A Quick Helium Explainer — Helium ELI5



Got a ques­tion about Heli­um? Which min­er is best? How are rewards cal­cu­lat­ed? What anten­na should you get? How much will you earn? Where should you put your hotspot? 

Here are answers to the most fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions about Heli­um, explained for those of us who aren’t super technical.

First, Heli­um in a nut­shell: Heli­um is a net­work of com­put­ers with built-in radios. This com­bi­na­tion is called a “Heli­um Hotspot.” Each Hotspot (HS) acts just like a cell phone tow­er pro­cess­ing sig­nals, except they process real­ly small pieces of data that trav­el real­ly long dis­tances. And, instead of the tele­phone com­pa­ny (or “tel­co”) get­ting paid to put up cell phone tow­ers, YOU get reward­ed for putting up a Hotspot.

The term “hotspot” can be con­fus­ing. Many peo­ple think they’re pro­vid­ing WiFi for oth­ers. You’re not. This is a dif­fer­ent kind of hotspot pro­vid­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of radio cov­er­age, some­thing called LoRa, for Long Range. This radio cov­er­age trans­fers real­ly small pack­ets of data (like a 10 dig­it grid loca­tion or a tem­per­a­ture, or a wind speed, or whether or not a per­son walked through a door­way) real­ly long dis­tances, some­times 20 miles or more. 

Depend­ing on where it’s placed (more on that here) a Heli­um hotspot can trans­mit and receive sig­nals from 1 km to 300km away , though that is HEAVILY depen­dent on what’s around it. Hotspot radio waves are blocked by the usu­al sol­id things; build­ings, walls, mountains. 

How are rewards cal­cu­lat­ed? Approx­i­mate­ly 2.5 mil­lion HNT are split 6 ways every month.

  • Chal­lengers — 0.95% of rewards (con­struct­ed by the Val­ida­tor group, this ini­ti­ates the HNT earn­ing sequence for Hotspot owners)
  • Chal­lengees — 5.31% (your hotspot pass­es on a sig­nal after hear­ing it)
  • Wit­nessess — 21.24% (your hotspot hears the sig­nal of anoth­er hotspots)
  • Con­sen­sus Group — 6% (a ran­dom­ly select­ed group of more pow­er­ful com­put­ers called Val­ida­tors. You can be a Val­ida­tor if you have the tech­ni­cal skills to run one and are will­ing to “stake” 10,000 HNT
  • Secu­ri­ty — 34% (Heli­um Inc and investors)
  • Data Trans­fer — up to 32.5% (your hotspots process actu­al data that come in from sen­sors.) Real­is­ti­cal­ly, not much data is being passed around yet, so all the “left­over” data rewards is split out between the Proof Of Cov­er­age (Chal­lengers, Wit­ness­es & Chal­lengees) group.

What is a gate­way? Is it the same as a hotspot? Yep, a hotspot is a gate­way. The Heli­um net­work is made up of:

  • Hotspots (aka gate­ways), which trans­mit and receive sig­nals from oth­er hotspots and from –>
  • Sen­sors which are the things that actu­al­ly gen­er­ate the data and send it to the hotspots.
  • Val­ida­tors, com­ing some­time before ear­ly sum­mer 2021,which are basi­cal­ly more pow­er­ful machines than hotspots that make sure all the trans­ac­tions entered into the blockchain are valid.

How much will I make? Short answer is from .1 to 1 HNT/day. Most of you will make less than .25 HNT/day. A rea­son­able way to esti­mate what your earn­ings will be is over here.

Earn­ings depends on a few things: Loca­tion den­si­ty and how many oth­er hotspots your hotspot can “see”, which is a func­tion of your anten­na and all the cabling & con­nec­tions. Here’s an entire arti­cle on opti­miz­ing your hotspot placement.

You can also look on the net­work map at hotspots in your area of inter­est and see how much they’re mak­ing, or use Site­bot to look at how much the hotspots in your city, state, or coun­try make.

What min­er is best? They’re pret­ty much all the same as far as per­for­mance. The dif­fer­ences between them are basi­cal­ly incon­se­quen­tial. You can find all the cur­rent hotspot man­u­fac­tur­ers list­ed on Heli­um’s page. BFGNeil over on Dis­cord has done a superb post on this over on Medi­um. Read it. 

