Nova Labs Proposes Move to Solana



HIP70 was proposed on August 30th 2022 and so the voting process to move the Helium network’s Proof of Coverage algorithm off-chain will begin shortly. Scalability is often the most difficult challenge growing networks face, trying to rework their platform to accommodate growth. Upon a vote from the Helium community, Nova devs will begin to migrate all the functions of the Helium blockchain to the Solana Ecosystem. What exactly does that look like? Through explosive growth, Helium and Solana have both accumulated seasoned teams of developers and large active communities, made a multitude of industry-first achievements, as well as undergone chain halts and other technical turmoil during their expansion.


Arman Dezfuli-Arjomandi, host of ‘The Hotspot' podcast which is dedicated to all things Helium and Nova related, held a Twitter space with some of the key developers at Nova labs, Helium Foundation, and Solana, just an hour or so after the HIP was proposed and unpacked many of the obvious concerns, as well as addressed some questions lobbied by the listeners. The session is recorded and is available here along with the full transcript.


When Helium began, there wasn’t a layer one blockchain, or L1, that suited the unique needs of the network, so developers at Nova created a blockchain to perform the highly specialized functions designed specifically for Helium. The 3rd anniversary of the blockchain’s genesis just passed on July 29th, boasting a network of nearly a million nodes. With this expansion comes the need to modularize the technical aspects of the network, particularly with regards to the blockchain, and the community has been discussing a migration of these tasks onto separate oracles to allow Nova Labs and Helium Foundation to focus on scaling the network. This division of labor for different very specific tasks onto different types of oracles would enable a smooth transition to a new layer one.


Solana’s “Proof-of-History” blockchain was inspired by a networking multiple access method (TDMA) that divides the available resource in time domain into slots to prevent devices from communicating at the same time, which can generate unwanted noise and impede performance. The block halt Helium experienced last November was caused in part by the amount of data being transferred over the network. This compounded with other technical indicators that highlighted a need to compartmentalize technical aspects in order to scale to the next level, as it became apparent the existing L1 did not meet these scaling needs. A limit on overall activity was imposed by the size of the network, which was discouraging to hotspot owners and Nova developers alike.


The rewards transactions are the largest and most challenging transactions on the Helium network, even more so as the number of nodes online climbs into the hundreds of thousands. Solana currently handles more data than all other blockchains combined, so outsourcing the heavy lifting to a blockchain with multiple teams dedicated to scaling would be a strategic move. This will solve a lot of the existing issues that have plagued the Helium network for the past month caused by its rapid growth


The Helium network’s transaction system uses a “burn” model to convert tokens and transfer data. Helium’s new $MOBILE token is awarded to hotspot owners providing LTE coverage, while IoT hotspots are currently still rewarded with $HNT. Once the IoT subDAO is established, these LongFi hotspots will be awarded an $IOT token, which like the $MOBILE token will be able to be burned in a one-way transaction into HNT. Data Credits, or DC, which are generated by burning some amount of HNT, are the stable units burned to use the network. Helium network users incur no annual fee, and transfer data at competitive fixed rate. Every 24 bytes sent in an uplink packet cost $.00001, or 1 DC, which is the only of these tokens with a set price. A migration to Solana would simply mean these all become standard SPL tokens, which can be transacted with using a Solana wallet such as Phantom


Currently, the Helium Network does not support smart contracts, and in order for hotspot owners to split commissions with hosts, all earnings are sent to a single wallet and divided on the front end, or Web2, side of things. Hotspots would essentially become NFTs which can now be assigned to programs, known as 'smart contracts' on Ethereum, and split among multiple addresses on the Web3 end, eliminating the need for additional layers of trust. Creating a new Helium subDAO would be as simple as programming a smart contract on Solana. Currently Helium’s users are stuck on the Helium blockchain, and there exists a need to build bridges to other Web3 communities. Moving to Solana cross pollinates these enormous ecosystems of developers. 


Some users have issued concerns about Solana’s block halts, but Antoly assures the bug that caused the halt last time has been fixed. Jump Crypto is building a Solana validator with a 10gb throughput, which is around 1 to 2 million transactions per second. This robust strategy massively improves reliability by having two similar machines built by two separate teams. As more users onboard to Web3, growing blockchains will continue to face challenges while they scale to suit the needs of their networks. Allowing Helium end-device users to onboard their sensors and transfer data seamlessly without having to worry about the blockchain end of things will provide stability and security to the entities building software and services on the platform.


The HIP was proposed with the code included, so it is ready for implementation, all that is needed is the go-ahead from the community. Voting should begin mid September, around the same time as Helium House in NYC. Amir hinted exciting announcements will be made, so stay tuned to find out more! 


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