What is the difference between a Wi-Fi antenna & a Helium antenna?
Helium and other IoT networks are actually a form of Wi-Fi, but the term Wi-Fi is more commonly used to describe short range communication between our computers and phones, and a nearby WiFi router such as one in our home, office, or local coffee shop. In this post, we highlight the key differences you need to know about when shopping for a compatible antenna.
What is Wi-Fi?
This type of "Wi-Fi" is broadcast in either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency. Data sent through Wi-Fi signals can be as simple as a text-based email or something more bandwidth intensive like streaming ultra-hi-definition movies and shows. Wi-Fi networks offer modest range, usually a few hundred feet, but usually offer fast speeds. Your home WiFi may be blazing fast, but the WiFi at your nearby Starbucks could be a little slower because a lot of people are using it at once. WiFi tends to limit coverage to a specific building. Outside of dense cities, open WiFi signals may be hard to find.
What is Helium?
The Helium network is a decentralized wireless network created by long range wireless hotspots that communicate with each other. The Helium devices use the 915 MHz frequency to send small amounts of data over long distances. The amount of data that can be sent is relatively small, nowhere near enough for streaming TV or movies. But data sent can go over 100 miles and is used for all sorts of purposes such as GPS tracking, temperature monitoring, and other device-to-device communications. Helium is an IoT network, which stands for "Internet of Things". In simplest terms, it allows things to communicate with each other over extremely long distances without having to have a working WiFi or cellular hotspot nearby.
So, what is the difference regarding antennas used for Wi-Fi vs Helium?
On the outside, not much. Both Wi-Fi and Helium outdoor antennas will be made with a fiberglass housing. Both antennas will likely use an N type male or N type female connector. Internally both Wi-Fi and Helium antennas are made from copper. The difference is the frequency range to which the antennas are tuned.
Wi-Fi and Helium antennas are tuned to different frequencies based on the need of the setup. Need fast Wi-Fi speeds at close range? A 5 GHz antenna may be the best option. Need distance more than speed for Wi-Fi? 2.4 GHz would be the way to go. Want to setup a Helium miner in the USA or use IoT devices? 915 MHz is what you’ll want to choose.
Some antennas are tuned to multiple spectrums. This means the antennas operate on a wide frequency of bands. You can think of multi spectrum antennas as a “one size fits all” antenna. However, when gaining a larger spectrum of frequency, you give up specificity. A multi spectrum antenna will work on more bands, but not work as well as an antenna specifically tuned for the band you need. If you are using a 4G device that transmits on various spectrums, you will need a multi spectrum antenna. But for a frequency-specific device like a Helium hotspot, you are better off with a narrow tuned antenna.
Our Rokland Helium Miner antennas are generally tuned to just 900-930, or 800-960 in some cases. Your best bet is to identify the right antenna for the job. If you need assistance selecting the best antenna for your Wi-Fi or Helium setup please reach out to one of our techs.