Telefónica, a leading global telecommunications provider, has partnered with Nova Labs to deploy Helium Mobile hotspots in Mexico City and Oaxaca, the companies announced Wednesday. The hotspots, which utilize the crypto-powered Helium 5G network, will allow Telefónica to offload mobile data traffic and extend its coverage in Mexico.
The companies have configured the hotspots to connect to Telefónica’s network using customers’ existing SIM cards for authentication, while still allowing data transmission over the Helium 5G network. A proprietary Telefónica management system controls which customers can access the Helium network and monitors hotspot status.
Helium Mobile is a wireless phone service created by Nova Labs, the startup that includes the founders of the decentralized Helium network. Helium pulls together a decentralized wireless network with connectivity shared by users who run nodes or hotspots from their home or business, earning crypto tokens on Solana as an incentive for participating.
In the United States, the Helium Mobile service went live in 2023 as a hybrid model. It uses connectivity from Helium 5G nodes when in range, but otherwise taps T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G service as needed for service.
Telefónica, however, is the first major wireless carrier to offer up Helium Mobile hardware directly in this latest initiative in Mexico. The company claims some 383 million customers across Europe and Latin America.
“Telefónica is exploring ways to expand coverage through innovative, lower-cost, cooperative-based solutions,” said José Juan Haro, Telefónica’s chief wholesale and public affairs officer, in a statement. “This program in Mexico is critical to evaluate performance and customer satisfaction of this solution and its associated costs. Our expectation, if successful, is to incorporate this into our portfolio of mobile networks in the different countries of the region.”
Nova Labs says that the crowdsourced model significantly reduces infrastructure costs compared to traditional towers, all while enabling community members to become part of the network. The companies claim the hotspots can be deployed in small spaces to increase coverage in targeted areas.
“I am incredibly excited about this deal because it really validates the thesis we have had for both Helium and Helium Mobile,” Nova Labs CEO Amir Haleem told Decrypt. “That is, we believe decentralized physical infrastructure networks (DePIN) bring enormous cost efficiencies, allow for deployments in locations that would otherwise be economically impossible, and allow communities to participate in building useful coverage for their friends and families.”
“To have Telefónica involved, who have 20 million customers in Mexico alone, pours fuel on to the fire we’ve already started here in the U.S.,” he added. “It shows how DePIN projects and telcos can work together to build coverage and benefit customers.”
Editor’s note: This article was written with the assistance of AI. Edited and fact-checked by Andrew Hayward.