rf mining

An interesting discovery in Utah – multiple hill-top antenna/solar/radio installations that no one has laid claim to. Some are on public land, some on private. They appear to be recent and functional, and while he article doesn’t specify, they appear to be UHF antennas. The best explanation so far is that they are part of a/many Helium mining operation(s).

What is Helium? Good question – it is a crypto company that runs a “People’s Network.” Their blockchain uses a “proof of coverage” as their proof of work model. Essentially it is an IoT network that is decentralized and individuals can mine HNT (their cryptocurrency) by putting up a hotspot and feeding into a LoRaWAN. The hotspots appear to work on both 5G for mobile and 900Mhz for terrestrial, though the systems seen in the Utah article are in the T-band, 470-512Mhz.

The business model is to create a mesh network that companies use for IoT traffic. The crowd-source aspect is interesting and begs a lot of questions around security/privacy/performance but perhaps a more interesting question is around use of the RF spectrum. Clearly there are legal issues with someone setting up what amounts to a UHF repeater radio system on private property (assuming they didn’t get permission from the owner) or government property. Also not clear what licensing issues are in-play. The spectrum isn’t “free” though it certainly is a public space and resource. For the amateur bands, it isn’t legal to use the frequency for “commercial use”, and seems that people who are mining crypto constitutes commercial use.

Time will tell and the spectrum battles will continue to be contentious.

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