everyday individuals united by the common goal of fostering global connectivity.

The network's token dynamics, featuring HNT, IOT, and MOBILE, are integral to its various functionalities. At the core of Helium's subnetworks, including the IoT and mobile networks, lies the distinctive proof-of-coverage (PoC) consensus algorithm, providing a robust and secure infrastructure for efficient operations.

Helium’s transformative impact on IoT networks

Helium's technology empowers a wide variety of IoT devices, spanning from smart pet collars and home delivery systems to scooters, cooling systems, and smart lighting systems. Presently, Helium counts almost a million hotspots worldwide, spread across 77,000 towns and cities in 192 countries. This makes Helium the largest Long-Range Wide-Area Network (LoRaWAN) network globally.

Expanding into the 5G arena, Helium deployed 8,000 5G Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) radios within a year. With over 100,000 actively connected devices, excluding those through roaming partners, Helium's ecosystem is a major force in the decentralized IoT network landscape. At the time of writing, the ecosystem featured 25 Hotspot manufacturers, four LoRaWAN roaming partners, and collaborations with recognized carriers.

Helium’s migration to Solana: a new era of scalability, reliability, and utility

In a strategic move, Helium transitioned from its layer-1 Helium blockchain to the Solana blockchain on April 18, 2023. This shift aims to improve scalability, reliability, and utility for the wireless network.

Scalability challenges faced by Helium’s blockchain

Helium has recognized the challenges sometimes faced by its core developers, particularly in managing two critical components:

  • PoC: PoC is a consensus algorithm used in the Helium Network, particularly in its subnetworks, the IoT and mobile networks. It's a mechanism through which hotspots provide wireless coverage for IoT devices and, in return, earn HNT rewards. The algorithm validates and incentivizes participants by confirming network coverage for connected devices. With the influx of hotspots — each contributing to PoC — the network faced challenges in efficiently managing and confirming the promised network coverage.

  • Reliable data transfer: Similarly, as the Helium network grew, guaranteeing secure, accurate, and reliable data transfer between devices and through Hotspots became increasingly complex.

The complexity and volume of Helium’s network activities outpaced its original blockchain’s capacity. In response, the migration to Solana was intended to provide a fix. With Solana's advanced capabilities, including a large developer network, increased composability, enhanced token utility, and a scalable smart contract platform, Helium hopes to overcome the scalability constraints that hindered its original blockchain. The widespread approval of the migration from the Helium community underscores its potential.

What Helium users can expect after the move

Following the migration, users can expect several notable changes:

  • Hotspots as non-fungible tokens (NFTs): Hotspots, the backbone of Helium's networks, will be minted as NFTs on Solana. This could open up new possibilities for token-gated experiences, credentials provision, and authenticity verification. The migration also introduces compressed NFTs, streamlining file sizes for decreased storage costs, lower transaction fees, and enhanced scalability.

  • Evolution of the HNT token: Previously, LoRaWAN hotspot hosts earned Helium mining rewards in the form of HNT through the PoC mechanism. Now, LoRaWAN hotspots will mine IOT tokens instead, serving as both the incentive and governance token for the Helium network. HNT retains its role as the exclusive token for network usage and device onboarding. Additionally, HNT will continue to be burned for Data Credits (DCs), which are used for data transfer and communication within the Helium Network. Users can redeem IOT tokens for HNT through the Helium Wallet app.

  • Revamped governance model: Helium has shifted from a token-centric approach to a more inclusive vote-escrow governance model. Participants are now required to lock up Helium tokens for voting and governance, with voting power determined by both the quantity of locked tokens and the duration of the lockup. This is in contrast to the previous emphasis on token quantity alone. This evolved model, extended to cover IOT and MOBILE tokens, facilitates autonomous governance for Helium's IoT and 5G networks, respectively. It's important to note that while staking HNT yields rewards, staking IOT and MOBILE tokens only grants voting power.

  • Smart contract functionality: The introduction of smart contract functionality unlocks a wide range of programmatic features and tools. Smart contracts facilitate various decentralized applications (DApps), allowing for more sophisticated and complex operations on Helium. This not only enhances the network's capabilities but also fosters innovation by providing developers with the tools to create decentralized solutions.

  • Lower costs: Transaction fees are significantly lower on Solana. On Helium, the average transaction fee is $0.35. On Solana, the average fee is $0.00025.

