In our last post, we detailed how Helium Hotspots earn HNT through their participation in “The People’s Network”. In short, each hotspot essentially gets rewarded in HNT by completing Proof-of-Coverage (PoC) tasks or by relaying IoT device data. All of these activities are forms of wireless communication that rely on radio wave technology to send information across the airwaves.
For the most part, the more active your hotspot is, the more opportunity it has to be rewarded in HNT. An individual hotspot’s utilization by the Helium Network is primarily dictated by its ability to efficiently relay or transmit radio waves to and from other devices. In other words, your Helium Hotspot should ideally be able to communicate with plenty of other hotspots and IoT devices without having too much overlap or redundancy.
With that in mind, hotspots that have the best chance of earning lots of HNT through their wireless communication efforts rely on the following methods for optimal configuration:
- Advantageous area saturation (hotspot density)
- Appropriate placement within the home or building
- Upgraded antennas (dependent on your device type and placement)
- Strong and consistent sources of internet and power
Before we delve into that configuration checklist, let’s take a quick look at radio wave technology and how it works within the Helium Network.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation that can help transmit digital information through physical spaces. They’re the transport service we use to hear music from broadcast radio channels and voices in our mobile phone calls, among other things. The distance that a radio wave can travel and the amount of information it can carry depends on its frequency. Generally speaking, radio waves with mid-range frequencies can travel the farthest and are considered the “sweet spot” for wireless communications.
In its current iteration (pre-5G), the Helium Network is known as a LoRaWAN, a type of low-power wide-area network. This means its wireless communication utilizes relatively lower frequency radio waves that require less power and can travel far distances. On the other hand, the amount of data that can be transferred is more limited, which is why Helium’s LoRaWAN is currently designed for IoT sensors and not fully operational autonomous vehicles or other data-heavy technologies. Of course, the forthcoming Helium 5G network will tell a different story.
In the U.S., the Helium LoRaWAN Network utilizes frequencies in the 900-950 megahertz range. That enables the communications on the network to travel long and wide distances. Higher frequencies are generally used for shorter distances and can transfer a much larger amount of data. To put this into perspective, your Wifi router is sending radio waves to your laptop or smartphone at 2.4 gigahertz or 5 gigahertz frequency levels. That’s anywhere from 2.5 to 5 times higher than Helium’s LoRaWAN transmissions.
Regardless of the antenna that’s being used, all Helium Hotspots operating on Helium’s LoRaWAN will communicate with mid-range frequencies close to 900 megahertz (Mhz). The antennas themselves can have different dBi (decibel isotropic) ratings. We’ll dive into this in more depth later, but the basic gist is that a higher dBi rating means a longer and more narrowed signal while a lower rating equates to a shorter and wider signal. With a higher dBi, your hotspot will be able to talk to devices that are farther away but the direction of the signal will be more focused. And, obviously, the opposite is true for a hotspot using a lower dBi antenna.
There are also omni-directional which attempt to create a "best of both worlds scenario." These antennas can have high dBi ratings with 360 degree directionality. Still, one thing to keep in mind is that a high dBi directional antenna will likely have a stronger signal than the an omni-directional antenna with the same dBi rating.
Immediate area density is by far the largest factor in how much HNT your hotspot will earn. Sure, having an abundance of hotspots in your direct vicinity would seemingly mean more opportunities to communicate on the network. Unfortunately, areas with too many hotspots run into issues with communication overlap. Redundancy is both inefficient and undesirable and the Helium Network will reward less HNT if your hotspot is crammed into a location with several other neighboring devices.
Area saturation, or Hotspot Density, is what’s known as an external factor (one that’s beyond your control). Some buildings are too far away from any other device to actively participate in the network, while others are overly saturated and have diminished rewards. There’s no specific number of nearby hotspots that marks a “sweet spot” for maximizing HNT earnings, but in general, having more than four hotspots within a 300m range is pushing the limits.
Still, being in an area with high hotspot density doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t elevate your HNT earnings and get handsomely rewarded for your device activity. How you situate your device(s) within your building(s), the types of antenna(s) you use, and the general strength and consistency of your internet and power sources all play important roles in determining your HNT rewards. In some cases, certain hotspot owners in highly saturated areas can still generate tremendous HNT earnings by simply changing their device placement and antenna direction.
Where you set up your Helium Hotspot within your building is the most important configuration step that’s still entirely in your control.
In general, you should place your device in an area where the antenna can be directed away from hotspots that are too close to you (within a 300m range), but toward areas of high network activity that are beyond that immediate range. For example, if you live in a suburb just outside of a downtown or metro area, you should probably point your antenna towards the city and away from your next-door neighbors who also have Helium Hotspots. Of course, this isn’t always the best course of action, but it’s likely the first type of positioning you should try.
