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 on your own, you can take a course or hire me.

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
  • ANTENNA “VIEW”
  • 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 programmatically 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 need help with HeliumVision, consider taking my HeliumVision Master Class.

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 (a wall or two, 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.

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 either an HNTenna or anything in the 3-6 dBi range from McGill.

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

“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!”

Big antenna with a long view on a mountain.

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. Despite having an enormous “view”, it does worse than many placements that are much closer to other hotspots. I replaced it with a 3 dBi omni, no difference in earnings. 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 (2.5 million per month until August 2023, when it drops to 1.25 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 .5 – 1 HNT/day as of March of 2022. 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. You can take my courses (look on the top of the page under Courses) or go here to get started.

RESOURCES

Software

  • Helium Vision – Paid service w/free trial for assessing locations. Definitely try this out!
  • Hotspotty – Excellent way to visualize density issues AND to manage your fleet
  • HotspotRF – use code gristleking for 20% off your first month.

Mapping

Hardware

Media & Learning Resources

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

  1. Thank you Nik for this great article.
    On the reward aspect, As the network grows, is there any kind of seniority for the hotspots already in place?

  2. Hi Nik,

    I checked my metro area and a 7km area. The 5 within 6-7km are earning less than 3 per month. Found others in town the same, then some around 23 per mo and then one out of the entire metro area was earning almost 100 per mo.

    Is placement most likely the difference? Is it possible they’re connecting to every hs within a 10mi radius?

    Thanks.

  3. Pingback: When [Bobcat]? - One Man's Search

  4. Kerry Prudhomme

    Hi Nik, Thanks for the information in this article. I’ve ordered a few Bobcat miners and even after reading your article have questions on antenna placement. The following facts may impact my placement of the antenna.
    Flat elevation – No more than 50′ change in elevation for 20 miles
    Lots of tall trees surround my house.
    My roof is 22′ tall. I plan to install a 40′ pole to mount the antenna. (From ground level)
    Should I consider the outdoor enclosure for the bobcat therefore reducing the length of antenna wire?
    Which antenna would be best for this situation?

  5. Rocco Monteleone

    Hi Nik,
    AWESEOME post thank you.

    If I am the first to deploy 10 correctly positioned hotspots in a town that had none to begin with, will that earn good income ?

  6. Hi Rocco, thanks! Being the first in an area doesn’t do anything extra for you. Having 10 correctly positioned hotspots is the main thing. Get ’em!

  7. corey huguley

    I would like more information about your setup on outside helium miner. I I own 66 aces of land and I would like to use my land. I would like to create my own network. Also, currently its none located in my area.

  8. Dude Nik you sir are a god ole brother, I didn’t realize until I read this whole article and went to the bottom and recognized your face and realized I just read up on your whole adventure off grid and up the mountain, if I ever cross your path brother i”d like to buy you a beer or two if that’s alright. And your right there’s far more things that these hotspots can utilize, practically endless opportunity if you read up on it, sadly not enough people take up that opportunity, but hopefully with your words of wisdom people will!! I do have a question for ya that i have yet to find info on, one of my HS are in a ruralish area, closest one to it is roughly 4 miles then about 14 others ranging from 6-12 miles that I pick up, but i have a 280′ commercial radio tower 1/4′ mile from me, would this creat any kind of signal decrease or loss trying to “compete” across the waves or am I thinking all wrong? I know a few cell company’s have antennas there, along with a few railroad companies, a water company and a few “not listed” antennas there aswell. Didn’t know if something like that this close would cause any type of interference. Thanks again brother for all you do, keep it up, look forward to reading more, hopefully hear from ya soon.

  9. Hey Chris, thanks! Shouldn’t be issues with interference at that range. Mostly the problem is that you’re too far away from other hotspots. While they *can* communicate over long distances, they *like* to communicate right around the 600-1,200m mark.

  10. 347.5 HNT per month WTH?!

    36.076849452137076, -115.28299816633508 is my location and my neighbor (Polite Shadow Chimpanzee) is making over 300 HNT monthly! BUT it looks like many others in the area are only making about 10-30HNT monthly.

    The terrain is pretty flat, and I’m about 1/2 mile away from them, Using the RFhotspot estimation tool it predicts about 240 HNT monthly for me, which sounds too good to be true at HALF that amount.

    I have a Bobcat enroute from china (due here tuesday 22nd june) Do they make an enclosure to allow me to put it on a pole on the roof?? or should i stick it in the window and hope for the best?

    LAST question, Can I move my miner once it’s been set up (like put in the window first then later raise on a pole outside after buying proper wire and possibly enclosure)

    I’ll drop you some HNT if you can get back to me to help, thanks!

