Crypto-fueled wireless network Helium has successfully completed its anticipated migration from its own layer-1 blockchain platform to Solana. Helium founders and backers see potential for Solana to unlock additional use cases around the network—which may be facilitated by a mass-scale NFT mint tied to the migration.
As part of the migration process, an NFT is being minted to represent each physical hotspot node running on the Helium network, ultimately tallying over 991,000 Solana NFTs. Hotspot owners will claim their respective NFT when they log into the wallet tied to the hotspot, and owners can still transfer or update hotspot locations as they please.
"Helium developers took a snapshot of the existing blockchain and loaded the necessary transactions to the new blockchain," Helium Foundation Head of Protocol Engineering Noah Prince told Decrypt. "The contracts are permissionless and on-chain."
More than 150,00 of the NFTs had been minted as of Wednesday morning, per public blockchain data compiled on analytics platform Flipside Crypto. The process appears to be ongoing, although the data on the platform is slightly delayed.
It’s the most prominent test case to date for Solana’s new state compression feature, which lets creators mint potentially enormous amounts of NFTs for relatively low cost compared to other platforms—or even to Solana’s standard NFT minting process.
According to the Solana Foundation, the process cuts the estimated cost of minting 1 million NFTs to about $113 worth of SOL (as of April 5). Compare that to an estimated $253,000 worth of SOL using Solana without the compression tech, or about $32,800 worth of MATIC on Ethereum scaling network Polygon.
Minting that many NFTs on the Ethereum mainnet would cost creators an estimated $33.6 million, the Solana Foundation claims. Solana’s NFT compression feature potentially provides creators and brands a way to serve up large amounts of NFTs to a broader audience without a significant cost attached.
Why mint a Solana NFT to represent each of the nearly 1 million Helium hotspots? According to the Helium Foundation, the token works as a network credential and authenticates the hotspot, all in a decentralized fashion. Furthermore, the NFT enables possible ecosystem-wide integrations, including token-gated benefits and access for hotspot owners.
Helium’s migration to Solana was approved via a community vote in September 2022, beginning the months-long process of bringing the “network of networks”—which incentivizes users to share their wireless service by giving them crypto token rewards—to the public blockchain network used for things like NFT collectibles and DeFi protocols.
The original Helium LoRaWAN network, which provides connectivity for lightweight Internet of Things (IoT) devices like sensors and trackers, makes up almost the vast majority of that hotspot tally. Hotspot operators share their home or business internet bandwidth to power the global network, and earn tokens for participating in the network.
Additionally, Helium plays host to a growing 5G network that’s more consumer-facing and used for devices like smartphones and laptops. It’s relatively nascent, however: the network counts more than 8,000 total hotspots at present, with the early 5G hotspot nodes costing considerably more than the Helium IoT hotspots.
Nova Labs, which comprises the original Helium network founders, is launching a Helium Mobile smartphone wireless service in the United States this spring, which pairs Helium 5G connectivity with T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G coverage. Helium Mobile is being marketed in tandem with the newly-launched Solana Saga smartphone, which also works with other carriers.