The telecom industry in every country is marked by local oligopolies with high prices and poor customer service. Recently, Silicon Valley has been building the legal and infrastructure frameworks to challenge these monopolies in the US. In 2020, the FCC rolled out Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which allows anyone to purchase spectrum per antenna per month vs. multi-year citywide spectrum licenses that are a major moat for mobile telecom companies. In parallel, Facebook released an open source packet core called Magma to help mobile companies standardize their CBRS implementations using commodity hardware and cut out proprietary vendors like Nokia & Ericsson. At the same time, the Helium blockchain launched to focus on long range low bandwidth IoT networks (LoRa). Today, there are 640k LoRa endpoints providing connectivity in return for Helium tokens. While the adoption is encouraging, LoRa doesn’t provide enough bandwidth to replace existing mobile phone networks.
FreedomFi develops open source software and Web3 protocol interfaces that enable crowd-sourced deployments of 5G small cell networks. The company is shipping an open source 5G gateway and has evolved Helium’s installed base of locations to support 5G & LTE networks and use cases, thereby allowing anyone to run their own cell tower. Leveraging their previous deployments for Magma-based 5G networks the founders are building a mobile network powered by a decentralized patchwork of independent tower operators running FreedomFi-enabled 5G small cells being paid in cryptocurrency. FreedomFi has already shipped more than 10,000 gateways in 2022. Recently, FreedomFi has also reached a roaming agreement with Dish Mobile, which has 9 million subscribers in the US. This allows Dish Mobile subscribers to seamlessly roam on FreedomFi’s network.
FreedomFi’s technology provides a way to re-architect the telecom industry to be more decentralized and less expensive. In the future, anyone using a FreedomFi gateway will be able to set up their own 5G cell tower and make passive income while also providing cellular coverage in their area. The FreedomFi enabled crowdsourced network could be a serious challenger to tower operators like Crown Castle & American Tower.
We’re excited to be backing the FreedomFi team on their mission along with Qualcomm Ventures and SamsungNext. Here is a Press Release with a few more details.