What’s The Best Antenna For Your Helium Hotspot?

Here is a step by step method for understanding how to choose the best antenna for your hotspot placement. Each placement demands a well matched antenna in order to provide value to the Helium Network and consequently earn the most HNT possible for that location. Do NOT, by the way, try to get the giant antenna in the picture below. While it looks huge and cool and rad, it is the wrong antenna to use for these deployments. I spent a fair amount of blood and treasure to learn that lesson. You don’t need to.

First: Hotspot placement optimization is FAR more important than what antenna you use, more on that here.

High Mountain antenna placement for Helium in the backcountry of San Diego

Second, for those of you who just want AN ANSWER: Simple: Pick up one of these if you’re on a budget (use code GRISTLEKING to knock off another 5%), get this if have plenty to spend or choose from the McGill selection. They’ll all work well.

Put it outdoors at least 10′ above all the buildings around you. Run 40′ or less of LMR400 cable to it from your hotspot. If you have to go more than 40′, use LMR600 if you’re feeling extravagant. That’ll probably get you 80% of the results you could get with far more effort and expertise.

Wait, you want to actually learn and match your antenna to your situation so you get the maximum rewards possible?

Ok, let’s start with broad strokes: The antenna you choose for your hotspot placement should match your topography, your elevation, and your lines of sight.

Let’s start with topography. Topography refers to the buildings, earth, and water that surround, channel, and block your radio signals (propagation.) The topic of radio propagation involves a tremendously deep dive all the way down to the fundamentals of physics, but we’ll keep it pretty simple.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) – The flatter your topography AND the more trees/vegetation you have blocking your Line of Sight to other hotspots, the higher gain antenna you can use, up to 9 dbi.

Remember, topography isn’t just hills and mountains, it includes buildings, trees, and other obstacles.

Ok, let’s get dirty! In general, earth in the form of mountains or hills will block radio signals. Even though a hotspot may seem very close to you, if there’s a hill between the two of you, you probably won’t witness each other.

You may check out your location on the Helium Explorer Coverage map and think you’re perfectly positioned in regards to nearby hotspots, like this:

Remember to check Google Earth!

See how that spot is tucked into a bunch of hills? Unless you put up an antenna that’ll stick over the top of the hills, you’re restricted to witnessing only other hotspots in your immediate area, and in this case, that area is small!

One of the best tools to use when assessing a new site is HeliumVision. Remember, location is FAR more important than antennas. If you’d like to learn more about HeliumVision (I use it in every one of my consults) I’ve built a Master Class on it, over here.

Ok, so that’s earth. Earth = No Radio Waves Getting Through.

What about buildings? How much will buildings block or reduce the power of radio propagation?

According to a study done in 2012 on a wide swath of building materials and focusing on the GSM 900 MHz band, a reinforced concrete wall that is 20cm / ~8″ thick will attenuate the signal by 27 dB. An interior plaster wall will reduce power by anywhere from .8 to 3 dB.

What does that mean? Disclaimer: RF geeks, I’ma get loose with terms here. Relax.

This reduction in power is called “attenuation.” In general with radio communications, you don’t want any attenuation. Attenuation can happen with earth, buildings, forests, and even window coatings. How much power will you lose? Let’s run some numbers.

American based hotspots start off by pushing out 27 dBm. European and other areas start WAY lower, at 14. Add the gain (dBi) from your antenna and subtract the losses from any connections to figure out your Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP).

That means a 6 dBi antenna will give you 33 dBm of EIRP with a US hotspot. 27dBm + 6dBi = 33dBm in the direction of antenna gain. Now you’ve got to calculate cable and connection loss.

As a rough rule of thumb, each connection (hotspot to antenna cable, antenna cable to antenna, or going through an enclosure wall using a connector) will drop your EIRP by .5 dB. Cable losses vary by cable, which is why most people use a “low loss” cable like LMR400. If you want to run your EIRP numbers, here’s how.

Ok, ok, ok, why does it matter whether or not you know your EIRP?

Let’s take a short detour into dBm and power. dBm is based on a logarithmic scale. For every increase of 3 dBm, there is twice as much power output. Every increase of 10 dBm has a tenfold increase in power. The difference between a 3 dBi antenna (what most hotspots ship with) and an aftermarket 9 dBi antenna is a factor of 4!

Of course, that 4x power comes at a cost; the beam is focused; more laser and less lightbulb. That means that unless you aim your antenna very carefully, you can blast all that power into places that have no hotspots.

