Helium Mobile is coming soon- how does it work?
You've probably heard about Helium Mobile by now. A forthcoming cellular provider, they inked a deal with T-Mobile last summer (see our video analysis), and are expected to launch publicly later this spring.
Helium Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO, meaning they buy data wholesale from T-Mobile, and offer retail level 4G and 5G data packages to consumers for their phones and devices. But unlike a traditional MVNO, they also have their own network of hotspots which provide ultra high speed data at a fraction of the cost of T-Mobile wholesale rates. This means that overall, they can offer lower cost data than competitors.
How do they do it?
While Helium was developing a nationwide network of IoT hotspots from 2019 to 2022 (called Helium Mobile), they were also deploying 5G hotspots to roll out a nationwide network of 5G capable data transmitters. The cost to deploy this hardware was much higher, and those who have deployed hotspots earn $MOBILE tokens as a reward. But what do these hotspots do?
In simple terms, they use a new band from the FCC called Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), aka Band 48. When hooked up to an Internet source like business fiber optic or cable, the Helium Mobile hotspots convert this Internet access into a 5G signal sent out over band 48. Users within a few thousand feet or more in any direction can connect to this 5G signal provided they have a compatible plan and SIM card from Helium Mobile.
More about band 48
Band 48 is a wireless communication frequency band used for the deployment of the 5G (aka 5th Generation) mobile network. It is referred to as the "Citizens Broadband Radio Service" (CBRS) band in the United States.
The CBRS operates in the 3.5 GHz frequency band, which was previously reserved for military radar systems. The FCC recognized that this frequency band was underutilized and could be repurposed for commercial use. In 2015, the FCC adopted rules for the shared use of the 3.5 GHz band, which would enable new commercial services while protecting existing federal and non-federal users.
The use of Band 48 enables faster data transfer speeds, lower latency, and improved network reliability for mobile devices, making it an essential component of 5G technology. In addition, Band 48 can be used for a range of other applications, including private wireless networks for businesses and public safety communications.
RAKwireless launched their own private 5G hotspot hardware in 2023 called the All-in-One 5G small cell, which would allow a corporate campus or university for example to deploy a private 5G network using e-SIMs.
While RAK's offering is for private networks, Helium Mobile has partnered with T-Mobile to offer any customer access to data anywhere in the USA at a low cost. If you are a customer in range of a Helium Mobile hotspot, you will receive priority ultrafast access to the Helium Mobile network. If not in range of one, you will be put on the T-Mobile towers in the area.
While Helium Mobile hotspot coverage is still a work in progress (most hotspots are condensed around larger cities), the network is expected to grow rapidly when Helium Mobile introduces lower cost hotspots to the general public later this year. Until then, Helium Mobile customers still need not worry, as they will have T-Mobile backed coverage throughout the USA.
Stay tuned for an exciting line of Helium Mobile compatible products coming from Rokland later this year.