Before you start thinking beyond your home or building, you should make sure you’ve covered the basic do’s and dont’s for Helium Hotspot placements. The antenna should be capable of sending its radio signals as far and wide as possible. That means it needs a direct line of sight from your building to the closest hub of activity.
Considering this, you should avoid putting your hotspot in cabinets, under furniture, behind metal screens, or anywhere that a physical object can obstruct its view. For indoor placements, you should find a spot close to a screenless window that has the clearest possible line of sight. Ideally, you should find the highest point in your building that has an unhindered view of the outside world.
In theory, radio waves with mid-range frequencies like the ones Helium’s LoRaWAN utilizes can travel considerably long distances provided they don’t get obstructed in the process. In practice, the world is full of obstructions, and this is especially true in densely populated urban areas. That’s why the height of your placement usually matters the most. For example, if you could place your antenna on the rooftop of the highest building in your city, then you could ostensibly reach the largest possible number of other devices and sidestep the lower hotspots that are in your direct vicinity.
According to the American Radio Relay League, “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.” For most of us, elevating our Helium Hotspot antennas to 120 feet is probably unrealistic. Still, you can potentially achieve a rooftop setup with some semi-clever wiring and an outdoor enclosure kit to protect your Hotspot device. Either way, you should try and place your hotspot as high as possible and with the clearest line of sight for the most efficient wireless communication and the best chance of earning more HNT.
Just to be clear, any Helium Hotspot with an out-of-the-box antenna can potentially outperform after-market or third-party antenna attachments provided that it is placed in a higher location with a better line of sight. Still, a higher dBi antenna that's placed near the top of your building will most likely help expand your signal reach and earn you more HNT.
At JAG, we primarily provide Helium Hotspots that come equipped with a 2-3 dBi antenna. That dBi range offers the widest area of coverage (typically 360°) but the length of the transmission is somewhat on the lower end.
In certain cases, having a more focused and lengthier range of transmission (and reception) will help you optimize your HNT earnings. That being said, more dBi doesn’t actually translate to more HNT. Time and time again, we’ve experienced some of the most powerful third-party antennas performing worse than neighboring out-of-the-box configurations. It all goes back to placement and area saturation.
Still, if you’re looking to upgrade your setup so you can achieve a longer and/or more focused signal, you should probably start with the Rokland 5.8dBi omni-directional antenna. In most cases, this will give your hotspot signal the right boost of length while still maintaining an omni-directional reach. For some situations, you could take a look at the L-com 6dBi Al Yagi Directional Antenna that will have a much narrower and lengthier reach. This type of directional antenna is usually preferable if you're hoping to reach relatively distant hubs of IoT activity like a city center or shipping port.
Your Helium Hotspot requires an internet connection in order to upload data to the blockchain network. Having a strong and consistent internet source is critical for keeping your hotspot online and as active as possible. The same goes for your power supply. While Helium’s LoRaWAN hotspots don’t use very much bandwidth or electricity, they do need to be consistently online and fully powered to achieve the best results.
If you are going to implement an outdoor configuration or some type of antenna extension, you’ll want to make sure to attach the right coaxial cables and/or ethernet cables so that your wifi connection is strong enough in the area of installation. Not all coaxials are created equal. Some provide faster, stronger, and more consistent data transmission than others. And you can risk reducing the strength of your antenna’s dBi if you use coaxials that are too long or of low quality. For that reason, you should try to keep your antenna as close to your hotspot as possible.
When you apply for a LoRaWAN Helium Hotspot with JAG, we subsidize the cost of the device and installation. In exchange, we take a commission of your monthly HNT earnings. That being said, it’s vitally important to us to make sure that each JAG registered hotspot is as optimally configured as possible. We can succeed by working together.
Fortunately, we have thousands of active Helium Hotspots around the globe that help us gain a wealth of data and knowledge when it comes to the best possible device setup. Our installation experts will work directly with you to identify the most ideal location(s) for your hotspot(s). And, since we subsidize the cost of the device, you’ll have more money to spend on any after-market antennas, outdoor enclosures, or coaxial cables if you’re hoping to “upgrade” your configuration. The Helium Network is rapidly expanding and evolving, meaning the way in which hotspots earn the most HNT is somewhat of a moving target. Becoming a part of this revolutionary communication network with JAG makes everything much easier, faster, and financially smarter. Let us do the bulk of the “heavy-lifting” while you sit back and enjoy a truly passive income through high-yield HNT earnings.
Shop below to get your FREE Helium Hotspot with JAG and start earning HNT ASAP!