Here is a great example demonstrating attenuation and topography. This hotspot is placed on the north side inside a building. It’s up high with a higher gain antenna, and in general, inaccurately aimed over most of the nearby hotspots.

Most of the witnesses it’s getting are further north. Some of the signals bounce off to the side, proving that “RF is weird.”

To the south, the signals are blocked or attenuated by interior and exterior walls, but apparently there is a small window or opening where those weakened signals are escaping, then going pretty far over the water. Pretty neat, right? I mean, not for the hotspot owner, but it’s a neat demonstration of the concept.

That image is also a great example of why you should never put a hotspot antenna inside; you are losing a ton of power before the radio waves ever get outside the building.

Water allows radio signals to travel much further than normal; look at any hotspot next to a body of water and you’ll see it will connect with other hotspots at much further ranges across the water than it will across land.

Let’s not get too into the weeds here. As I said at the beginning, the general rule for topography is this: The flatter your topography, the higher gain antenna you can use, up to 9 dBi for 95% of placements. Beyond 9 the pattern generally gets too precise to provide the Wide coverage (the W in WUPU) that we want.

Remember, topography includes not just hills, mountains, and water, but all the buildings, bridges, and other structures that might block your radio signal. Cities in general do not have a flat topography, even if they’re built on flat land. All those spiky buildings sticking out will gobble up your radio signals.

That brings us to ELEVATION. If you want to bend your mind a little bit, think about this: The higher your elevation, the flatter the relative topography is, and the LOWER dbi antenna you can use. Wait, what?

Remember, a high dbi antenna focuses the signal of your antenna. In an omni antenna (we’ll get to directional or sector antennas in a minute), that shape becomes a flatter and flatter plane. If that plane is super flat, it’ll fly right over the tops of all those hotspots you want to hit. Let’s go through 3 examples.

Now, those aren’t how it *actually* works. The gain patterns are nowhere near as different, and a high gain antenna will STILL hit the ground within 1,000′ of even a 100′ building. Still, you can see why in *most* cases, you want a low or medium gain antenna up high.

You can also run that idea backwards; if you’re in a really flat area where you don’t have a lot of obstacles, a high gain antenna might be your best bet. Still, most people don’t live in the desert, and the flattest state in America has a ton of trees on it. If that’s your scenario, get a high gain (6-9 dBi) antenna up over the tops of those trees for maximum coverage.

That brings us in a roundabout way to Lines of Sight. Remember that $39 paper I quoted earlier regarding how much RF energy a given building material would absorb? The general takeaway for us Helium Hotspot owners is this: Our antennas won’t blast through much more than 2 buildings.

That means if you’re INSIDE the building, you’ve burned most of the energy of the antenna just getting outside the walls. If it hits just one more “thing”, whether it’s a building, a tree, or a billboard, that’s probably the end of the line.

This “Lines of Sight” idea has an important implication in understanding how some of the top earning hotspot/antenna combos are doing so well. The hotspot Docile Bone Pony* (when this was written, one of the highest earners in the world) is on top of a 16 story building in a major city with a medium/high gain antenna (8 dbi from eBay on 60′ of LMR400.) It has Lines of Sight to a lot of other hotspots, BUT those other hotspots don’t have great lines of sight to other hotspots around ’em.

That means that DBP is seeing a lot of hotspots that AREN’T seeing a lot of hotspots. I’m going to anthropomorphize this a bit, but their only option is to communicate with DBP. So they do. And DBP earns like crazy. It’s an example of the incredible earning potential that exists when providing asymmetric value to the network.

While we’re on Lines of Sight, let’s talk about the range of a standard hotspot. According to some excellent work done by the inimitable @para1 on Discord, most hotspots do most of their witnessing within a 10km range. Now, an in depth discussion of the implications and restrictions of this table is beyond the scope of this article, but your general takeaway should be “Optimize your antenna for hotpots within 10 km” aka most people don’t need a high gain antenna.

@para1’s table, posted in Discord

I’ll double tap this range thing with an example of a hotspot I run, which has a 3 dBi HNTenna on top of a 20′ pole on top of a ~30′ building. It *routinely* gets witnesses over 200km away. While it seems that a high gain antenna will get you better range, it doesn’t really matter. It’s Line of Sight that is the secret here.

