The Transition to Solana — A New Chapter for Helium

We’re about to make one of the largest migra­tions ever done on a blockchain, from one L1 to anoth­er. Sure, there have been oth­er large migra­tions, but this is eas­i­ly the largest ever seen in the DePIN space. With that that as our frame­work, let’s talk about the rea­sons for the move, the chal­lenges we face, the oppor­tu­ni­ties on Solana, and what your expec­ta­tions for the move might rea­son­ably be.

First, let’s talk rea­sons. The idea of Heli­um hav­ing their own L1 was born out of neces­si­ty; no oth­er L1 at the time did what Heli­um need­ed to be able to do. The Heli­um team (now most­ly the Nova team, though many for­mer Nova employ­ees are now at Heli­um Foun­da­tion) built the thing they need­ed. When they built it, I don’t think any­one on the team thought Heli­um would get as big as it did as fast as it did. But it did. 

We all watched Heli­um grow from from 0 to 900k LoRaWAN nodes in less than 3 years, some­thing that nev­er hap­pened before and prob­a­bly won’t ever hap­pen that fast again. We’re com­ing back down to more rea­son­able lev­els now, around 400k Hotspots as I type this in late March of 2023. I expect we’ll even­tu­al­ly set­tle some­where around 200k glob­al­ly, for rea­sons that com­bine util­i­ty (“I need a Hotspot here to pro­vide cov­er­age”) and incen­tives (at around 200k Hotspots on the net­work the amount of HNT earned is enough of an incen­tive to main­tain it). 

Of course, Heli­um isn’t just the world’s largest LoRaWAN net­work any­more (for com­par­i­son, TTN, the near­est com­peti­tor, is one twen­ti­eth the size with 22k gate­ways glob­al­ly). From the begin­ning, their white paper has talked about mul­ti­ple wire­less pro­to­cols, and we’ve seen CBRS launched in the last year with rum­blings of WiFi, VPNs, and CDNs in the future. To acco­mo­date all these net­works, we need some­thing that the Heli­um L1 does­n’t have, which is the abil­i­ty to eas­i­ly run mul­ti­ple tokens all tied to one token, with data cred­its flow­ing across all systems. 

Enter Solana. Love it or hate it, it’s one of the largest blockchains that can han­dle this job. It’s big, it’s fast, it’s got a live­ly devel­op­er com­mu­ni­ty, is rea­son­ably sta­ble, and is like­ly to con­tin­ue to improve. Of course there are oth­ers that could also work, but Solana is where we’re going.

So, now that we’ve estab­lished where we’re going and why, let’s talk about the chal­lenges, oppor­tu­ni­ties, and expec­ta­tions. Let’s start with expec­ta­tions for the transition.

Expectations & Action Required

Let’s start with what you should do to prepare. 

First, make sure you have your 12 words for any Heli­um wal­let you have writ­ten down some­where safe. You can ham­mer ’em into met­al, you can type ’em on a type­writer, you can write ’em on a piece of paper…whatever. Just make sure you have ’em some­where safe. What else should you do?

Sec­ond, tran­si­tion from the blue to the black Heli­um app. The blue one is the old one, the black one is the new one. Search in your App store for the Heli­um app that’s black, load it up, enter your 12 words, and you’re done. You can always find it at:

Yep, it’s that easy. If you want to explore a lit­tle bit more, pick up a Phan­tom wal­let, dig into the Set­tings on the Heli­um black app, and play around. One note; if you’re using a Phan­tom wal­let you’ll need your “Pri­vate Key” (the grey but­ton in the image on the left above), not your 12/24 word secret phrase. 

Now, that’s all YOU have to do. The Heli­um team has way more of the load than you.

On April 18th (the expect­ed tran­si­tion date), I’d make sure I don’t have any Heli­um-relat­ed activ­i­ties planned. No installs, no trans­fers, no DC top ups, no mis­sion crit­i­cal sen­sors, no new pur­chas­es. Just chill, yo. I’d expect about a 48 hour tran­si­tion. The tran­si­tion is unlike­ly to be with­out flaw. Despite the best efforts of very tal­ent­ed peo­ple, this is a com­plex and large thing nev­er done before.