  11. Hi Nick, I purchased a RAK miner and I am planning to place it on a roof. I’m also thinking about buying a RAK outdoor enclosure from store.rakwireless to be able to fix the miner as close as possible to the antenna as you advised. I have doubts about how extreme temperatures can damage the miner. In the area I live in temperature can vary in the range 5 to 105 F. The enclosure will be exposed to direct sunlight without any shade and that makes me nervous with summer approaching :). Do you have any advice as to do we need to provide additional protection to the enclosure to avoid overheating or freezing or it should be good to go as it is? Many thanks in advance 🙂

  12. Hi Chris, sounds like you’d benefit from a consulting session; I go into all of that in detail. In general, 300 HNT is totally achievable but depends heavily on location and antenna elevation. You can put any indoor miner in an enclosure, lots of enclosures are available for different setups. You can move your miner once you’ve set it up; you do that through the Helium app and it costs ~$10 to do each time.

  13. Check with RAK about the miner & enclosure; both should be fine. I’ve heard of hotspots in sealed enclosures live through the summer in Texas. I’d provide some kind of shade for the box if I could, as every little bit will help. I wouldn’t worry about the cold; computers love being chilly. 🙂

  14. I’ve seen that building a hotspot is no longer allowed because people were taking advantage of the system. What were they doing? Just putting a bunch in one spot and say they were other places? Doesn’t seem very smart. Seems like the same IP address would give them away pretty quickly. Plus wouldn’t the signal be really strong and throw up res flags?

  15. Hello Nik thank you for this very helpful informations. I live in a village in the mountain with high population but a lot of hills up and down. Does this matter for the hotspots? I mean if i put one on the top of a hill will the one down the hill connect to the one on top?
    Thank you a lot for your reply?

  16. Hey Nik! Great post and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    I just received my RAK HNT miner and I am trying to find where to place it. I have 2 other miners coming hopefully anytime soon (Nebra & SyncronB.it)

    I have two options:
    1. I place the miner in my apartment in Manhattan. Based on helium.place I have 6 other hotspots (orange and red color coding) in my “invalid witness zone” and 15+ hotspots in my “sweetspot” (green area) – I checked some of their rewards and its not more than like 20-30 a month.
    2. I can place the miner at my in-laws outside the city. Based on helium.place I would be the only hotspot. I only see two hotspots around me but 1.2-1.4 miles (2KM) away. Not sure if they would see each other.

    Would love to get your opinion. Thank you very much for your help.

  17. Hi Bryan, basically a slightly more sophisticated version of that. If you look way back in Discord for “Modesto” you’ll see the discussion on it. In one case a gamer made 70k HNT in a day; it was a real problem.

  18. Hi Rabih,
    If they have a clear line of sight they’ll be able to communicate. Does that make sense?

  19. Hi Pascal,
    Definitely don’t put any more in Manhattan; that place is way overcrowded. Try looking for a third option, where you have at least 4 miners within a sweet spot of 6-1,200 meters away.

  20. Thank you Nik. I really appreciate the quick reply.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have a third option at the moment. I checked the addresses of all my in-laws (LOL) and no one has other miners in their sweet spot. At least for now.
    I will keep looking but I think I will place the miner at my in-laws. There are only two around me but not within the 1,2km range you recommend. Once I get my second miner I would place it near my first one in a sweet spot area. What do you think?

  21. That sounds OK; do you have any friends, co-workers, or know any business owners in better locations? Location is king in this game, so it’s important to get that right.

  22. I need to check but my entire life is in Manhattan – LOL. I checked the location of my friend in D.C.. He has 3 miners within the red zone but based helium.place they have all a 0.5 to 0.8 reward scale. There are 15+ miners in the sweet spot zoon. Does that sound better than placing it at my in-laws outside the city?

  23. Time for a road trip and making new friends. If you’re going to move it, move it to a great spot, not just one step up from yours.

  24. Can you do an article on antenna transmission patterns?

    I have an antenna that is a dipole with the joint in the center, would be curious to see how this fares in the city.

  25. Hey Nik – not sure if this is a good idea, but I would like your opinion on it. What if I set up 2 nebra miners in the same building (top floor). One from my apartment, and another one from a neighbor. Each will have it’s own wifi connection, but here’s the difference – one will have the stock 3 dbi antenna, and the other will have a 5dbi antenna. This way the 5dbi overshoots the 3 dbi preventing them from competing with each other. I live about 20 miles from NYC, and both of my miners are facing West. The 3dbi miner should be able to reach Manhattan, while the 5 dbi should reach New Jersey with plenty of miners for both to witness and challenge. Because I live on the top floor, I have no issues with line of sight, and should be able to reach as far as the antennas can reach. Do you think this will work? Thanks in advance.