Finally, Lines of Sight can be blocked by forests. Depending on who you listen to, LoRa doesn’t go through much more than 60 meters of dense forest. I’m sorry rural Florida, you’ve just got a tough row to hoe on that one. Dense forest in between you and other antennas is about the only time a higher gain (up to 9 dBi) makes sense, and even then it may not make a giant difference. Forests are RF sinks.

There is one more thing to think about with Lines of Sight. The 900 MHz frequency needs some runway, ideally 50’/15m to fan out enough to diffract around obstacles. Read that again and you’ll have an advantage over everyone who doesn’t get that concept.

The concept of Fresnel zones and diffraction in radio wave communication is one of the fundamental drivers of the “RF is weird” refrain you’ll hear whenever you see a pattern that doesn’t immediately make sense. Basically, the further out your radio waves go, the more they can spread out along their radiation pattern, the less likely that all of the waves get blocked, and the more likely that at least some of ’em will get to another hotspot.

At some distance they’re so spread out that you’re basically not going to make a connection, so the effective “window” shrinks back down. Like this:

Check out RadioMobile to get deep on Fresnel zones.

If you set up your antenna so that you’ve got lots of clear space around it before it hits obstacles, those radios waves have enough spread to start “bending around” those obstacles. This is yet another reason not to set up inside.

Here’s another “I definitely didn’t go to art school” drawing to demonstrate the idea of runway and diffraction.

If you give those radio waves some room to spread out, they can get around obstacles. Let ’em breathe!

Ok, we’ve got one more thing to consider before wrapping up. Many of you will have been scouring ham radio sites to figure out how to improve the range of your antenna. Keep in mind that the goal of many ham radio operators is incredible range, but that can come at the cost of broad coverage. Doing exactly what a ham operator does may give you the results they want, not what you want.

YOU want to hit as many high scale hotspots as possible. You’ll usually do that by using a low gain antenna up high, with clear lines of sight all around.

Remember, you’ll earn the most by delivering the most valuable & provable coverage to the network. The concept is simple. The execution can be complicated. If you want help with getting the maximum value out of your placements or strategy, I’m available for hire.

For those of you who skipped all that and just want to know what antenna to get, here are 4 generally good options for the 3 most common scenarios.

  1. In a building in the city? Get an outdoor HNTenna or a McGill in the 3-6 dBi range, put it outside up as high as you can.
  2. In a building where you just can’t get up high? Use the stock antenna that came with your hotspot. Also, find a better placement location. You did read about that, right?
  3. In a suburban house? Get either the HNTenna or a McGill in the 3-6 dBi range and put it on a pole outside and up high.
  4. On a mountain where you can’t possible transmit behind you (because the mountain will block your signal) and you have an enormous view of civilization and your nearest hotspot is more than 5 miles away? Try a 8-9 dBi patch antenna, like these.

I’ll round this out with what to definitely NOT do. Don’t just look at the gain of an antenna and think higher is better. Don’t bother with Yagi antennas. Finally, don’t worry too much about your antenna. In the big picture of earnings, it is FAR more important to have good placement and elevation. The fanciest, coolest, most high tech antenna in the world won’t get you much if you’re in a crappy location down low.

Best of luck with your placement and earnings, I’m stoked to be a part of this amazing community! If you’re looking for work in the Helium ecosystem, check out  Helium Jobs. You can post and find jobs there, help support the ecosystem by making it easier to connect professionally, and let the world know that YOU exist and want to help contribute within the Network. Rock on!

Resources and Further Reading

A deeper dive into understanding how RF works.

Calculating RF Power Values (explains why a 6 dBi antenna doubles your power)

900 MHz: The Wireless Workhorse. (Probably why Helium chose LoRa)

List of Helium Hotspots & Their Antennas

Before you read this and assume that you must have a high gain antenna in order to get great earnings, please keep in mind that these hotspot owners are generally tinkerers and often have some expertise in RF theory. The results are a little skewed because of that.

UPDATE: HeliumVision now reports this for all hotspot owners who have entered this on Helium app. I’ve closed submissions on this page.

