Why Isn’t Your Hotspot Earning More?

So you’ve got your Helium Hotspot up and cranking and you’re all proud of your new deployment. Well done you!

As you cruise around Explorer to see how much better your deployment is than everyone else’s, you notice a neighbor who’s earning more. What’s the deal? Are they cheating? Do they have a magic antenna? How are they DOING that? Why aren’t YOU the one earning the most?

Let’s walk through what matters the most with Helium Hotspots, why others might be earning more than you, and how you can *potentially* increase your earnings. I’ll give it to you straight up front: You may not be able to figure it out, but if you carefully go through what I suggest in this post, you’ll be much more likely to understand what’s going on.

First, the single most important aspect of a hotspot’s earnings is its location relative to other hotspots. It’s not the antenna. It’s not the cables. It’s almost never cheating. It’s location. Even 100 meters can make an enormous difference. It’s not that the others totally don’t matter, it’s just that location matters so much.

A hotspot will earn the most if it can Witness (has a clear Line of Sight to) many other high transmit reward scale (.8 or better) hotspots. This system of rewards is called Proof of Coverage, or PoC. It’s important you understand Proof of Coverage and the earnings breakdown, as it’s fundamental to why you earn more (or less) than your neighbors.

Earnings Breakdown

Out of all the Helium distributed per epoch (every 30 minutes or so), your Hotspot gets rewarded for 3 possible events:

  1. Creating a Challenge
  2. Beaconing that Challenge (being the “Challengee)
  3. Witnessing that Challenge

I’ve covered how that works in a separate post, here.

For now, let’s separate the PoC (Proof of Coverage) piece from the other HNT distributed to investors, the Consensus Group (aka Validators) and Data Transfer, and take a look at just PoC as a pie chart:

In case you need numbers, in terms of available HNT for an earning event (NOT all HNT distributed per epoch) that’s:

  • 4% for the Challenge
  • 19% for the Beacon
  • 77% for the Witness.

This should make it clear that your hotspot’s earnings are most affected by the quality and quantity of your witnesses.

The Witness List: Quality & Quantity

If your and your neighbor’s hotspot have even slight differences in elevation or geography that change the Line of Sight access to other hotspots, that can make a significant difference in the quantity and quality of your witnesses.

Quality and quantity of Witnesses are one of the biggest factors in earnings differences.

You’ll need to carefully compare their list of witnesses to your list of witnesses to see what the differences are. Just looking at a picture of lots of sexy yellow lines radiating out from a hotspot is NOT a careful comparison; get deep into Excel.

Line of Sight: Slight Changes, Big Differences

The other thing to check carefully is the Line of Sight you have as well as the other hotspot. This can be difficult and sometimes downright misleading, as there’s no guarantee a hotspot is *exactly* where they’ve asserted.

For privacy reasons, many hotspot owners assert their location at the nearest intersection of roads. Asserting your hotspot within about 150 meters doesn’t appear to carry any penalty in HNT earnings, though that’s NOT a guarantee.

That means you might think you’re measuring the correct line of sight, even though you’re not. Additionally, there’s no requirement to accurately enter the elevation of a hotspot. The hotspot you’re trying to assess could be 30 stories up a building but reporting as on the ground.

Even if you DO do careful research, you still may not have enough information to accurately assess why a neighbor’s hotspot is earning more than yours.

Antenna Choice (The Dark Side of High Gain)

What’s another factor in earnings? Well, it’ll date this article a bit (this is good as long as PoCv10 applies), but under the PoCv10 rules, which I’ve written about here, if your antenna OR that of your witnesses is much higher than the Helium RSSI/SNR guidelines, that can invalidate your witness earnings, and witness earnings are what contribute the most.

Especially if you and many of your witnesses have higher gain antennas (anything above, say, 4 dBi), those gains add up, and can push you over the wrong side of the curve.

If you’re on the wrong (invalid) side of the RSSI/SNR curve, you don’t earn HNT. This is yet another reason to use the lowest dBi antenna possible; you’ve GOT to stay on the right (actually, left) side of that line.

Unlike the first factor, this doesn’t have much to do with the quality and quantity of your witnesses, it’s more to do with the strength and clarity of your radio signal.

So there it is: The most likely factors for a difference in earnings between you and your higher-earning neighbor are usually explainable, even if you don’t like the explanation.