  • Access to decentralized finance (DeFi): Solana's vibrant DeFi ecosystem welcomes owners of HNT, IOT, and MOBILE tokens, providing access to diverse markets and liquidity rewards on platforms like Orca and Kamino. The Helium Wallet app will also gain direct access to DeFi.

  • Global developer community: Initially using Erlang for its layer-1 blockchain — a language less common in crypto circles — Helium now embraces Solana's ecosystem, which boasts a highly engaged, global developer community. The regular Hacker Houses organized by Solana indicate strong developer presence and collaboration, providing Helium with increased exposure, potential partnerships, and a broader pool of talent.

  • Enhanced network efficiency: Network functions transition to oracles, providing faster data processing for devices and eliminating the need for users to depend on chain uptime for data throughput. This results in heightened stability and reliability.

  • Solana Program Library (SPL) compatibility for expanded utility: The SPL standard opens avenues for Helium token compatibility with platforms within Solana's ecosystem. Meanwhile, it streamlines integrations across the cryptocurrency industry, where SPL is a frequently accepted standard for crypto exchanges, wallets, and service providers, thereby amplifying utility for Helium tokens.

  • Open-source development opportunities: Post-move, developers can leverage Helium's core technology to create new applications. Helium will serve as a foundational layer for projects and businesses seeking wireless connectivity solutions. Potential applications range from tracking physical assets and monitoring air quality to water metering, wildfire detection, foot traffic monitoring, and beyond. To support such initiatives, the Helium Foundation has reopened its grant program. The program provides funding and support for open-source development of hardware and software that contribute to decentralized wireless networks and applications within the Helium ecosystem.

How does Helium Network work?

The Helium Network combines wireless infrastructure with blockchain technology to create a global, peer-to-peer (P2P) wireless network. The network relies on PoC mechanisms to validate and incentivize participants, primarily facilitated through specialized devices known as Helium Hotspots. These hotspots, essentially nodes or access points in the network, play a pivotal role in providing long-range wireless coverage for low-power IoT devices and maintaining reliable data transfer.

Within the Helium ecosystem, distinct subnetworks operate independently, each delivering unique services and setting individual rates for users seeking access and usage of their services.

Helium’s IoT network

Helium’s IoT network combines blockchain technology and LoRaWAN protocols, enabling robust connectivity for diverse users and applications. Businesses, organizations, and individuals seeking IoT benefits can deploy devices, such as sensors and actuators, that require long-range, low-power connectivity.

Hotspots on this network collect data from Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) sensors, relaying it through Helium's LoRaWAN servers to specific device application servers. These servers present insights to user-friendly dashboards, supporting the efficient monitoring and tracking of IoT devices. With applications spanning smart cities, agriculture, logistics, and more, the network empowers users to gather data effectively.

Users on the IoT network are billed at a rate of 1 DC for every 24-byte packet of data sent or received.

Use cases

Helium’s IoT network fuels a multitude of applications spanning various sectors. Businesses and municipalities apply Helium's capabilities to cut connectivity costs while elevating operational efficiency and accountability. Here's how:

  • Roof Tec: Roof Tec, a Washington-based roofing expert, relies on Helium's IoT network for real-time monitoring. Integrating Dragino sensors and MyDevices dashboards, Roof Tec averted a $40,000 roof replacement by detecting a disconnected vent fan causing mold buildup. Helium's long-range coverage in remote areas demonstrates its value in preventing costly damages.

  • Greenmetrics: Greenmetrics, a Portugal-based climate tech innovator, leverages Helium's IoT network to revolutionize irrigation in the golf industry. Deploying soil sensors and wireless weather stations connected through Helium, Greenmetrics enables golf courses to optimize their water usage. The results? A 14-28% reduction in irrigation costs and 5-10x hardware cost savings. This approach not only addresses environmental concerns but also aligns with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Owen Equipment: Owen Equipment, a US-based specialized machinery provider, transforms its tracking and logistics operations with Helium's IoT network. Struggling with the high costs and unreliability of 3G cellular network, Owen Equipment turned to LoneStar Tracking, which uses Helium’s LoRaWAN network for robust and cost-effective solutions. This resulted in a 47% reduction in costs, protection of over $2 million in assets, and doubled the battery life.

