fbpx

A Rough Guide To Helium Hotspot Placement

This is writ­ten for folks curi­ous about opti­miz­ing a Heli­um Hotspot placement. 

Most start with their anten­na, which is (almost com­plete­ly) the wrong approach for max­i­miz­ing earn­ings. The only way you could make a less effi­cient improve­ment at the start is to focus on what cables to buy. 

There are four fun­da­men­tal aspects of an opti­mal Heli­um hotspot place­ment; anten­nas and cables are at the bot­tom of the list for importance.

Before we get there (relax, it’s only a few para­graphs away), let’s get a few impor­tant points out of the way:

First, while I think every­one read­ing this should buy at least one hotspot and place it as opti­mal­ly as you can, over the long run you’ll earn far more by fig­ur­ing out a way to actu­al­ly use the net­work and not just pro­vide coverage.

Sec­ond, if you fol­low and read through every link in this arti­cle you’ll be ready to make excel­lent deci­sions about the best pos­si­ble hotspot place­ment. The whole thing (Heli­um, anten­nas, opti­mum hotspot place­ment) will take about an hour to digest and understand. 

Third, if you don’t want or have the time to fig­ure out Heli­um, you can hire me to fig­ure out the best way Heli­um can work for you. 

ASSUMPTIONS

  1. You know that Heli­um is a net­work of Hotspots that trans­mit and receive radio sig­nals, then pass those sig­nals onto the inter­net. In gen­er­al, the more sig­nals a giv­en hotspot receives, the more HNT it earns. Hotspots record all trans­ac­tions on a blockchain and reward own­ers for pro­vid­ing cov­er­age with HNT, a cryp­tocur­ren­cy token.
  2. You have, or have ordered, or are think­ing about order­ing, a Heli­um hotspot.
  3. You haven’t read every last post and thread on the inter­net about max­i­miz­ing a hotspot placement. 🙂

There are only a few things that real­ly mat­ter when it comes to your hotspot place­ment. Some of them will change over time, some of them are fun­da­men­tal. All are dri­ven by just one goal over the long term: 

ADD VALUE TO THE NETWORK

FUNDAMENTALS FOR OPTIMUM PLACEMENT

In order of importance: 

  • HOTSPOT DENSITY
  • ANTENNAVIEW
  • APPROPRIATE ANTENNA
  • MINIMIZED & HIGH QUALITY CONNECTION LENGTH/CABLES

HOTSPOT DENSITY: Opti­mum den­si­ty is deter­mined using Uber’s H3 map. At the low end, hotspots won’t earn from oth­er hotspots less than 300 meters away. At the high end, hotspots can “wit­ness” oth­er hotspots 50 km out.

Back to the Uber map. The map uses (most­ly) hexa­gons to form grids of dif­fer­ent sizes. Each size is called a “res­o­lu­tion” or “res” for short. Each hex size has an appro­pri­ate den­si­ty for its resolution.

Here is a dat­ed inter­ac­tive map (it stopped being updat­ed in late fall of 2020) of den­si­ty and hotspot place­ments. It’s col­or cod­ed and fair­ly intu­itive. Green means good den­si­ty, red indi­cates too dense. Here’s a quick screenshot:

At each “res” there is an opti­mal num­ber of hotspots per hexa­gon. That num­ber can change. It is deter­mined by a base rate of hotspots per hex plus the num­ber of hotspots in sur­round­ing hex­es. Go ahead, read that sen­tence again a few times. The details are in HIP 17, look for “Pro­posed Chain Variables.”

Yes, it’s a bit com­pli­cat­ed. It was made this way in order to account for den­si­ty dif­fer­ences between cities, sub­urbs, and rur­al areas.

Here’s a screen­shot map of San Fran­cis­co (pulled from the HIP 17 Visu­al­iz­er) to give anoth­er perspective.

Screenshot of San Francisco using the HIP17 visualizer.

Notice the green hotspots don’t have oth­er hotspot as close to them as the orange and red ones. Red is the worst; they’re basi­cal­ly on top of each oth­er and pro­vid­ing dupli­cate (or trip­li­cate or worse) cov­er­age, which isn’t use­ful to the network.