Docile Bone Pony – Elevation: 16 stories, Area: Greater Boston, MA. Antenna: 8 dbi omni from eBay, Cables: 60′ of LMR400

Sweet Sage Pike – Elevation: 43′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Antenna: Nearson 9, Cables: 5′ of LMR400

Chilly Blood Mongoose – Elevation: 41′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Antenna: Laird FG9026 (6 dbi), Cables: 5′ of LMR400

Lucky Menthol Wasp – Elevation: 60′ above ground, Area: San Diego, CA. Antenna: RAK 5.8 dbi, Cables: 11′ LMR400

Nice Lipstick Chimpanzee – Elevation: 25′ above ground, Area: San Francisco, CA. Antenna: RFMAX | ROSA-900-SNF, Cables: 5′ LMR240

Interesting Pearl Starling – Elevation: 35′ above ground, Area: North Shore, MA. Antenna: RAK 5.8 dbi, Cables: RAK pigtail interface converter bundled with antenna

Jumpy Iron Ferret – Elevation: 34th story, Area: Chicago, IL. Antenna: Stock, Cables: N/A. Indoor setup.

Kind Infrared Lynx – Elevation: 15′ above ground, Area: Denver, CO. Antenna: Taoglas 8 dbi. Cables: 15′ LMR400

Lucky Dijon Scallop – Elevation: 33′ above ground. Area: Englewood, CO. Antenna: RAK 8 dbi. Cables: RAK pigtail cable

Sticky Pear Dolphin – Elevation: 311′ above ground (mountain). Area: San Francisco, CA. Antenna: Oukeione 3 dbi. Cables: Bingfu

Petite Menthol Leopard – Elevation 25′. Area: Napa, CA. Antenna: 5.8 RAK. Cables: Bingfu

Best Tangerine Racoon – Elevation: Second Floor Window. Area: Bayonne, NJ Antenna: Stock 3 dBi Cables: 1m pigtail

Warm Juniper Panther – Elevation: 4th floor rooftop. Area: Bayonne, NJ Antenna: Nearson 9 dBi. Cables: 4′ LMR400

Scrawny Eggplant Panda – Elevation: 35′ Area: Lakewood, OH Antenna 4 dBi Multipole Cables: N/A

Ancient Cider Grasshopper – Elevation: 40′ Area: Kansas City, MO Antenna: RAK Wireless 8 dBi Cables: 30′ LMR400

Oblong Slate Platypus – Elevation: 400′ Area: New York City, NY Antenna: Proxicast 10 dBi Cables: LMR400

Ripe Banana Goblin – Elevation: 2nd floor window Area: Vancouver, BC Antenna: Stock 3 dBi Cables: N/A

Trendy Rainbow Lizard – Elevation: 1st floor window Area: Vancouver, BC Antenna: Stock 3 dBi Cables: N/A

Striped Pewter Osprey – Elevation: 20′ Area: Los Angeles, CA Antenna: RAk 5.8 Cables: LMR400

489 thoughts on “What’s The Best Antenna For Your Helium Hotspot?”

  1. Hi Nash, just updated the post. I used to recommend those patch antennas, but that was before PoCv11. There’s just not that useful anymore. If you get an HNTenna up high you’ll be doing about as well as you can do, although you can def try other antennas as well. The big obstacle will be not that many hotspots near you.

  2. Thanks for the post. I out mine in the attic for two days and it got more witnesses, but less HNT and less overall activities. Should I put it in a spot with more activity and more HNT or in the spot with more witnesses?

  3. My sister is in a great spot central Charlotte, NC. Only one other on her Hex. I have a stock 4DBi antenna on a Bobcat miner in her office window on second floor. Could I do better 10-15 ft higher up INSIDE her attic? What antenna would be good for inside an attic and close to downtown of a city.

  4. Thank you Nik. Would you say window on second floor is better.. or attic 15 ft higher with the stock 4DBI. Currently getting 1.0 scale and 36 witnesses in window. When you say under-report… are you referring to if the antenna is 4 DBI.. put 2.8? Something like that? Really appreciate your service to the community.

  5. Yep, you’re offsetting for the known attenuation of your attic. Can’t emphasize enough that you should test that prior to doing it.

  6. Why are directional antennas no longer recommended after PoCv11? Would the longer range of a 9dbi directional antenna not pass validity checks, as the system assumes the range should be within the parameters of a 9dbi omni antenna?

  7. Hi Jamie, they were never really that useful in the Helium space. I tried a bunch of ’em thinking they’d outperform omnis, but so far that hasn’t proven true for my deployments. The range isn’t an issue; a 3 dBi will reach 200 km, so there’s no “range” reason to get a higher gain antenna.

