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Need US mobile data? Cellular data plan launches on the Helium Blockchain

The Great Gig in the Sky, or a new plan on GigSky?

Mobile tech outfit GigSky is to add a data plan to its mobile app, using the Citizen's Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) small cell infrastructure deployed by the Helium blockchain community.

Interesting stuff. More interesting, however, is the 5G option afforded by FreedomFi (whose gateways will cheerfully mine HNT cryptocurrency in return for a bit of bandwidth to provide 5G coverage for passing users.)

FreedomFi buddied up with Helium earlier this year with a view to adding 5G to Helium's LoRaWAN network. The addition of the US Helium plan to GigSky is therefore significant, since it represents an offloading of traffic from cellular phones rather than the IoT devices and sensors with which Helium has been associated.

"GigSky customers have an option to choose a data plan that will automatically steer data to the Helium cellular network in places where coverage is available," explained FreedomFi Founder, Boris Renski, "This is the first time in human history that a cellular operator relied on coverage being deployed by a blockchain community network."

Renski's enthusiasm and hyperbole aside, the arrival of the plan does give customers the opportunity to try out the Helium cellular network in action. In the US at least, for now.

GigSky itself goes beyond the US, with multi-country plans in place, including the UK. "In Q1 next year," Renski told The Register, "we plan to certify Wi-Fi 6 Access Points such that participants of Helium Network (close to 200,000 now) will be able to plug in a Wi-Fi 6 Access Point into a FreedomFi Gateway and make it possible (for GigSky and the like customers) to seamlessly and automatically connect to those Access Points.

"Using Wi-Fi will allow us to expand internationally, including [in the] UK."

Projects such as the open source Magma have paved the way, and the vendor-agnostic 5G tech sits beneath FreedomFi's platform.

"When it comes to open source software for building private cellular networks," said Renski, "Magma is, by far, a breakaway leader. Its support for 1,000+ node scale, friendly GUI, support for 5G and cloud native architecture make it stand out."

Renski also paid tribute to advanced features of the project, such as intercarrier roaming, before cautioning that simply playing in a space already occupied by bigger children and their proprietary toys, for example Nokia or Ericsson, was not a guarantee of success.

Citing Linux (not on the desktop, obviously) and Kubernetes as examples of "winners" that succeeded by enabling new architectures and new ways of thinking, Renski told us: "I think the same is true for Magma. It can't win by going head-to-head against Ericsson. It needs to become a driving engine for completely new connectivity paradigms."

As for the US Helium plan, the expectation is the network will continue expanding. Over time, "it is expected that the cost of cellular data on the network will eventually retail for 50 cents per gigabyte." ®

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