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Deutsche Telekom, Liberty Global in $200m funding of IoT Helium blockchain

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Yesterday telecoms and IoT blockchain startup Helium Inc announced it raised $200 million in its Series D funding led by Tiger Global and Andreessen Horowitz. The investment included several strategic backers such as Goodyear Ventures, Liberty Global, and Telekom Innovation Pool (TIP), part of Deutsche Telekom. One of the company’s co-founders is Shawn Fanning of Napster fame.

Helium is a blockchain network of wifi hotspots that support internet of things (IoT) devices such as GPS trackers, pet trackers, air quality sensors and e-scooters. It isn’t a typical wifi network for mobile phones. Instead, the hotspots use LoRaWAN technology which can work for miles. A year ago, it was estimated that there were 178 million compatible IoT devices around the world. The Helium network already has more than 680,000 hotspots worldwide, which has increased from 240,000 in just five months. At the start of 2021, there were just 10,000 hotspots.

Users invest in a wifi hotspot device that can cost between $500 and $1,000, which they connect to their home internet network. They earn cryptocurrency by enabling data traffic and also securing the network. But it’s not necessarily profitable for everyone. Helium’s token currently has a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

Corporates that already use the network include Salesforce, Cisco, Volvo. Goodyear recently joined and is one of the strategic investors.

The network also supports telecoms roaming for LoRaWAN and is rolling out 5G, for which it has partnered with the Nasdaq listed DISH network. 

At the same time, Helium Inc, which is raising the funding, announced a name change to Nova Labs and clarified its independence from Helium Foundation, which is responsible for the network.

Other venture capital firms that also participated in the funding include Seven Seven Six, Kingsway Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), NGP Capital (backed by Nokia), Pantera Capital, Ribbit Capital.

In other IoT and blockchain-related news, Vodafone has launched its Digital Asset Broker (DAB) blockchain. DAB SIM cards can be inserted into devices and used for payments as part of the so-called Economy of Things. And Lockheed Martin, Ericsson, and Bosch are working with the IEEE on a blockchain identity standard for IoT.

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