If you want to know if your loca­tion will be good, you’ll need to study HIP17.

If you read HIP17 until you under­stand it, you’ll be in the 1% of Heli­um Hotspot own­ers who don’t real­ly have ques­tions about opti­mum density. 

It looks com­pli­cat­ed at first, but it’s actu­al­ly straight­for­ward. If you’ve ever read about Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, you’ll have an under­stand­ing of hotspot den­si­ty: Not too dense, not dense enough, but just right.

If you need to visu­al­ize things, use Heli­umVi­sion or Hotspot­ty. Use the options for hex over­lays in Heli­umVi­sion or just zoom in and out on your Hotspot with Hotspotty. 

If you don’t have the time or just want to skip that part, you can hire me and I’ll help you pick the best option for your area and circumstance. 

BOTTOM LINE: You need to have opti­mum den­si­ty for max­i­mum earnings.

ANTENNA VIEW: Before you go order­ing the lat­est and great­est super-hot anten­na (more on that lat­er), make sure your anten­na has a view. A “view” has three impor­tant aspects.

  • Out­side. Walls and even win­dows will block radio waves.
  • High above oth­er obstacles.
  • Clear view to as much as possible.

The view of your anten­na is far more impor­tant than upgrad­ing your anten­na. A high­er ele­va­tion “stock” anten­na (the one that comes with your hotspot) will out­per­form a super fan­cy anten­na that’s low down EVERY TIME. You can see the line of sight of your anten­na to spe­cif­ic spots using RF Line of Sight or Helium.Vision.

Get as high as rea­son­ably pos­si­ble. How high? From the Amer­i­can Radio Relay League’s doc­u­ment on anten­na placement:

To a dis­tant receiv­ing sta­tion, a trans­mit­ting anten­na at 120 feet will pro­vide the effect of approx­i­mate­ly 8 to 10 times more trans­mit­ting pow­er than the same anten­na at 35 feet.”

You may be think­ing, “I’ll nev­er get my anten­na 120′ high.” That’s OK, do the best you can, but know that until you get it high, you’ll be miss­ing out on earnings. 

A good rule of thumb to start approach­ing 90% of opti­mum earn­ings is at least 20′ above your roof and sur­round­ing roofs.

Here’s an exam­ple of a good ele­va­tion placement:

Correct elevation placement on rooftop

That anten­na is on top of a 23′ pole on top of a 15′ high roof in sub­ur­ban San Diego.

Anec­do­tal reports show that even a *1 meter* ele­va­tion dif­fer­ence can notice­ably affect earnings.

Get as clear a view of as much “civ­i­liza­tion” as pos­si­ble. Remem­ber, the net­work is only as valu­able as the USEFUL area it can cov­er. A hotspot on top of a moun­tain with clear views of noth­ing but nature for 30 miles is not cov­er­ing (to the net­work, any­way) USEFUL territory.

A hotspot on a sub­ur­ban roof sur­round­ed by a few mil­lion peo­ple and lots of data oppor­tu­ni­ties will pro­vide far more use­ful coverage.

Cor­rect ele­va­tion is vital for max­i­mum cov­er­age. LoRa is more or less a line-of-sight radio tech­nol­o­gy. While the radio waves will go through a few things (one wall, or a win­dow, or a leafy tree), for the most part you want to be able to have a direct line of sight to both your cov­er­age area AND oth­er hotspots. 

APPROPRIATE ANTENNA: The anten­na is what most peo­ple focus on think­ing that if they just have the “best” anten­na they’ll make the most HNT.

The anten­na shipped with any pur­chased hotspot is already pret­ty good. How­ev­er, as many Heli­ites are both tin­ker­ers and dri­ven by earn­ings, many will “upgrade” their anten­na in order to reach more hotspots.

Anten­nas do 2 things: They trans­mit (tx) and they receive (rx). Most folks get wrapped up in how well an anten­na trans­mits, but in the long term that doesn’t mat­ter that much, as the val­ue of Heli­um is in how well an anten­na can RECEIVE.

Remem­ber, the Heli­um net­work offers val­ue by being able to receive trans­mis­sion FROM sen­sors TO hotspots, then push that infor­ma­tion onto the blockchain via an inter­net connection.

