A Nova Labs executive told Mobile World Live a deal signed with T-Mobile US earlier this week would form the basis of a fresh approach to providing mobile service, as it seeks to build on it current customer-centric network model.

The company revealed a five-year MVNO deal with T-Mobile yesterday (20 September) to access the operator’s macro network when subcribers aren’t in the range of one of its hotspots.

Nova Labs aims for the service to form the blueprint of the next phase in its development by enabling operators to offload traffic onto its network. It plans to launch a beta with T-Mobile in Q1 2023.

Boris Renski, GM of wireless for Nova Labs, said Helium Mobile is the world’s first crypto carrier.

Helium Network’s 5G network, called Helium 5G, went live in August, offering crypto-based rewards to users hosting one of its hotspots.

Helium Mobile provides nationwide coverage from both the Helium 5G network and T-Mobile. Users can obtain data plans for as low as $5 per month when they bring their own devices that are compatible with T-Mobile’s network.

There are currently 4,576 hotspots deployed across 1,000 cities in the US. Renski explained the company is not seeking to disrupt operators’ business with its MVNO move, but rather take the technology risks out the hybrid model to the point where additional operators are comfortable using it.

Nova Labs and T-Mobile spent six months working on network integration. Renski explained 3GPP roaming standards don’t cover overlapping networks, with the companies employing RAN virtualisation to combine their respective cores.

To reach meaningful scale, Renski noted Helium Mobile needs to have at least 40,000 to 50,000 hotspots in place.

“I think that’ll be something that a lot of people will pay attention to.”

Indoor and outdoor gateways installed in users’ properties are used to collect network data including latency or performance.

Nova Labs is also conducting trials to offload network traffic with Dish Network.