Yeah, but which one is the best? I mean, I want to max­i­mize per­for­mance! I want to win! Relax, tur­bo. WHERE you put it is 100 times more impor­tant than which hotspot you have. This isn’t like Bit­coin where one min­ing set­up gives you a huge advan­tage over anoth­er. The best one is the one you have plugged in and singing.

But, but, but, which one should I buy? I’ve bought RAKs, Nebras, and a Free­dom­Fi from CalChip, Par­ley Labs, and Free­dom­Fi, and Bob­cat sent me one to review. I like the RAKs the best, but oth­ers have dif­fer­ent opinions.

Where should I put my hotspot? Near, but not too near (more than 300 meters) oth­er hotspots. In a high place where it has noth­ing block­ing it from “see­ing” oth­er hotspots. Read this arti­cle on opti­miz­ing your hotspot placement. 

What anten­na should I get? You won’t believe this at first, but I’ll save you a bunch of time and effort by say­ing DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE ANTENNA. Unless you live in a place where you are 5+ miles away from the next hotspot, the anten­na you use won’t make that much dif­fer­ence and may actu­al­ly hurt your earnings. 

Yeah, but…I want the BEST anten­na. I have TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS to spend! I want to make the MOST mon­ey. Ok, ok, relax. Read this arti­cle on how to match your Heli­um hotspot place­ment with your anten­na. Buy any of the anten­nas from McGill. That’ll prob­a­bly make you feel bet­ter about your hotspot, but unless you’ve already done the work to be in a good loca­tion AND be up high, well, the anten­na won’t make a huge difference.

What about this anten­na I found on eBay that says it’ll com­mu­ni­cate with satellites/reach across oceans/skip from moun­tain range to moun­tain range? C’mon, stop it with the anten­na obses­sion. The anten­nas shipped with every hotspot are excellent. 

Unless you have a very spe­cif­ic use case (a moun­tain top loca­tion with a view of the city and the near­est hotspot is 8 miles away), the fanci­ness of the anten­na has very lit­tle bear­ing on your earn­ings. Focus on find­ing the right loca­tion & ele­va­tion. Trust me, I’ve installed that anten­na. It’s not going to be the most prof­itable setup.

What’s the fur­thest a Hotspot can reach? Typ­i­cal­ly they’ll do 5–15km eas­i­ly. The LoRa record is (or at least was) held by the guy with the Swiss accent, which is a great video to check out. Cur­rent world record (not by Andreas Spiess) as of March 2021 is 517 miles. Yeah, it goes a long way. No, that was­n’t a stock antenna. 

Is Heli­um avail­able in my coun­try? Prob­a­bly. You’ll need to take a look at what fre­quen­cies are allowed to be trans­mit­ted on in your coun­try. As exam­ples, in North Amer­i­ca it’s on 915 MHz, in India it’s 865–867 MHz, in Europe it’s 863–870 MHz, in South Korea 920–923 MHz, and in Asia 923 MHz.

Do I have an advan­tage if I have the first hotspots in a town/state/country? Only until oth­er peo­ple start putting in hotspots. There is no “first place­ment advan­tage” for putting hotspots, oth­er than that you’re min­ing and oth­er peo­ple aren’t.

Is it secure to put a Hotspot on my net­work? Gen­er­al­ly it’s about as safe as adding a print­er to your net­work. Here’s Heli­um’s offi­cial Secu­ri­ty expla­na­tion. One impor­tant point (brought up by @para1 in the Dis­cord chan­nel) is that the anten­na is NOT a WiFi anten­na, it’s a LoRa anten­na, and if you can hack into a net­work through LoRa, well, you’re prob­a­bly work­ing for OGA.

Will a Heli­um Hotspot be able to pen­e­trate low‑e glass? Yes, but the sig­nal will be damp­ened. It’s always best to get your anten­na out­side and up high. More on that here.

Will I make more HNT if I put 2 Hotspots in my house? No. Unlike Bit­coin, where more horse­pow­er equals more earn­ings, Heli­um Hotspots are reward­ed for how much *unique* AND *prov­able* cov­er­age they pro­vide. If you have BOTH those things, you’ll make the most. If you have just one (lots of prov­able cov­er­age that is dupli­cat­ing oth­er cov­er­age, or lots of unique cov­er­age where no oth­er hotspots can com­mu­ni­cate with you), you’ll earn far less. If you have 2 or more hotspots, the best way to earn the most is to place them at least 300m away from each oth­er and have each pro­vide as much unique & prov­able cov­er­age as possible.