  8. Hello again! So I noticed that the antenna you recommended that looks like a dome is only 3dbi. Do you recommend that over rak wireless 5.8dbi? I’m in a suburban area , specifically ashburn, va if you wanna take a look.

  9. Wow to your most recent comment about 3dbi reaching 200km! I had no idea that was the case?!? Then why are so many people opting for higher gain antennas?

  10. Hi Matthew, antennas don’t really matter. I’ve been using the 3 dBi HNTenna with good results, but any of the good antennas from 3-5.8 will be fine.

  11. I don’t know why so many people are using high gain antennas. Probably a mistaken belief that “bigger is better”.

  12. I’m about 3/4 up on a small mountain/large hill. I just deployed my hotspot with a Rokland 6dbi about 4 days ago. Might be a bit early to tell, but only witnessing about 3 times a day, and being witnessed about 5 times a day (less than .1 HNT per day). Reading this, I’m wondering if going lower would be wiser since most everyone on the side that isn’t blocked by the mountain is below me. However, some of the HS I’ve witnessed are doing close to .7-1.0 HNT per day with antennas with higher gain than me 7.5-9dbi. Very confusing which route to go here, but also limited timeframe on the data to really make an assessment.

    I also input exactly 6dbi into the app and wonder if that affects my results as well.

  13. Hey Zach, let it go another day or so before you make a final decision. Earnings probably have less to do with the antenna than the location. Location is critical.

  14. Hey so I have a question, I have a freedomFi miner that comes with a tiny little 1.2 dBi antenna. It’s a relatively new set up. I’ve got the device sitting next to my second story Window, and it just doesn’t seem to be witnessing or being witnessed very often. I’ve witnessed devices and been witnessed before, but none of my beacons have been seen in the past 2 days, and I haven’t witnessed any of my neighbors either, so I’m not really sure what’s going on.

    I can’t realistically mount an antenna up any higher due to my HOA, but I can probably put a relatively covert outdoor antenna right outside my Window, as long as I don’t drill any holes in the building. Central Massachusetts if it matters. Is this likely worth my time / money? Or is it likely that I’m just not in a good location.

  15. If you can’t mount it higher and you’re not getting the results you want, I’d look for another location.

  16. I have a question. I currently have a 5.8dbi Omni directional that is attached to a PVC pipe that is attached to the conduit pipe with electrical wires leading into my house. Could the close proximity to those electrical wires be causing my terribly low earnings? The actual antenna is probably 6 ft above the wires but the coaxial does rum down beside it. Thanks in advance!

  17. Hi Nik,

    Great information. Thank you!

    I have a Linxdot miner on order(only one with a reasonable delivery) and getting my site ready. I am in the hills in rural area at 900′ AGL. There are multiple miners in front of me in a clear line of sight at an elevation of ~ 300′ AGL. My clear line of sight view shed is ~150 degrees. All miners are in this view and between 8- 15km away. I was planning on mounting the antenna outdoors on a building, mast height ~ 45′ AGL. I will be just below the deciduous tree canopy which would be 150′ in front of the proposed location. It should be noted that there is a radio tower 500′ away (behind the proposed location) from proposed location at 150′ AGL with fire and police columniations equipment. My concern is having enough reach to hit the miners in my view. Reading through your info i learned that i should not use a high gain antenna but most likely a low or medium gain. What antenna i be looking fo? Can you make a recommendation? I am happy to pay a consulting fee to pick your brain as i want to get this right.
    Take care,

  18. Hi Ed, if you’re surrounded by trees it’ll be a tough push to get out no matter what antenna you use. I might go with a 5.8 and under-assert gain to give it a little more punch getting through the trees.

  19. Hey Nik, Reading through your articles and comments on articles. Are you saying that asserting the dbi in the app will actually impact your signal to the antenna? I bought a hotspot off a friend and he only had an 8dbi antenna, it’s up in my attic until the snow melts and I can get on the roof. No one was witnessing my beacons, but I set the antennae in the app to 5Dbi and now more witnesses. Is this expected if the app setting does have an impact? (have a 5.8dbi on order now, i think the 8 is too much)

  20. Hi Ron,
    Asserting the dBi will only decrease signal power if the asserted gain puts you over the legal limit. Otherwise, the asserted gain is just used in the calcs. Does that make sense?

  21. Andrés Martínez

    Hi Nik, thanks for the info! My hotspot is 25m high and theres only like three buildings around the city, and the city is kind of flat. Would you recommend me a 5.8dbi antenna?

