Helium (HNT) ($2.2 billion market cap) is a "proof-of-coverage" cryptocurrency project operating a global wireless network intended for internet of things (IoT) devices. The Helium network is powered by special hotspots that provide network coverage and mine HNT coins.
The Helium network is provided by companies and individuals running Helium-specific, long-range WiFi (LongFi) hotspots. There are nearly 150,000 active hotspots.
These network hotspots provide low-bandwidth, high-range coverage, making them suitable for IoT devices. Helium claims their hotspots offer "200x the range of Wi-Fi at 1/1000th of the cost of a cellular modem."
Generally speaking, network strength improves for an area as the density of hotspots increases. Each hotspot requires an ethernet connection or a cellular data plan.
Helium will be offering 5G mobile connections soon.
Helium mining is performed on the hotspot devices that provide the network coverage. Popular models include the Bobcat Miner 300 and the RAK Hotspot Miner V2.
Helium network miners earn more HNT when they are near other miners, but each hotspot needs to be at least 1,000 feet apart. A single hotspot with no nearby hotspots earns less HNT because it cannot participate in the proof-of-coverage.
Currently, all mining devices are on backorder for retail customers.
The Bobcat Miner 300 ($429) is known to ship within the estimated timeframe, but that’s currently 12-20 weeks. Bobcat Miners frequently sell for $2,000 on eBay.
The RAK Hotspot Miner V2 is likely delayed at least a few months.
Helium has a unique pricing model: they offer unlimited data and charge for device usage, offering support for very large numbers of device connections. Customers operating enterprise-level (greater than 15 hotspots) IoT swarms on the Helium network include Salesforce, Nestle, and Lime.
Helium was co-founded by Napster inventor Shawn Fanning and has been a favorite of tech investors for years. The company raised over $51 million before its public launch in 2019, and earlier this month, Helium announced it had taken on an additional $111 million in funding.