What is PoE? PoE stands for Pow­er Over Eth­er­net, and it’s a way to pow­er your min­er using just an eth­er­net cable. For PoE to work, you’ll need a PoE Injec­tor to inject pow­er into your eth­er­net cable. Depend­ing on what hotspot you have (Nebra Out­door does­n’t need it, the RAKs do), you may also need a PoE Split­ter to split the pow­er out from the eth­er­net cable. 

How long before a Hotspot that’s offline stops affect­ing my reward scale? Tech­ni­cal­ly, 3600 “blocks”. A block is about a minute, so 3600 of ’em add up to 60 hours, or about 2.5 days. That’s con­tin­u­ous­ly offline; if it pops back on for even a block it’ll still show up. You can read about that in HIP 17 and check the appro­pri­ate chain vari­able, titled hip17_interactivity_blocks, here.

Where can I learn more? Join the Gris­tle Crüe, we have week­ly calls to talk all things Heli­um and you get ear­ly access to inter­views with key players.


24 responses to “A Quick Helium Explainer — Helium ELI5

  1. Darren Avatar

    Halv­ing and Sharing.
    OK, so ive fig­ured out Place­ments, high­ts, line of site, den­si­ty and cre­at­ing a nice grid where i live so that most of the hotspots can see each oth­er. 80% hap­py with my effort so far.
    I under­stand the Halv­ing is com­ing and im still hap­py that i can get this.
    BUT, just spo­ken to a friend and he informs me that the 5M tokens that go toward build­ing the net­work will soon be going to all the new hotspots that peo­ple are about to take deliv­ery of as well as the exist­ing units. So the­o­ret­i­cal­ly speak­ing a unit mak­ing 100H today will be 50 at the halv­ing, then with the dilu­tion from the 175k extra hotspots (8times as many over­all) get­ting deliv­ered could become 6.25H.
    100/2= 50 (halv­ing).….. 50/8 (Sharing)=6.25
    Have i got some­thing wrong here, I do hope so as i dont want my Bal­loon to burst.

  2. Nope, that all looks cor­rect. The unknown is the price of HNT.

  3. Darren Avatar

    Thanks for the quick reply Nik.
    So the place­ment plan i had cob­bled up was main­ly over the res­i­den­tial areas where i live. There isnt much in the way of indus­try for a few miles so im guess­ing not a lot of action for the net­work to process.
    Would i be bet­ter off look­ing to cov­er indus­tri­al areas with major Motorways/freeways pass­ing through them ? Im try­ing to square this off prop­er­ly in my head and place the units in areas with plen­ty of £££ traf­fic. Maybe in the begin­ning cov­er­age was the main game but could that morph into data hits becom­ing the earn­er. Im in the UK by the way.

  4. Unless you’re pro­cess­ing a boat­load of data traf­fic, remem­ber that one of the fun­da­men­tal offer­ings of the Heli­um net­work is that data is cheap. In order to max the oppor­tu­ni­ty, you’ll have to fig­ure out a way to actu­al­ly help local gov/biz/entities USE that data, then charge for that.

  5. Hi! I have 5000h land and I want to cow­er with hotspots. No city around. It’s a good idea to invest in it? Thans

  6. Hi Bar­tok, poten­tial­ly good to invest in, but with no one around you’ll be tak­ing a fair amount of risk. You’ll need at least 26 hotspots to build out an area that has the poten­tial to earn, and all of ’em need pow­er (easy) and con­nec­tion to the inter­net (which can be tricky.)

  7. Bartók Avatar

    Thank you for your quick answer Nik, I real­ly appre­ci­ate that! I’m about to deploy around 500 hotspots. For the pow­er and inter­net con­nec­tion is not a prob­lem, all that is already fixed. So you think that I can go with this project? Thank you

  8. Hi Bartók, whew, that’s a big ques­tion! With­out know­ing the details, I’d say plac­ing 500 hotspots car­ries con­sid­er­able risk (and poten­tial reward.) Might be worth sched­ul­ing a con­sult­ing ses­sion for that.

  9. Hi Nik,

    I just read your great arti­cles. I’m study­ing this HNT coin while wait­ing for arrival of min­ing machine.