  26. Hi John,
    Depends on what you mean by “will this work?” By having 2 miners in the same res 8 hex, you’ll clip your earnings for each one by 50% in most cases. They’ll still earn, but at less capacity than they otherwise would.

  27. Hi Nik,

    Thank you very much for your continued support of us.

    I have a question,

    How much long extension cable I can attach with a stock antenna of bobcat miner? Do you think this will work fine with up to 15-20 meters extension cable?

    May God Bless You !!!

  28. Hi Kashif, there are two (well, 3) types of cables. First is the power cord; standard rules apply there. Second is the ethernet between your router and the hotspot — max is 100m. 3rd is the antenna cable. That’s the one we really want to keep as short as possible, but has a few variables to it. Check over here for more.

  29. Jerome Nadeau

    Hi Nik, Here is my problem with finding businesses to accept having one on their property. They all want rental $$ for space and a lease. My question is, what is normal in your opinion to entice a property owner to accept. Most I run across want $400.00 a month plus a year commitment. Total cost at this site would be $500.00 per. $100.00 for internet access.

  30. can you make a post about the connectors for the LMR400 for each miner.
    For example i have a bobcat miner ordered. and i want to use it outdoors by putting a cover. so i will have an lmr400 instead of the one that comes with the Antenna. But what connectors should i put on the lmr?

  31. What if I life on a farm and i can run lora cable 1000-1200 feet in multiple directions and leave the actual box in my house connected to ethernet. Would this work?

  32. Any advice for non-penetrating roof mounts for atennas on an normal residential roof? Haven’t found a great solution that doesn’t require drilling holes in the wall or throwing cinderblocks up on a roof which probably would work well for a commercial grade roof but probably not all that safe for a standard home

  33. Hey JT, you can skip a few of the cinderblocks if you’re not going to add a 20′ pole to the non-pen roof mount. You might also look into clamping options like chimney straps.

  34. Hey NIK, I appreciate the thorough information you presented! I was wondering what your opinion was for those looking to start now? Knowing that the earning amount is going to take a sharp decline in August, and that I wouldn’t be getting my hotspot for 3-6 months.

  35. Tyler, it depends on your goals & expectations as well as the placements you have available. IF you have a great placement, it’s worth watching eBay for miners in hand. Prices will continue to drop there, and you’ll get it faster than one ordered from the factory. If you want to play the long game and have an actual use case, that would be the driver for a “purchase from mfr” decision.

  36. Thank you for the reply! I honestly don’t have a great placement. I’m in a city with only a few, and the nearest one is a few miles away.

  37. Hi Nik, how are you buddy?

    I come again with another question, hope you won’t mind 😉

    Can you please, is there any option to hide the privacy of the helium miner location? I mean on the helium coverage map when I see my hotspot then this should not show the exact home location. Like it should show it’s on the next street or so, although it’s planted on my home. Hope you got my point.

    Because I don’t want that my neighbours or relatives should not know what I am doing at the moment.

    Best Regards.

  38. Hi Kashif it seems your issue will be resolved with https://explorer-beta.helium.com/ which we will be transferring to shortly, currently it is in BETA getting ready for it’s full release. This will only show amounts of hotspots in a given hex, rather than showing exactly where you are. Hope this helps you out with your question.

  39. Sure, I think it’s reasonable to assert your location anywhere within 100m of where it actually is. I usually tell clients to assert it in the middle of the nearest intersection that’s within that distance. In time, that strategy and tolerance may change, but for now that’s the best option.

  40. Hey Nik, you are awesome. You helped me a lot by saying I can assert my hotspot location around 100 meters away from the actual location to hide my privacy.

    Tell me if I have two locations for two hotspots, and the distance between these two locations is 200 meters. As you know we should place hotspots away at least 300 meters away from each other. So, in this case, if I assert my first location 100 meters away from the actual location and in this case both hotspots now show 300 meters distance, then will it fulfill the minimum 300 meters target to get proof of coverage.

    I am sorry if this is a silly question, but maybe someone also has the same question in their mind 🙂

    Best Regards.

  41. Hi Kashif, you *should* assert your miner where it is. Now, with that said, I think it’s OK to assert it within about 100m just to retain privacy. As of July 2021, Helium doesn’t have a great way to protect your privacy. Asserting a miner in a location it isn’t actually in for reasons other than privacy is frowned upon (although I’m sure plenty of people do it).

    If you have 2 locations that are 200m apart, you really only have one location. At least, that’s how I see it.

    Think about it this way: 2 miners that are actually close together but are asserted 300m apart aren’t really providing the network any benefit. They’re more of a gaming setup. You’re better off finding a new and completely different location.

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
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]