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DIY 5G specialist FreedomFi acquired by Nova Labs

Aiming to make Helium the standard for decentralized networks

DIY 5G network outfit FreedomFi has been bought by Nova Labs, the founding team behind the Helium Network.

Helium provides a decentralized wireless network. FreedomFi signed a deal with the organization in 2021 to allow users to offer up their FreedomFi gateways for the purposes of mining the HNT cryptocurrency in return for providing 5G cellular coverage to IoT devices and passing users.

Things have clearly moved apace, and Nova Labs today announced the acquisition of FreedomFi and its 30-person team with a view to expanding into the mobile space and making Helium the standard for decentralized networks.

While the exact terms of the deal, a combination of cash and stock, have not been disclosed, FreedomFi co-founder and CEO Boris Renski noted that the company had raised $9.5 million earlier this year in Series A funding from investors including Qualcomm and Samsung.

Regardless of how one might feel about the HNT incentive model, the FreedomFi kit is impressive. With Magma-based software behind the scenes, it represents a relatively low-cost way to set up gateways supporting CBRS and LoRaWan. There is also a "Powered by FreedomFi" program with a goal of growing the decentralized wireless community and enable deployment on bespoke partner hardware.

Renski told The Register that FreedomFi was "a profitable business" and had no pressure to sell. However, he added: "We genuinely felt that joining the Nova team would enable us to executive on the market opportunity more effectively together.

"Part of the reason for proceeding with the acquisition is FreedomFi and Nova Labs having surprisingly aligned visions on how to play in the distributed wireless market, so we will continue working with all of our existing customers and partners like we have been before the acquisition took place."

The deal comes hot on the heels of Amazon dipping a toe in the private mobile network marketplace with AWS Private 5G.

Renski told The Register at the time: "I am very happy to see AWS making a push into CBRS because they are a pioneer and an awesome driver for bottom-up adoption of new technology, always focusing on making things cheap and simple.

"I always said the only way CBRS becomes useful is if it's as cheap and simple as Wi-Fi.

"I think FreedomFi's vision for CBRS (and Private 5G in general) is very much inline with what AWS is pushing," he added, before going on to raise an eyebrow at the days required to get rolling with AWS's kit and the $10/hour running costs. "FreedomFi small cells are $1,500 one-time fee and take less than an hour to set up today." ®

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