    I think your arti­cles will be very use­ful for the peo­ple who are liv­ing in my coun­try, S. Korea, even though I live in Cana­da now. Because there are not enough HNT infor­ma­tion writ­ten in Kore­an lan­guage. May I trans­late your arti­cles into Kore­an lan­guage and post them on my blog? I’m nei­ther pro­fes­sion­al trans­la­tor nor busi­ness per­son. I have 15 years semi­con­duc­tor mar­ket­ing expe­ri­ence in glob­al com­pa­ny and I’m stu­dent now. There­fore, I’ll nev­er sell the trans­lat­ed arti­cles. It’s pur­pose is just for shar­ing the valu­able infor­ma­tion of HNT coin to the peo­ple who speak Kore­an language. 

    Please let me know your opinion.
    Thank you.

  10. Hey Nik,
    I’m from Mal­dives and so far only 3 hotspots show in the cen­tral area of the coun­try (near cap­i­tal city) since I’m from the most south­ern island I’ll be the only one with a hotspot if I do invest in it. Would it be a good idea to buy 2 min­ers to put up in a dis­tance or will I earn if I just put one up?

  11. Hi Yafis, you’ll want at least 2 if you want to earn at all, and real­ly, you want more like 30–40. The good thing about the Mal­dives is that sig­nals trav­el far over water, so your 30–40 can be spread out. Just get those anten­nas high!

  12. Hi Nik, very use­ful all your articles.
    Look­ing at Heli­um Explor­er, I can see the most valu­able min­ers have 7D Bea­cons very high, and they are mak­ing 20–35 HNT per month.
    To achieve those high earn­ings, is there any­thing I can do, besides plac­ing the anten­na in a high place with good view? Where I live, in Spain, I can put it on the roof of the build­ing, around 30 meters from the ground. Can I do some­thing more?
    In my place, I have 2/3 min­ers in my hexa­gon. And I see min­ers doing 2–3 HNT/month and anoth­ers 20HNT/month.

  13. Hi Dave, once you get it high there’s not much left to do. It’s all about line of sight to mul­ti­ple oth­er hotspots (60+). If you have that, you tend to earn well.

  14. Hi Nik,
    I’m wait­ing for my min­er hotspot from linx­dot. I was plan­ning to install it on a place that no oth­er min­er was on this hex
    Now this hex has 1 hotspot 🙁
    Is it wise to install it there ?or can I use a type of spoof­ing to cheat the network
    There is avail­able hex next to mine
    P.s :you are amaz­ing dude 


  15. Hi Elias, take a look at the “Why Am I Get­ting Scaled?” blog post. I would­n’t advo­cate cheat­ing of any kind on the net­work. At the end of the day you get reward­ed the most for pro­vid­ing excel­lent cov­er­age; THAT’S where I’d put your efforts.

  16. Hey Nik, I was won­der­ing what is the best sys­tem to use to record all of your dai­ly earn­ings on all your min­ers through one pro­gram I cur­rent­ly have three unit run­ning and have 6 on order.

  17. Hi Glen, I’ve been using Hotspot­ty, although Heli­um­Track­er is anoth­er option.

  18. Excel­lent infor­ma­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion. I work on com­mer­cial roofs, all kinds, retail. office and indus­tri­al. What kind of ser­vices does the Heli­um net­work offer? It would be an easy sell for me to get these on roofs, lots of roofs.

  19. Hi Jon, just about any IoT appli­ca­tion you can think of (track­ing, tem­per­a­ture sens­ing, door open/closed, peo­ple coun­ters, etc) can be done on the Heli­um net­work. More on using it here. 

  20. John Dumas Avatar
    John Dumas

    I live in Hot Springs Vil­lage, Arkansas I don’t see any hotspots on the map.
    Would it be advis­able to be the first in a location?

  21. Hi John, if you can put at least 4 up that all clear line of sight to each oth­er that’ll be the bare min­i­mum to start earn­ing. 1 on its own won’t earn very much at all.

  22. Wow Nik, you are a pop­u­lar guy around here! Do you offer one on one help? I live in an area with a rapid­ly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion but from the maps I don’t see any min­ers. Just kind of curi­ous as to your opin­ion on set­ting up a few in my area and would also like to pick your brain a bit.

  23. Hi Kyle, set­ting up a few in a new area can be risky short-term. I do offer one-on-one help, or you can join the Gris­tle Crüe com­mu­ni­ty; both are great options.

  24. Do you know why Deep­er HNT “min­ers” aren’t part of “The Net­work” but earn HNT rewards? Take a look at the ones in Fall­brook, CA, just north of Pala Rd. They only wit­ness each oth­er. Curi­ous­ly, you don’t see Deep­er min­ers in large metro areas either.

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