Helium Expands European Roaming With Dutch LoRaWAN Group Techtenna


By James Blackman

Blockchain-based edge-operated network company Helium has a new roaming deal with Dutch LoRaWAN network operator Techtenna, allowing Techtenna-originated LoRaWAN devices to utilize Helium’s network in Europe and the US, and also in other markets. Helium, presently focused on LoRaWAN network building, has struck a number of roaming deals in recent months, including with LoRaWAN luminaries Actility in France, Senet in the US, and X-TELIA in Canada.

Helium’s latest network build-out figures claim 610,000 LoRaWAN hotspots in 47,000 cities around the world, with new growth in Europe, notably. The firm uses a blockchain model to effectively crowd-source LoRaWAN coverage, presented as a ‘people’s network’, where privately-hosted LoRaWAN hotspots, including those from new roaming partners, mine its HNT cryptocurrency token for providing coverage and carrying data.

A blockchain algorithm rewards users for verifying coverage, and thereby proving location and connectivity. Hotspots also earn HNT by transferring data from IoT devices over the network. Netherlands-based Techtenna has said it will deploy more than two million LoRaWAN devices by 2023, for usage in a broad set of smart cities applications, such as for utility metering, forest conservation, and agricultural solutions.

The deal with Helium will allow its devices to roam more widely, beyond its Dutch LoRaWAN operations. The firm has metering pilots with water utility Brabant Water in the south of the country and engineering firm Verbruiksoverzicht in the city of Gronigen, both for 300-odd water meters, as well as with smart cities software provider Geosparc, for 3,000 parking sensors in Antwerp, and companies such as Landstad de Baronie and Natuurmonumenten for forest conservation.

A statement from Helium said: “Roaming partnerships with other wireless networks allows Helium to route that traffic to these partners, dramatically increasing usage on the Helium Network and providing increased global coverage for partners. As there is more emphasis placed on usage versus providing coverage for HNT rewards over time, roaming with partners such as Techtenna will be important drivers of data transfer for Hotspot owners.”

HNT is currently (March 10) trading at about US$21; it had topped US$30 in January, down from a high of more than US$50 in November. The company’s market capitalisation stands at around US$2.38 billion. Last week, French mobile operator Bouygues Telecom, one of two public operators offering nationwide LoRaWAN in France, announced it was stopping support for LoRaWAN, with new sales ceasing in September and all network support ending from 2024.

Bouygues Telecom said it was throwing its weight behind cellular-based low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT alternatives NB-IoT and LTE-M instead. Helium, along with Amazon’s LoRa-based Sidewalk initiative, remains arguably the brightest spots in the LoRa/LoRaWAN market, recording significant growth, and showing a new business model for network infrastructure building in the slow-burning IoT sector.

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