How to Win

I’ll close out with some advice: Comparison is the thief of joy. If you get too wrapped around the axle trying to “beat” other hotspots, you’ll miss a lot of the joy that goes into doing the best job YOU can do, given the constraints YOU have. Hotspots that follow the guidelines for providing WUPU coverage will consistently earn the most. That’s the key. Contribute unique and useful value to the network and you’ll be rewarded.

Best of luck with it all, I’m stoked to grow the network with you! If you need help with increasing your HNT flow and you’re willing to have an open mind and work hard, I provide consulting for Helium Hotspot Optimization.

Rock on!

54 thoughts on “Why Isn’t Your Hotspot Earning More?”

  1. Hey Nik,

    Insightful post, as always!

    I had a question about your part here, “many hotspot owners assert their location at the nearest intersection of roads. Asserting your hotspot within about 150 meters doesn’t appear to carry any penalty in HNT earnings, though that’s NOT a guarantee.”

    How does someone assert their hotspot location in a different place than where the hotspot actually is, like an intersection of roads? Is that done in the Helium app or another way?

  2. That makes sense and I have seen the ability to change hotspot location there.
    What concerns me is not knowing if I can put in an exact address of where my hotspot is or if Helium is going to ping it with GPS or something and assert the location based on where it thinks it is.

  3. Hi Michael, you can assert an exact location. Helium will center it in the res 12 for the API (so if you use Helium.Vision you can see it there), but for easy-access public facing info (Explorer) it’ll show as centered in the res 8 it’s in. No GPS pings.

  4. Does the distance from the hotspot you are witnessing have any effect on earnings? For example, am I better off putting a second hotspot at a friends house that is 1km away or 3 km away? Or does it make no difference?

  5. Then, I’m assuming the only reason for asserting a location other than where the miner actually is would be for privacy? Are there no other added benefits? Or does reward scale also get affected?

  6. Hi Steve, as long as they have line of sight there shouldn’t be a huge difference between 1 and 3 km.

  7. Hi Nik,

    I’d love to see you write a post about Relayed hotspots. I’m still waiting patiently on my Bobcats, but learning as much as I can in the meantime. Whenever I look at the Helium maps I see a LOT of hotspots that are relayed.
    I’d love to see one of your thoughtful posts that breaks down the reasons this happens, how it can be fixed, how/if it can be avoided ahead of time (would opening up the ports ahead of time prevent it, for example?), what effect it does/doesn’t actually have on profits, etc etc.
    I’ve looked at a number of videos and posts, but end up more confused than when I started. I really appreciate your clear style of explaining things.

    Thanks very much!
    Kelly

  8. Hi Nik

    I understand the concept that a higher DBi antenna shapes the signal meaning it can reach further, but I’m guessing that doesnt actually mean it can hear hotspots from any further away? or would a higher DBi antenna in theory allow you to witness more beacons? also does your own antenna affect the signal strength of a received beacon in RSSI or SNR? so if the beaconer has lets say an 8DBi antenna and you’re getting invalid witnesses, does changing your own antenna to a lower powered one affect the result moving either the SNR or RSSI back to acceptable limits?
    On from this does a physically larger antenna actually help pick up more beacons in the surface area giving a better chance of picking up a relatively weak signal regardless of DBi?
    It seems like you’d want an antenna that had a relatively low Tx gain as theres no point in reaching more than 25 hotspots for the beacon reward, but a high ability to receive to pick up as many signals from as far away as possible, all without invalidating witnesses.
    finally I’ve never seen an answer to this final bit – do you know what decides which 25 hotspots are chosen to be witnesses when more than 25 actually pick up the signal? there have to be cities where there are 100+ witnessing a beacon, so there must be some code that defines this, is it simply first come first served or is there something that you can do other than fixing relaying to improve chances of being one of the ones selected?

    Thanks!

  9. Higher gain applies to both transmit and receive. In the world of Helium, it doesn’t really matter, as even a low gain can witness over 200km away routinely with clear Line of Sight. Higher gains put you at more risk of invaliding the RSSI/SNR curve.

    For your 25 witness question, it’s a race to report. The first 25 to report get the prize.

  10. I have a neighbouring hot spot that is about 80 meters away from me is it possible to place my location near the edge of our shared hex to get 350 meters between us? Would there be there a penalty for doing this?

