The Unknown Cost Of DeWi Data

Folks argue that cellular service from DeWi networks is more cost-effective than service from traditional networks. The standard rationale goes something like this:

Pollen and Helium plan to charge $0.50 per GB. The typical consumer pays much more than that for data transfer on traditional cell networks.

The rationale has problems. First and foremost, the $0.50 figure was decided by fiat and is barely connected to the actual costs of running a DeWi network. Pollen or Helium could have about as easily said data will be $0.25/GB. We can get a different view by looking at existing DeWi deployments. The median DeWi radio has probably been involved in less than 1GB of data transfer. Given the typical cost of a radio, we’re looking at a cost of data so far that’s way north of $1,000/GB on most setups.

The low ($0.50 per GB) price of data in early DeWi networks is largely enabled by investors’ speculation on the value of projects’ tokens. In a roundabout way, the investment subsidizes data purchases in projects’ early days.

Ultimately, DeWi’s cost-effectiveness will be determined by what cost advantages it can achieve over traditional wireless. Today’s supposed $0.50/GB peg doesn’t indicate much.

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