I was originally sceptical of the Helium Hotspot being profitable, so any statement I make here could be equally inaccurate.
Yesterday, Helium announced the next phase of their people-powered network with intention of becoming the first consumer-owned 5G network in the world.
Helium FreedomFi 5G Gateway
Similar to the LoRaWAN Helium Hotspots, users will be able to buy a FreedomFi Gateway that pairs with 5G antennas and is compatible with the Helium Network. The FreedomFi Gateway will then reward you in HNT for providing 5G connectivity.
The new gateways will be for the US only at first, and they will operate on the CBRS spectrum band utilising the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz bands (Sub 6) in the United States. CBRS is important because it allows the company to deploy 5G mobile networks without having to acquire spectrum licenses. The need for spectrum licenses could make the launch of international models a little harder.
This immediately sounds like it will have more commercial success than a LoRaWAN network. There are not a lot of commercial devices utilising LoRaWAN yet, but plenty using 5G.
So you would think running a Helium 5G Hotspot is a guaranteed way to make a lot of HNT cryptocurrency.
However, there are some caveats.
How much does the FreedomFi Gateway cost?
For a start, the cost of the initial FreedomFi Gateway set-up. It is not the gateway itself that will cost a lot of money (just $500) but the 5G radio you need to buy for it. You will have options to select different powered radios (a bit like the Helium antennas, but more expensive), and these are expected to vary from $500 to $5000 per CBRS cellular radio. FreedomFi Gateways will allow you to plug in or more CBRS radios to maximise data offload throughput and your resulting HNT mining rewards. So it is going to be a massive upfront cost.
How much HNT will the FreedomFi Gateway mine?
Then there is the issue of the amount of HNT you will be rewarded. Early adopters have done well from Helium, but the halving arrives in August. While there are still only 29,500 hotspots online, there are over 200K pre-ordered waiting to be shipped to customers. They are currently forecasting over 600,000 Hotspots in the next 18 months. So the HNT rewards will halve, and then they will be split by 10x or more users.
On a more positive note, the Helium 5G network should have commercial applications immediately, so it is likely to drive up the cost of HNT considerably (assuming a successful rollout). Because the 5G hotspots will have more potential clients from the start, they should have more chances of earning HNT than the LoRaWAN alternatives.
So overall, it sounds like it could be a risky investment, but I said you would get an ROI last time and was quickly proved wrong. So clearly, I know nothing.