  11. Hi Keswick, as long as you’re not getting scaled, the only penalty for a hotspot within 300m is you can’t earn off of it. If you have plenty of witnesses, that’s not a big deal.

  12. Hi Nik thanks for your reply,
    We are both currently scaled @ 0.41 so would the only benefit would be that we could witness each other? We are in a pretty dense area so maybe it’s not worth it to move I wasn’t sure if there was some other penalty for being so close.

    Also great blog, I’ve learnt so much from you thanks!

  13. Pingback: How Do You Find The Best Site For Your Hotspot? - Gristle King - A Guide to Helium

  14. Hey Again,
    Sorry to keep asking you questions when you won’t take my money, but not too sorry, obviously.
    First, my original question is similar to the witnessing one above. How is it determined who gets to send a beacon? Where I’m at, being the beacon is 5 times more profitable than being a witness. But some people are sending 4 times a day and lately I’m lucky to get 2 every 3 days.

    Regarding being the fastest to make the 25? Could long stretches of ethernet cable be responsible for slowing response time? I’ve got nothing over 300 ft, but currently that antenna is the longest run at my house and goes thru a switch which my ASIC miners are on.

    On the relay thing, It seems like some of the highest earners are relayed (Not a majority, but a few) so I don’t understand what the concern is. Also it seems some of these relayed hotspots are responsible for what looks like me (and others) witnessing hotspots in St. George, or Seattle or other unlikely places 1000 miles away. How does that happen?

    Let me know if you change your mind on that donation thing. Thanks Again

  15. Hi Dick, challenges are randomly assigned to challengees. A hotspot is eligible to submit a challenge roughly every 300 blocks. Beaconing should definitely not be 5x more profitable than witnessing; it should be the other way around. It’ll sound silly, but are you sure you’re reading those receipts correctly?

    Probably not ethernet length that’s your problem. Could be the switch or your internet connection.

    More on relayed hotspots here.

    Witnesses over 150 miles away are usually just hotspots that have been moved but haven’t changed their location yet.

  16. Hey Again,
    It’s actually more like 10x.
    Typical 25 witness = 0.015 HNT
    Typical Sent Beacon = 0.15 HNT

    I’m not sure if I can paste a screenshot here so here’s an example from my competing neighbor. Just go to “all activity”, scroll down until you find the blue “Sent” and compare to a single “witness” with 25. (I tried to paste a screenshot, but couldn’t)

    https://explorer.helium.com/hotspots/11WfakRNARmTR6G1HE65drJHPR65apwHTAQ8iSsuL3nWwXjWTpj/activity

  17. Of course it does work out eventually to your pic chart. You just get so few Send Beacons that they end up being a much smaller part of your revenue. Individually, they are quite significant.

  18. Hey Nik, I recently added Lora sensor data to my network and ran some tests on my hotspot.
    After 4 hours sending 8 bytes of data every minute, I end up with burning more HNT converted to DC than earning rewards !
    It sounds counterintuitive but I thought rewards for data can now go up to 35% of total rewards.
    Perhaps you have an explanation or maybe you can do article some time on data rewards.
    Thanks, Sean.

  19. Hi Sean, hmm, I think there’s a basic misunderstanding here. You earn HNT for processing DC. As more data flows on the network, you’ll earn more HNT. Up to 35% of HNT distributed per epoch is set aside to be distributed for miners processing DC, but if it isn’t used, it gets re-allocated to the miner pool in general.

    4 hours isn’t enough time to have a good picture on how much your miner will earn.

    “Every 24 bytes sent in an uplink or downlink packet cost 1 DC = $.00001” –Helium’s site

    1 DC = 24 bytes. With your 8 byte packets you’re probably not sending more than that even with the fcnt, fport, etc.

    So, 1 DC/minute for 4 hours = 240 DC. With HNT around $20 (just to make the math reasonable), each HNT = 20/.00001 DC, or 2 million DC. That works out to a cost of .00012 HNT for those 4 hours. Surely you’re earning more than .00003 HNT per hour on average?

    How much did you miner make in that 4 hour period? Usually we like to see 7 day earnings for a miner to get an average, as rewards are spiky in the short term.

    More on DC over on Reddit, here.

    Let me know if that makes sense.

  20. Am I right in assuming it’s completely just luck of the draw w/ how often you see action? My BF and I both set up our bobcats last week. He’s killing it compared to me, he’s seems to get more action plus he has a witnesses and I can’t get one 🙁 The BF saw great results when he moved his miner/antenna into his garage attic. I have mine outside my 2nd story window which I guess has helped some.

