Helium, a crypto-fueled shared wireless network that pays consumers to operate hotspots, overstated its partnerships. PCMag can confirm that none of the equipment offered as “Helium 5G” involves the mainstream concept of 5G.
The “Helium 5G” network is a 4G LTE CBRS network, which has substantial advantages over 5G but no “5G” label for marketing. It’s called 5G because anyone may use any phrase to signify anything.
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“Helium 5G is here—the second major wireless network supported by the Helium blockchain,” the company’s website proclaims. Its partners include Dish and GigSky, plus FreedomFi, Baicells, MosoLabs, CalChip, and Bobcat.
You buy a “gateway” box and a tiny cell. The gateway box connects to wired internet. You receive a crypto coin called “mobile” for proving coverage and extra for data transfers later (Opens in a new window). The “mobile” token translates to Helium’s tradeable HNT token. Helium rents its network to other cellular operators, whose customers can utilise it to fill coverage gaps.
Boris Renski of FreedomFi claims 4G over CBRS is superior to 5G NR, but he calls LTE 5G.
LTE sounds cooler, so we name it that. If industry can, so can us “FreedomFi’s FAQs state. Nobody else does it.
Leotis: “5G is a sexier name,” The FreedomFi gateway and Magma core are 5G-ready, however the radios are LTE.
FreedomFi argues that something can be 5G if it has a “5G-compliant architecture for the network core” but no 5G radios. I’ve never heard this argument from anyone else in the business; 5G requires a 5G NR radio somewhere.
“5G ready” is not 5G. If I’m ready to rock, I’m not rocking yet. I may be rocking soon. However? Lackluster. FreedomFi surpasses AT&T. It uses the “E” in 5GE to avoid calling it 5G. Still dubious, but less so than FreedomFi.
Helium misrepresents 5G coverage
Helium also promises better 5G coverage than currently exists.
The Helium Explorer reports 2,009 “5G hotspots” in 47 states. In a brief test in New York City, I saw no more than 70-meter range on Helium LTE hotspots. Helium can cover large areas on its map yet only serve small locations.
The huge hexes on the map are for privacy, not coverage.” By darkening in 1km hexes rather than utilising dropped pins to identify hotspots, they imply extensive coverage.
GigSky is the only option to use the new network right now. CBRS-compatible phones (b48) can download the GigSky app and choose the $60 “Helium Bundle,” which provides 5GB of data on major US networks and unlimited bandwidth on the Helium network.
I signed up for GigSky on an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S22+ using the NetMonitor Pro app in NYC. GigSky uses AT&T’s single LTE channel with different LTE bands.