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Breakpoint 2023: How Helium Migrated to Solana

Published on 2023-11-09

The migration of the Helium network to Solana blockchain.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!


In a significant shift for the Helium network, known for enabling decentralized wireless communication, the decision was made to wave goodbye to its original blockchain and transition to the Solana platform. The rationale behind such a momentous move was rooted in scalability challenges as Helium's growth outpaced the capabilities of its existing infrastructure. Noah Prince, from the Helium Foundation, meticulously unpacks the complexity of this migration, underscoring the necessity of a more robust blockchain that can handle Helium's ambitious scale while providing an efficient and cheaper alternative to traditional wireless plans.

Key Points

The Helium Foundation & Its Mission

The Helium Foundation serves as the caretaker for the Helium network, overseeing the ecosystem and community engagement. The Foundation plays a vital role in assisting with the strategic direction and maintenance of the network. Noah Prince, who heads protocol engineering, has been instrumental in the transition to Solana, ensuring that Helium’s innovative offering of inexpensive mobile services through decentralized wireless connectivity maintained its trajectory of robust growth and accessibility.

Why Helium Chose Solana for Migration

The Helium network encountered scaling issues as it expanded, primarily due to the limitations of its homegrown blockchain that couldn't keep up with the increasing number of hotspots—devices that provide decentralized network connectivity. Solana presented a compelling solution with its high throughput, low latency, and cost-effectiveness. Recognizing these benefits, the Helium community cast a historic vote in late 2022 to initiate the migration, and the technical team, led by Prince, embarked on the challenge of integrating one Layer 1 (L1) blockchain into another—a formidable task in the blockchain realm.

Technical Hurdles and Innovation in the Migration Process

Migrating Helium's extensive network, with over a million hotspots and wallets, was a data-driven operation that required precise orchestration. Prince’s team approached the challenge by simplifying and compartmentalizing the various components needed for the network to function on Solana. The group implemented novel approaches, such as account resolvers to simplify interactions with the new blockchain and a "lazy migration" technique. This technique allowed users' wallets to be transferred upon logging in, rather than in a massive pre-scheduled transfer, mitigating risks related to system overload and potential double spends.

Facts + Figures

  • Helium enables users to set up hotspots, effectively turning them into miniature cell phone towers.
  • It offers a $5 unlimited mobile plan, leveraging its decentralized network.
  • Prior to 5G, Helium operated an IoT network powering applications from smart cities to package tracking.
  • Amir Haleem co-founded SkyNet Labs in 2013, addressing IoT networking challenges that led to the creation of Helium.
  • An innovative token incentive system was designed to solve the network's "chicken and egg" expansion issue.
  • In 2021, Helium had to evolve from a blockchain network running on mini-computers to its own proof-of-stake blockchain due to scaling issues.
  • The Helium migration includes around 430,000 active hotspots, 760,000 wallets, and numerous ecosystem elements.
  • Multiple tokens and data credits need to be moved, each serving different functions within the network.
  • New features on Solana, such as account resolvers and lazy migration, were pivotal in the smooth transition.
  • The migration was executed over six months, half the originally projected time.

Top quotes

  • "The sun never sets on the Helium network."
  • "Helium is probably the pioneer of this [incentive system]."
  • "Smart contracts? Easy. JavaScript SDK for your smart contract so anyone can actually use it so hard."
  • "If you're an anchor dev, you really, really should look into account resolvers."
  • "Can you imagine running 850,000 transactions on ETH? Holy crap. Would have taken like 10 years."
  • "What was the headline from the helium migration? I'll tell you something. It was not the helium migration. It was actually the mad ladsmit."
  • "Anker should just work. You should be able to just pass the one account that you care about and have your endpoints be called in like three lines."

Questions Answered

What is the Helium Foundation?

The Helium Foundation acts as a steward of the Helium network, looking after the community and the broader ecosystem. Noah Prince leads the protocol engineering aspects, with a special focus on the network's Solana integration.

Why did Helium migrate to Solana?

Helium migrated to Solana due to scalability issues with its original blockchain. Solana offers lower latency, higher throughput, and is more cost-effective, enabling Helium to expand without being constrained by technological limitations.

What were the technical innovations made during Helium's migration?

During Helium's migration, several technical innovations were introduced, such as account resolvers, which streamlined smart contract interactions, and a "lazy migration" technique that reduced the risk of overloading the system.

How did the migration benefit Helium users?

The migration to Solana benefits Helium users by providing a more reliable and scalable blockchain infrastructure, which supports the network's growth and allows for continued affordable access to decentralized wireless services.

Was the Helium migration successful?

Yes, the Helium migration was deemed successful. Despite the enormous task, the team managed to efficiently transfer the network's infrastructure to Solana without critical incidents and within a truncated timeline of six months.

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