  22. Hi Nik — I finally got a couple hotspots deployed using some of the knowledge gained from you, including this article. One of my recent hotspots (Elegant Turquoise Panda – a bobcat currently with manufacturer antenna sitting in a window) is positioned such that it seems to be witnessing & getting witnessed by hotspots that have lower transmit scales. I am in the process of putting up the “oil can” 3 dbi HNTenna outdoors, as that had been my plan since researching all this last summer. However, I have really started to question whether this will have any better result (OR may actually hurt current results!) than the current setup.

    In thinking through ways to optimize the setup, I have noticed there are many more hotspots with higher transmit scales to the north. So I came back to this article and, like some of the other comments here, I noted that you removed the recommendation for a directional (“patch?”) antenna. I thought that might be a good solution to get more activity with higher transmit scale hotspots. I know “outside and up” is recommended, so I am going forward with the HNTenna, but if a directional antenna might help exclude lower transmit scales, wouldn’t that make sense?

    Thanks in advance. I’ve really appreciated your articles and see that I’ve gotten behind a bit!

  23. It’s an interesting idea, to aim your coverage at “high quality” hotspots. The only way to know for sure is to test it, but…the location itself is the driver of earnings. A “bad” location is hard to overcome, no matter what you do with elevation, pointing, antennas, etc.

  24. Thanks so much! I think it is a good location — up on the ridge on which downtown KC lies and, given the first few days with the basics and being indoors, it appears to be earning at to slightly above the network average. I’ll let the comment thread know how the switch to HNTenna outdoors works…

    Next question is “What was the directional antenna you had recommended back in the earlier version of the article?” Also, since it seems you have gotten away from deployments with directional antennas, would you happen to have one you want to get out of your way for cheap? 😉

    Again, Thank you!

  25. The heavy duty 9 dBi patch from L-com. I’ll hold onto mine for other projects, but they’re pretty cheap anyway.

  26. Hi Nik, what dBi would you recommend for a hilly terrain? I currently have a 5.8 dBi about 20 feet from the ground on top of my house. However, I sit in a depression on 3 sides and moving to another location isn’t really an option. I know if I could get it higher it would be better, but what if I can’t? Would a 3 dBi be better because of the wider angle to get it out and up and for diffraction or maybe I am understanding that wrong? Not super worried about range, if I could pick up more of the other hotspots within 5km of me I would be happy. Thanks for your time.

  27. Hey Nik, I live in the suburbs on a hill and have an antenna on top of my roof about 40~ feet above ground. I am running 40ft of LMR400, which comes down to about 1.57db of loss. I used to run a 5.8db antenna in my attic when I had near 0 loss. Now that I’ve put it on the roof, I swapped to an 8dbi antenna to offset the 1.57db loss from the long cable. Was this a valid action or do you think there would be better coverage with the old 5.8db antenna?

    For reference, I used to get around 300 witnesses and ~80 witnesses with the miner and antenna in my attic.

  28. Hi Kevin, a 3 dBi antenna (and gain pattern) might help provide broader coverage, but I wouldn’t expect a huge change. The obstacle is earth, and no amount of (reasonable) gain will get through a hill.

  29. What type of material can be used for antenna mast. Since these miners seem so light I was thinking of mounting my syncrobit and rak 5.8 antennas using 1.5 ” PVC 20 ft high . But im reading generally PVC is a poor material?? I also presume I would still want to use a lighting arrestor although I understand the rak antenna has grounding? Using PVC would I have to ground the mast??

  30. Hi Mike, PVC is probably not the best material for long term outdoor deployments. I use metal masts, 4130 steel (which is probably overkill.)

    No matter what mast type, you should use a lightning arrestor and run a wire to ground.

  31. Trying to decide between a Hntenna 902-928MHz, and a McGill. Location is flat, in an area well populated with miners. Elevation would be 30ft.

  32. Hi Nik,
    Thank you for really great information. I saw some youtube clips with a guy having similar surrondings as me having good success with a Yagi antenna. So I was thinking of getting one. Then I saw here that you say don’t bother with the Yagi. Why is that? Is there some other brand you would prefer if going the directional route?

    Thanks a lot!

  33. Typically the Yagi beams are too narrow to cover a broad area, which is what the Helium ecosystem generally wants.

  34. Hye Nik,
    A high gain antenna might anyway be very useful for acquiring more IoT devices signals… So, I would not discourage 10-12 dBi antennas …

  35. Hi Michel, hmm, I don’t think that’s correct. Talking with BFGNeil, the way a high gain works and the protocol sensor data is transmitted on aren’t a great match.

