If you had 5G and cryptomining on your buzzword bingo cards, crack open the bubbly – FreedomFi gateways will mine the HNT cryptocurrency in exchange for providing 5G cellular coverage to IoT devices and passing users.
Fresh from rolling out its tech to US national parks earlier this month, FreedomFi yesterday announced it has buddied up with Helium Network to mine the latter's native crypto-coin on Magma-based 5G gateway devices in return for dispensing signal.
The aim of the deal is to augment the existing capacity of macro-cell tower operators with consumer-deployed devices that pair with 5G antennas. In a nutshell, a user equips themselves with a FreedomFi Gateway, a radio certified to operate in the CBRS band and compatible with both the gateway and the Helium network, and is good to go (in the US, at least).
And, obviously, plug that gear into a decent internet connection for all those 5G users to hop on.
How much one might make from such a setup depends on a variety of factors, including just how powerful that radio is. FreedomFi expects the cost of a radio to be between $500 and $5,000 depending on strength and throughput capability, and the gateway itself should go for $500. So no small investment, and one also needs to consider the number of offload roaming partners on the Helium network.
FreedomFi co-founder Boris Renski told The Register: "We expect that people living in highly trafficked, urban areas (like cities) should be able to make about 50 cents for every 1Gb of cellular data they transfer." Thus with a decent connection, a decent radio, and (most importantly) demand from customers, there is money to be made. Or at least reward for one's contribution.
But the devil is very much in the detail. Frank Mong, Helium COO, told The Register: "The mining rate will depend on a variety of factors such as distance, coverage quality, other networks, etc. It's an organic network with varying results depending on location."
And then there is the volatility of the cryptocurrency world to consider. Helium's $HNT cryptocurrency details can be found here.
There is, however, good news for those worrying about the environmental impact of such gear. "The amount of power consumed by the FreedomFi Gateway and an indoor CBRS radio," said Renski, "is comparable to that of a Wi-Fi access point." But we'd expect beefier radios to have considerably beefier power costs.
Still, with carriers offloading cell towers into consumer-deployed Wi-Fi access points in the form of Carrier Wi-Fi there is a certain logic in extending the pattern for 5G cells and access points. And lets face it, a little incentive never does anyone any harm.
The tech is currently US-only, but is expected to expand (via Wi-Fi at first) to other countries as the year goes on. Non-HNT-mining FreedomFi Gateways for private 5G networks also remain available for $299.
But if you do decide to set up your very own 5G rig, maybe don't advertise it on the neighbourhood social media group, eh? Not everyone will be a fan. ®