As a rea­son­able human, you should expect tur­bu­lence in the short term. Exchanges will halt deposits. You won’t be able to pull tokens out. The sys­tem won’t work tem­porar­i­ly. In the long term it’ll work out, but if you brace your­self for sig­nif­i­cant short term tur­bu­lence you’ll be able to nav­i­gate the tran­si­tion much bet­ter. This includes the expect­ed FUD that’ll take over the Heli­um Twit­ter­verse as we tran­si­tion. If you see things like “Heli­um is DED!” or “Heli­um fail” or “Blockchain dar­ling dead on arrival” you’ll know that the team is mak­ing good progress, learn­ing a ton, and not yet on the far side of a suc­cess­ful transition. 


Ok, so let’s hit a few of the chal­lenges we expect to face with this tran­si­tion. After all, there’s no sense in ignor­ing known issues.

The tran­si­tion to Solana means that Heli­um will rely on Solana stay­ing up over the long term. His­tor­i­cal­ly they’ve been pret­ty good about that, but they have gone down, and when they do that’ll affect the Heli­um ecosys­tem. Heli­um will con­tin­ue to work (due to the Ora­cle sys­tem), but you won’t see token pay­ments flow­ing into your wal­let until Solana comes back online, at which point you’ll get all the “back pay” you’re owed.

This idea of a blockchain going down isn’t some­thing unique to Solana; every blockchain has occa­sion­al prob­lems. The good news here is that the Solana ecosys­tem is healthy, it’s very like­ly they’ll con­tin­ue to improve it, and in the long term if we real­ly need to we can shift again.

A sec­ond chal­lenge is that man­u­fac­tur­ers of Heli­um Hotspots won’t keep up to date. Syn­cro­bit is an exam­ple of this. They stopped releas­ing updates a few months ago. RAK, Bob­cat, and Seeed are exam­ples of man­u­fac­tur­ers who are being good actors, keep­ing their firmware updat­ed, and stay­ing on top of mak­ing sure the net­work stays healthy.


Ok, let’s talk about the good stuff. What will happen? 

Hotspots will bea­con every 6 hours, so you’ll know it’s alive, it’ll earn (small amounts, to be sure), and there’ll be much less uncer­tain­ty regard­ing your Hotspot’s status.

We’ll see new tools, an updat­ed Explor­er, more out­side ven­dors com­ing in to pro­vide use­ful data, a more scal­able net­work (some­thing that can sup­port mil­lions and even bil­lions of devices, not just hun­dreds of thousands.)

The LoRaWAN infra­struc­ture will be much more flex­i­ble; you’ll be able to run any LNS you want, or even be a roam­ing part­ner. Pret­ty rad!

We’ll see that updates will be way eas­i­er, the net­work will be more sta­ble, gate­ways will con­nect direct­ly with pack­et routers at the edge, and in gen­er­al you’ll have far less of a tech­ni­cal headache when it comes to mak­ing sure every­thing is work­ing. Remem­ber, Heli­um recent­ly passed a strin­gent audit from Sec3, and while no human made is per­fect (oth­er than my wife), the net­work is look­ing pret­ty darn healthy from their perspective!

Final­ly, with Heli­um on Solana, we’ll have access to the larg­er DeFi and Solana ecosys­tem, which brings us all one step clos­er to a uni­ver­sal­ly inte­grat­ed decen­tral­ized sys­tem. That is VERY cool.

What’s Next?

For now, we just chill. Make sure you have your 12 words, switch from the blue to the black app, then go do some­thing else for about a month. If you’re unable to tear your­self away from the Heli­um ecosys­tem and want a blow-by-blow view, you should expect to wake up after Migra­tion Day and you’ll see your Hotspot has mined IOT, not HNT

As for me, I’ll be deploy­ing sen­sors for anoth­er few weeks. On April 18th I’ll prob­a­bly roast a few batch­es of cof­fee and see if I can record a few seg­ments for the new DePIN State show I’m run­ning with Max Gold. If you want a bag, swing on by the Paleo Treats office; I’m giv­ing ’em away because, while roast­ing is fun, I need to get in my reps, and that requires pro­duc­ing way more cof­fee than I can drink. Enjoy the abundance!


2 responses to “The Transition to Solana — A New Chapter for Helium”

  1. Bronson Avatar

    Have you done any­thing on the dif­fer­ent new tokens, what they are, how they’re used, and when/what to invest in?

  2. Yep, YouTube video on stak­ing and del­e­gat­ing HNT on the new wal­let is here. Rock on!

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