    I’m Feisty Flaxen Robin. He’s Puny Misty Worm. I’m debating if I should move my miner to my mom’s house and hope it does better. I noticed that 1 miner near me is offline. And the other 2 closest are relayed.

  21. Hi Amy, it has much more to do with how many hotspots you have a clear line of sight to. There is a random element to whether or not you earn as a Witness (10 hotspots randomly chosen out of every Witnessing hs), but that’s it. Moving your hotspot is the most powerful thing you can do when it comes to changing earnings.

  22. Well I finally got 1 witness, but there is still a lot more to be had, LOL. The witness I got seems to be getting witnesses in 360 degrees. The other witness close and online only seems to be getting them in the direction opposite me. So I’m going to guess he’s not positioned to do 360 (he seems to be getting about 180 degree coverage). This seems to be a lovely game of finding what works the best. I’m going to assume if those miners closest to be (but “behind me”) don’t seem to be online, it’s not worth focusing on connecting to them (They are relayed currently). It would seem I’m positioned to face best right now, but there are trees, houses, a radio tower, etc that all probably are messing things up somewhat, LOL.

  23. Hey Nik,

    I have a bobcat miner and i have been using the small antenna that comes with it. 7 out of 7 in progress were complete on the app. I also opened the port for my bobcat and i had a few witnesses so i received rewards daily. I used this for a few weeks and i started losing witnesses so i did resync and fast sync but i still didnt gain more witnesses. 35 hours ago i disconnected everything and i connected a new mcgill antenna on my roof attached to a LMR 600 cable to the same bobcat. My bobcat light is green and im online in my Helium app too (0.83 because a second miner in my hexagon). 6 out of 7 in progress on the app are now complete except the witness list is still pending. When i try discovery mode there are 0 witnesses responding. Since 20 hours ago i receive about 0,25 cents each 7 hours as reward. Do i have to wait for the witness list to be complete or is there something wrong? Any ideas so i can get witnesses again and a higher reward?

    Regards,

    Romano

  24. Hi Romano, just be patient. Leave everything connected, don’t even bother with Discovery, and just wait. It’ll sort itself out in a day or two.

  25. Hi Nik, calling you all the way from Serbia.
    I am glad I’ve found your bog cause it is mi blowing.
    The more I read the more I conclude how much is there.
    Have I practical question and would be very grateful on your comment.
    I believe that I have good location, I’m 5.6 km clear view from the city and around 100m up. Very clear view.
    Which type of Antenna do you suggest, omni or directional, how strong, indoor or outdoor.
    Thank you very much on your answer and just keep on…

  26. Hi Nik, I’ve gotten around 110 witnesses in the past 5 days but this number is slowly dropping. It seems that I’m seeing less action day by day. Also I haven’t received any POC rewards in days and that’s where the biggest chunk of earning come from (around 0.04 hnt). Is there something I can do to improve it other than to move my antenna higher up? Could it be because it’s a 5.8 dbi antenna and sort of breaking the pocv10 rules? Many thanks, Ivan

  27. 5.8 shouldn’t be a problem. General network inconsistencies are normal right now, and recent updates will continue to give a fair amount of noise vs signal. No PoC rewards in a few days is a little troubling. Double check things are functioning with HeliumStatus.io. Power cycle as a last resort.

  28. Dear Nick,
    Thank you on fast reply.
    I forgot to mention that mountain is behind me and I do not have anything visible behind. That’s why I’m thinking of maybe directional antenna. Or, maybe omni will also be good because of ricosheting if possible. Is it important that antena to be attached to some stick little away from the house or it is good enough to attach it near chimney?
    Thank you on advance.
    Vladimir

  29. No prob. Chimney mount is fine. I’d still go with an omni, but at the end of the day you’ll need to test to be absolutely sure.

  30. Nik, thanks for all the info to help us all out. Quick question that keeps me scratching my head each day. I send out a beacon and am witnessed by location 2… Location 2 sends out a beacon but I don’t witness it back. Do you think this is more me or location 2? Getting HNTenna soon to see if it’s a polarization bounce gone wrong. Thanks!
    Matt

  31. Well, I’ll start off with the standard “RF is weird”, but…the witness thing is a random selection from all the hotspots who witnessed it. So if you’ve got more than 10 hotspots witnessing a beacon, the witnesses & rewards are randomly chosen from that cohort, which can be large. Does that help?