While there is and has been a place for being able to trans­mit pow­er­ful­ly, that val­ue will dimin­ish rapid­ly over the com­ing year.

Most of that is aca­d­e­m­ic as almost no HS own­ers have the tech chops to fid­dle with tx/rx set­tings, but what IS impor­tant is this:

As it stands (April 2021) the Heli­um blockchain, which is what deter­mines whether or not you are par­tic­i­pat­ing (wit­ness­ing & bea­con­ing) doesn’t have a way to see what kind of anten­na you have. It will OFTEN assume that a hotspot with a pow­er­ful anten­na (over 3 dbi) is some­how break­ing the laws of physics because the sig­nal is more pow­er­ful & clear than a stock anten­na will pro­duce. Nobody breaks the laws of physics, so the blockchain just inval­i­dates your wit­ness or beacon.

As many of you who have upgrad­ed your anten­nas have found out, you can get worse earn­ings with a high­er gain anten­na due to this mismatch.

For our pur­pos­es, a high­er gain anten­na is any­thing over 6 dbi. Above 9 dbi and you’re break­ing FCC rules unless you mod­i­fy the trans­mit set­tings, which is beyond the scope of this article.

What the heck is “dBi”? It refers to the focus and shap­ing of the ener­gy an anten­na trans­mits and receives.

Here’s a quick dbi gain visualizer:

I can hear you now: “Ok dude, but what anten­na should I buy?” 

You can read this in-depth arti­cle on how to match your place­ment with an anten­na, but you’ve basi­cal­ly got 3 options. 

First, and rec­om­mend­ed: Don’t buy any­thing, just use the anten­na your hotspot came with. Get your den­si­ty and view squared away first.

Sec­ond, if you’ve got a great place­ment with the right ele­va­tion, buy a 5.8 dBi RAK anten­na from Par­ley Labs. 

Third, if you feel like you need some­thing high­er gain and you under­stand the trade offs of a high­er gain anten­na, get the 8 dBi RAK from Parley.

But, but, what about the [insert fan­cy anten­na] I read about on the Dis­cord chat? Should­n’t I get the most pow­er­ful anten­na pos­si­ble? I want more money!”

No. Re-read the above piece on hav­ing a “too pow­er­ful” antenna. 

The one pic­tured above is a high gain sec­tor (direc­tion­al) anten­na on top of a moun­tain. It has been adjust­ed to fall with­in Heli­um & FCC reg­u­la­tions. Despite hav­ing an enor­mous “view”, it does worse than many place­ments that are much clos­er to oth­er hotspots. Den­si­ty mat­ters more than antenna.

Even “hot” anten­nas that are tuned to fit with­in Heli­um guide­lines (decreased trans­mit and receive pow­er) won’t rad­i­cal­ly out­per­form oth­er antennas.

One Hotspot own­er I know ran a Near­son 9 vs a Rak 8 dBi in ear­ly 2021 and kept track of earn­ings between the two. The RAK beat the pants off the Nearson.

MINIMIZED CONNECTIONS: Ok, now we’re com­ing to stuff that does­n’t real­ly mat­ter but you’ll ask about and geek out on any­way. How should you con­nect your hotspot to your antenna?

This is RF 101 (Radio Fre­quen­cy): You want a thick, clean, short (ide­al­ly 5′ or less) cable that goes from your hotspot to your anten­na. I rec­om­mend and use LMR400 from USACoax.

If you’re run­ning a cel­lu­lar back­haul you’ll prob­a­bly be fine with anoth­er LMR vari­ant for the cell anten­nas (each set­up is unique) but you will want to place those cell anten­nas exter­nal to the enclosure.

Get your hotspot up high near your anten­na to keep cable runs to the anten­na short. Run pow­er and eth­er­net to the high hotspot, then have a short anten­na cable to the anten­na. Do not (if you want max earn­ings) place your hotspot in your attic then run 20′ of thin crap­py coax cable to your anten­na. That will cre­ate more radio pow­er loss than you want. 

If you MUST have long cable runs, spend the mon­ey on good cable. If you do that, you may (but prob­a­bly won’t) get the same results as Docile Bone Pony, which uses 60′ of LMR 400 and is on top of a 16 sto­ry build­ing in the mid­dle of a large city. 