  36. Hey Nik, I live in a pretty rural suburban area (flat land, mostly 1 and 2 story houses around, no extremely tall buildings) closest hotspot is around 4km away. I just received a SenseCap M1, and I have it set up with the stock antenna (1.2 dbi I belive) mounted high in a window about 12 ft/3.3m above the ground. Reading your info I assume a 3dbi antenna would suffice if I were to mount it roughly 20-40 ft above the ground and outdoors. The name of my hotspot is Overt Silver Viper in North Carolina. If you could let me know your recommendation and opinion, that would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  37. Hi Nik,
    Thanks for the interesting piece and while a lot of the jargon is over my head my takeaway is location is key and that the right antenna for the right topography makes a difference. I have a SenseCap M1 about 25′ above ground level on my roof with an 8 dbi antenna. Switching from my bedroom window with my 3 dbi to my current set up made a difference but not as much as I would have expected. My pattern looks quite a bit like your NY example showing attenuation and topography (I am Tangy Cobalt Python if you care to look). I will try going back to the 3 dbi on the roof to see what happens. If that shows even better results would purchasing a 5dbi possibly given better results than both 3dbi and 8dbi? Or would 3 dbi and 5 dbi likely be about the same?
    Thanks in advance

  38. Hi Jeff, it’s always a little bit of “test and see” when it comes down to it. I don’t think you’ll see a huge difference no matter what you do antenna-wise, the key will probably be getting it higher.

  39. Hey Nik,
    Love all your content especially your Youtube channel! 🙂

    Quick question: I live near the ocean which obviously extends out flat, but behind us there is a significant hill that rises up quickly. Lot’s of hotspots on the otherside of the hill but probably unreachable… My thinking was to put up a 9 db omni antenna or maybe* a mcgill 10 db directional and point it across the water and go for the hotspots 10-25 kms away as I see a lot of local hotspots with low transmit ratings and thinking maybe they will drag me down a bit.


  40. Yep, not unreasonable to routinely hit that distance across the water, but you won’t need 10 dBi or even 9 for that. A 3 or a 6 will be fine. I’ve got a 3 that routinely hits over 100 km away over water, sometimes as far as 200 km. 30 km is nothing. 🙂

  41. Do you have a rule of thumb for how you weigh the trade-off between putting an antenna up as high as possible vs. the loss from additional LMR400 cable length? For example: If I am putting an antenna on top of my residential roof in a suburban area, am I typically better off with a very short mast and ~3′ of LMR400 cable, or a 30′ mast with ~33′ of LMR400 cable? Ideally, one would want a 30′ mast and ~3′ of cable, but that would require putting the helium hotspot outside at the top of the mast which has some complexities and limitations. My initial hypothesis is that height is more important than cable loss, so a taller 30′ mast with ~33′ of LMR400 cable would earn more than a very short mast with minimal cable loss.

  42. Agree re. height being more important than cable length/loss. At 30′ you’re not losing much on LMR400.

  43. I have been looking for anyone mentioning multiple Antennas. Could you have 1 that reaches further and 1 that reaches wider in your area? So one higher up and one lower?

    What about 2 hotspots at the same location, 1 with the 9dbi further reach higher up so it covers the whole city and the 2nd one with a 4/5dbi so it covers the wider area?

  44. Hi Drei, technically you can do this, practically it’s usually not worth the hassle. The coverage from even a 9 dBi isn’t as narrow as I draw it in the pictures. The location will be far more important than the actual setup on the location. Video on this topic here.

  45. Hello NIK

    Thank you for the article and all the info, really great!
    I am waiting for my Sensecap M1 this Monday and I would like your advice about upgrading the antenna.
    My height is 100m+ (high rise apartment), my180degrees (front) is unobstructed and quite flat( Qatar ) , 180 degrees on the back the same but my building will be blocking. Unfortunately most of the available hotspots are on the back and some on the front..does an upgrade on the antenna be worth it? I can’t go higher.
    Thanks for any time you put to share some advice.

  46. Hi Ioannis, I’d start with the stock antenna for 3-5 days and see how well it does. If you’re hitting in a nice pattern all around you there’s no huge need to upgrade. LoRa is pretty robust and can get through a building or two.

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