DISH Wireless hooks up with Helium's decentralised 5G network via FreedomFi gear

Connecting data and rewarding people with cryptocash, if they want it


US carrier DISH Wireless has buddied up with Helium blockchain crew and FreedomFi to permit users to roam onto the Helium network, built with the latter's 5G CBRS hotspots.

The deal is similar to that announced with GigSky back in September, although DISH Wireless is a considerably larger fish in the US carrier pond.

DISH has big plans for 5G, and last year announced it was to build out "the first virtualized, standalone 5G network in America." It is also no stranger to blockchain, first accepting payments in Bitcoin from television subscribers back in 2014.

Helium is a decentralised wireless network where customers can strengthen or add 5G wireless coverage using the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. In return, customers are rewarded with $HNT, a Helium network-based token. That 5G coverage is provided by FreedomFi 5G Gateways and certified small cells.

Costwise, FreedomFi founder Boris Renski told The Register that the hardware deployed would retail at $999 for the FreedomFi Gateway and $1,499 for a certified indoor small cell. The figures might raise an eyebrow or two if you've read FreedomFi's FAQ, which estimated a production Gateway would be nearer $500. Renski blamed the bulk of the increase on "semiconductor shortages."

"These devices," he told us, "can be purchased and deployed by anybody to create cellular wireless coverage that is then used by roaming partners like GigSky and DISH. Consumers earn HNT cryptocurrency in return for making this self-hosted mini-cellular networks available to roaming partners."

As for punters paying for their DISH subscriptions with all that crypto, the answer was: "Not at this time." Instead, Renski said: "DISH will be able to roam onto the Helium cellular network, built using FreedomFi Gateways."

Thus far, FreedomFi has shipped the first 500 gateways, with another 2,000 due to be in the hands of customers by the end of this month, along with 500 indoor CBRS radios. The 5G waitlist is due to be reopened next month for another 10,000 units.

While the DISH deal is all about 5G, it remains possible for customers to mine for rewards with just the FreedomFi gateway and built-in LoRa module. Mining can also be turned off entirely for customers that simply want their own private 5G network. ®

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