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 phone 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 cover a few square miles of area, 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 5 million HNT are split 6 ways every month:
- Challengers — 0.95% of rewards (your hotspot transmits a signal to other hotspots)
- 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 .7 to 20 HNT/day. Most of you will make less than 4 HNT/day. Some of you will earn more than 20. (“20” was from when this post was originally written, in April of 2021.)
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.
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. As of March 2021, they are: RAK Wireless, Nebra, EasyLinkin Bobcat, and SyncroBit. 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 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 ones from CalChip, Parley Labs, and Bobcat sent me one to review. I’ll do a full comparison when I have ’em all, but seriously, just get any of ’em and focus your efforts on finding the best location.
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 that ParleyLabs sells. 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? Dude, 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 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.