So. That’s most of what you need to know about a opti­mum hotspot placement. 

ADDENDA

What else should you know about when it comes to Heli­um hotspot earnings?

How much HNT you get per witness/beacon trans­ac­tion will change as the net­work devel­ops more ful­ly. With a lim­it­ed amount of HNT made avail­able (5 mil­lion per month until August 2021, when it drops to 2.5 million/month) to reward trans­ac­tions AND many more hotspots com­ing online in the next few months, earn­ings will steadi­ly dilute.

Yeah, but how much can I earn? Check here for a very rough esti­mate. This can change sig­nif­i­cant­ly, so it’s just a start­ing point.

No mat­ter what, with the growth of the net­work your HNT earn­ings will CONTINUE TO DROP.

This MAY be off­set by an increase in HNT price. It may not. 

How can I earn even more? The long play with Heli­um is to fig­ure out how to actu­al­ly use the ser­vice. What kind of data can you col­lect, what kind of sen­sors should you use, how can you offer that as a service? 

If you want help with that or with opti­miz­ing your hotspot place­ments, I’m avail­able for hire.

How much pow­er and data do hotspots use? Hotspots use about as much pow­er as an inter­net router, and as much data as heavy Net­flix user who watch­es 2 or 3 movies most nights (100–150 GB/month). This will con­tin­ue to increase until Light Hotspots come online some­time in ear­ly 2022. 

If you live in the First World and have a broad­band inter­net con­nec­tion, hav­ing a Heli­um Hotspot will be basi­cal­ly unno­tice­able to you from an ener­gy cost/data use perspective.

I’m ready to buy a hotspot, where should I order? I’d rec­om­mend order­ing a hotspot from Par­ley­Labs.

Is there a dif­fer­ence in hotspots/miners/radios? Not real­ly. It’s not like you can get a more pow­er­ful min­er that’ll earn you more. The biggest dif­fer­ence is when they’ll arrive, which is a func­tion of how fast they can be manufactured.

Is it real­ly worth it to put up a Heli­um hotspot? I sure think so. Will it be for you? If you have an opti­mal place­ment and fol­low all the advice above, prob­a­bly. This isn’t invest­ment advice. You could lose all the mon­ey you put in. 

How much can I make? If you do a good job, between 1–2 HNT/day as of Nov 2021. More on that here. Or just go to Site­bot and start pok­ing around to see what the cur­rent max­i­mums are. 

How do I turn HNT into cash? Open up an account on Binance.

Is this a safe invest­ment? No. This is cryp­tocur­ren­cy com­pet­ing with giant tel­cos (Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­pa­nies). It may be a boomer (like when Uber com­pet­ed with cabs or Airbnb com­pet­ed with hotels) or it may be a flop (like every oth­er start­up com­pa­ny that tried to take on the big dogs.)

You should not re-finance your house to put up hotspots. You should be able to lose all the mon­ey you put into hotspots with­out putting your­self, your fam­i­ly, or any­one you know at finan­cial risk. Sheesh. 

Should I just hire you to do all the work for me? Maybe. If you don’t like to read or geek out, or you just want to try Heli­um with­out spend­ing a few months research­ing it, I’ll walk you through the process of set­ting up the best pos­si­ble place­ment for your sit­u­a­tion. Go here to get started.

RESOURCES

255 thoughts on “A Rough Guide To Helium Hotspot Placement”

  1. William C Calderon

    Good stuff. Thank you very much. I wish I had an anten­na expert to mount an 8 dBi anten­na on my roof, and also guide me how to get out of my Bob­cat 300 min­er with RELAYED STATUS. Can you rec­om­mend a per­son in the Chica­go Sub­urbs area? Thanks a million

  2. Hi William,
    Any local elec­tri­cian or satel­lite dish installer will be able to mount your anten­na. As far as get­ting out of relay, it’s more a ques­tion of doing it right and then not rely­ing on Heli­um Explor­er to check your work, but rather Helium.Status.

  3. Pingback: Lessons Learned From A Year Of Helium Deployments - Gristle King - A Guide to Helium

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top