Helium’s 5G mobile network

Helium Mobile, developed by the Nova Labs team, is Helium's 5G mobile network designed for consumers seeking affordable and decentralized mobile connectivity. It welcomes users with compatible devices, such as smartphones or tablets equipped with Helium Mobile Hotspots. These hotspots incorporate CBRS and WiFi technology to promote flexibility for users with different connectivity requirements and preferences.

Users can actively participate in the mobile network, enhance its coverage, and earn rewards in MOBILE tokens for their contributions to data transfers and PoC. These tokens can be used to offset up to three months of phone service bills, including taxes and fees.

Positioned as an alternative to traditional mobile connectivity, the network embraces a community-driven approach, enabling individuals to benefit from decentralized and incentivized wireless services. Recent milestones include the introduction of the $5 unlimited plan in Miami and expansion into Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In comparison to Helium’s IoT network, the mobile network employs a different pricing model, charging users $0.50 for every gigabyte (GB) of data used.

Who created Helium Network?

Helium Network was founded by Amir Haleem, Shawn Fanning, and Sean Carey in 2013. Haleem serves as the CEO, bringing extensive experience in technology and entrepreneurship. Fanning, known for developing the P2P file-sharing platform Napster, and Carey, a seasoned entrepreneur, contribute to the leadership team.

Together, the co-founders strive to reduce barriers to entry for IoT connectivity by establishing a community-driven wireless network fueled by economic incentives.

Helium tokens: HNT, IOT, MOBILE, DC, SOL

Helium operates on a token-based ecosystem, with key tokens shaping its functions: HNT, IOT, MOBILE, DC, and SOL.


HNT, the native cryptocurrency and protocol token of the Helium Network, serves dual purposes — obtaining DCs for network transactions and participating in governance. The maximum supply of HNT is capped at 223 million tokens, and holders can stake the asset to earn rewards.


IOT is the protocol token for Helium’s IoT Network, mined by LoRaWAN hotspots. It functions as a reward token for hotspot hosts, incentivizing data transfer and verifying coverage through PoC. The Helium Wallet app facilitates exchanges from IOT to HNT. Besides that, IOT holds significance in governance decisions. HNT has a capped supply of 200 billion tokens.


Serving as the protocol token for Helium’s mobile network, MOBILE mirrors IOT's functionality. It acts as a reward for CBRS and WiFi hotspots, encouraging data transfer and PoC participation. MOBILE can be converted to HNT through the Helium Wallet app. MOBILE also plays a role in governance matters and has a maximum supply of 230 billion tokens.


DCs, USD-pegged utility tokens derived from HNT, cover data transmission fees on the Helium Network. Produced by burning HNT, this mechanism supports the responsiveness of supply to network usage trends.


SOL tokens are required to interact with the Solana blockchain on which Helium runs. Various actions, including sending tokens, staking, making payments, swapping tokens, minting NFTs, claiming hotspot rewards, and on-chain Helium transactions, incur SOL fees.

Helium governance

Helium employs on-chain voting using the Solana Blockchain for transparency and immutability. Realms, a tool within Helium, enables on-chain voting, and the veToken model, inspired by Curve, serves to maximize rewards and enable governance.

The governance of the Helium Network, IoT subnetwork, and mobile subnetwork is distinct. Each network operates with its own set of rules and decision-making processes. The veToken governance model allows participants to stake HNT, IOT, or MOBILE tokens to acquire voting power for the respective network. The longer the staking period, the greater the voting strength.

  • Helium Network: Staking HNT grants veHNT, which is used to vote on matters affecting the entire Helium Network. This includes proposals related to HNT emissions and other network-wide decisions.

  • IoT subnetwork: veIOT is specific to the IoT subnetwork, focusing on the growth and development of IoT devices and applications. By staking IOT tokens, participants acquire veIOT, which translates into voting power for governance within this specific network.

  • Mobile subnetwork: veMOBILE is used for the growth and expansion of Helium’s mobile network. Participants can secure veMOBILE by staking MOBILE tokens, granting them voting influence and participation in governance matters specific to the mobile network.

The final word

To many, Helium represents a paradigm shift, breaking from traditional models and putting the reins of global connectivity into the hands of everyday individuals. Its unique blend of wireless infrastructure, blockchain technology, and decentralized governance goes beyond providing mere connectivity. The project aims to actively involve users in the network.

This shift encourages inclusivity and autonomy, fundamentally reshaping network dynamics. Helium's journey could mark an important step towards a new era where connectivity is collaborative, driven by the collective influence of individuals.

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