  32. It does but like you said it is weird and hard to predict. None of us exceed 10(usually 2-6 max one day and 0 the next) so I am not sure what is going on lately. I can go from .4 hnt one day to .02 the next. Nothing has been very consistent to try and build data sampling off of.

  33. Dear Nick,
    I’m trying to define some rules regarding rewards..
    Still have some doubts:
    Does total historical amount of witnesses imapct on a rewards and activity? I noticed that good hotspots has more than 30 activities per day and that I have 2 or 3. Similar conditions regarding topography, antenna, gain but the only difference is that he is on network for 3 months and I am 3 days. Does this data has any impact on number of activities regardless of challenger, challangee or witness?
    Thank you so much again.
    Vladimir.

  34. Hi Vladimir,
    Total historical amount of witnesses isn’t important. Give it another week or so before you really start working the data on your own hotspot; it takes a while to build up enough data to make a useful decision.

  35. Hi Nik,

    I’ve read through a few blogs, websites, forums, and watched a few YouTubes. My hotspot is Eager Punch Wolverine and its witnessing proportion appears very low. I purchased a 5.8 dBi antenna to see if this would help with this low performance. Is this due to the fact that I’m located around many townhomes and that the hotspots around me are 700+ meters away? I noticed other hotspots like my friend’s (Furry Pewter Anteater) which is closer to other hotspots (400+ meters) and not surrounded by townhomes (he has a SFR) has a higher rate of witnessing. Hopefully, the antenna helps, but I’m just trying to understand why I’m not witnessing as many transactions and what I can do to resolve this.

    Tyler

  36. What are the differences between you and your friend? Here’s what matters:
    -Line of Sight from your antenna to other hotspot antennas
    -number of hotspots with cLoS (clear Line of Sight) that are within 30 km
    -without cLoS, range can be *drastically* reduced.

  37. I purchased a 4 dbi antenna for my miner and it is mounted just above the peak of my roof. Twenty feet of RG58 cable connects the antenna to the miner. The miner is connected to my network via ethernet and receives power from a wall adapter. I live in a flat suburban area with a lot of tall, mature oak trees and my antenna is at the same elevation as the surrounding tree canopy. Most nearby homes are single story, as is mine. I’m wondering what I can do to improve my earnings/rx/tx. My thoughts are to increase the height of my antenna or reduce the length of cable (ie reduce attenuation). Mounting the antenna higher will require putting the miner in an exterior rated enclosure and providing power via ethernet. Would either of these provide more than marginal improvement? Which of these do you think would provide most improvement? Thanks for any help you can provide.

  38. Hi Bryan, increase antenna height is your best option. You can also think about entering in the “known attenuation” (dB loss) from the surrounding canopy into your gain calculations. You’d have to test that, but that might allow you to use some extra power to punch through those trees without getting dinged by the FSPL calcs Helium does on all received signals.

  39. Nik – thanks for the helpful feedback. I just finished raising the antenna 10′. Will give it a week and see if there’s a noticeable difference. It has been online for about three weeks now so I’m hoping that will give me a decent basis for comparison. Thanks again.

  40. Hello Nik, thanks for the info and guides. I have a bobcat miner, my area doesn’t have any hotspots within a 3mile radius, there farther out, approx 10-12 miles away to the north of me, theres more to the west but even farther maybe unreachable at 40 miles. I’m situated on a hill to the left of me is downhill to the right is uphill, i’ve purchased a RAK 5.8dbi antenna with lmr400 cable, at the moment im using the stock antenna i have witnessed but not many, will the RAK antenna enable me to beacon and be witnessed by others, would the signal strength be good enough, its going on a pole on my roof it will be approx 14meters above ground level. I have done line of sight tests to the hotspots from mine and most are showing green but that’s assuming there 10m above ground level. Any info would be great.
    Thank you.

  41. Hi Mark, once you’re locked into a location then getting it up high is the best you can do. At US power output levels, LoRa generally goes 30 km clear line of sight no problem, and can easily go further. With your closest hotspots 10-12 miles away, that’s out at the edge of reasonable. The RAK you have should be fine. If you want to get deep into find a better location, consider using HeliumVision. It’s a paid tool that I’ve built a course for to help people understand how to max out earnings.

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