The Helium Token

The Helium Token is the native cryptocurrency and protocol token of the Helium blockchain. Its symbol is HNT. Prior to the launch of the Helium blockchain, there was no premine of HNT. The first HNT was produced on July 29th, 2019 as part of the block 93.

Helium Token Usage

The Helium Token is designed to serve the needs of the two primary parties in the Helium blockchain ecosystem:

  1. Hotspot Hosts and Network Operators. Hosts mine HNT while deploying and maintaining network coverage.
  2. Enterprises and developers using the Helium Network to connect devices and build IoT applications. Data Credits, which are a $USD-pegged utility token derived from HNT in a burn transaction, are used to pay transaction fees for wireless data transmissions on the network (in addition to things like adding Hotspots and sending).

HNT Token Economic Concepts

The Helium blockchain uses three distinct token economic concepts to ensure HNT supply is both plentiful for network needs but also relatively scarce, with a known maximum. Let's take a look at them in some detail.

Max Supply

Since the Helium genesis block, the Network has mined a target of 5,000,000 HNT per month. And since the community approval of HIP 20, the Helium blockchain uses a two year halving schedule, with a maximum supply of 223,000,000 HNT.

HNT halving happens every two years from the genesis block, on the following schedule.

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In the below issuance schedule, year 1 starts on August 1, 2019. Therefore the first halving will happen on approximately day one of the beginning of year three, which is August 1, 2021.

YearHNT at start of yearTotal HNT Minted
1060,000,000.0
260,000,00060,000,000.0
3120,000,00030,000,000.0
4150,000,00030,000,000.0
5180,000,00015,000,000.0
6195,000,00015,000,000.0
7210,000,0007,500,000.0
8217,500,0007,500,000.0
9225,000,0003,750,000.0
10228,750,0003,750,000.0
11232,500,0001,875,000.0
12234,375,0001,875,000.0
13236,250,000937,500.0
14237,187,500937,500.0
15238,125,000468,750.0
16238,593,750468,750.0
17239,062,500234,375.0
18239,296,875234,375.0
19239,531,250117,187.5
20239,648,438117,187.5
21239,765,62558,593.8
22239,824,21958,593.8
23239,882,81329,296.9
24239,912,10929,296.9
25239,941,40614,648.4
26239,956,05514,648.4
27239,970,7037,324.2
28239,978,0277,324.2
29239,985,3523,662.1
30239,989,0143,662.1
31239,992,6761,831.1
32239,994,5071,831.1
33239,996,338915.5
34239,997,253915.5
35239,998,169457.8
36239,998,627457.8
37239,999,084228.9
38239,999,313228.9
39239,999,542114.4
40239,999,657114.4
41239,999,77157.2
42239,999,82857.2
43239,999,88628.6
44239,999,91428.6
45239,999,94314.3
46239,999,95714.3
47239,999,9717.2
48239,999,9797.2
49239,999,9863.6
50239,999,9893.6
important

While the above schedule states approximately 240,000,000 HNT will be produced, year one of the blockchain only produced around 43,000,000 of the target 60,000,000 due to some slow block times. So the actual maximum supply is 223,000,000 HNT.

Data Credits and Burn-and-Mint Economics

As noted above, Data Credits are a $USD-pegged utility token derived from HNT in a burn transaction and used to pay all transaction fees on the Helium Network. One Data Credit will always cost $0.00001. Or, $1.00 will always buy you 100,000 Data Credits. But, as noted above, Data Credits are produced by burning HNT. And the market price of HNT will of course fluctuate.

This HNT to DC relationship is based on a design commonly called a burn and mint equilibrium and is intended to allow for the supply of HNT to respond to network usage trends such that, when equilibrium is found, the amount of HNT that exists remains static month on month. (Helium borrowed heavily from Factom’s usage of this design though other blockchains have also used it.) The amount of Data Credits produced by burning HNT will move up and down based on the USD price of HNT as reported by the HNT Oracles. Let's look at a few examples of how this works on-chain.

Example 1

  • As always, the price of one DC is $.00001
  • The current HNT Oracle price is $1
  • Burning 1 HNT would produce 100,000 DCs

Example 2

A Helium Network user requires 50,000 DCs per month to send data for their fleet of Helium-connected mouse traps. (Yes, these actually exist, and they are glorious.) To acquire these 50,000 DCs per month, they would burn .5 HNT using the following math:

  • Again, the price of DC is $.00001
  • The current HNT Oracle price is $1
  • Burning .5 HNT would produce the needed 50,000 DCs
important

Once burned, DCs are owned by the Helium wallet specified in the burn transaction. They are non-transferrable and can only be used by the wallet owner.

Net Emissions

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Though Net Emissions was introduced as part of HIP 20, it has not yet been activated on chain.

At this point, the astute reader might be asking themselves the following question:

If HNT supply is capped at 223,000,000 AND the Network is constantly burning HNT to mint Data Credits to enable transactions, won't we run out of HNT?

Yes. This is where the idea of Net Emissions comes in. Along with Max Supply, HIP 20 also introduced the idea of Net Emissions. Net Emissions give the protocol enough HNT to reward consensus group members and Hotspots in perpetuity.

The complete Net Emissions discussion in the HIP is the best resource on this, but we'll provide a quick summary here:

  • Using Net Emissions, the blockchain would monitor how many HNT were burnt for Data Credits in a given epoch and add them to the number of HNT to be minted that epoch. For example, if 10 HNT were burned for Data Credits in an epoch, the system would mint 10 more HNT than were expected in that given epoch.
  • Because HNT produced via Net Emissions do not add to the total outstanding, they do not violate max supply.
  • However, Net Emissions would counteract the desired, deflationary effect of Burn and Mint. If the system replaces all the HNT that are burned to create Data Credits, there is no resulting reduction of supply.
  • Because of this, when implemented, there will be a cap on the number of HNT that can be created via Net Emissions per epoch. When the HNT burned for DCs exceeds this cap, there will be a reduction in supply.