What exactly is Helium?
Helium is a decentralized wireless network using low power smart devices (IoT) to transmit and receive data to and from the internet. Coverage providers for the Helium Network are known as "miners". Miners purchase a Helium Hotspot to use RF radio signals to provide coverage in return for payment in Helium tokens (abbreviated as the cryptocurrency HNT). Miners earn greater amounts of HNT if they transmit and receive with more Helium hotspots, so hotspot placement and antenna strength are key factors in HNT earning potential.
How does Proof-of-Coverage work?
Proof-of-Coverage verifies the miner's Hotspots are honestly representing their location and wireless network coverage they create from that location. This coverage verification is important because for the Helium Network to work Hotspots must be placed appropriately to ensure stable and reliable coverage for the devices connected to the network. Who might take advantage of the Helium Network? Anyone who uses devices to measure pet trackers, bike trackers, temperature, weight, water levels, soil sensors or even mice killed in an electrified mousetrap (read more here). The Helium Network allows an inexpensive option to connect these low data use devices over long distances, up to miles, where WiFi would be inaccessible and cellular data would be cost prohibitively expensive.
The Helium Economy:
When a company or individual wishes to use the Proof of Coverage network, they must mine HNT or obtain HNT from an owner. Once obtained, the HNT is "burned" from the circulating HNT supply to create Data Credits. This creation and removal of HNT and Data Credits is termed a Burn-And-Mint Equilibrium, and thus creates a supply and demand-based Helium economy. Anyone can become a miner of Helium; they just need a hotspot with the right equipment and the right location.
Which Helium Hotspot is the best?
There is minimal if any performance difference between each brand of miner on the market. Some Hotspots offer different abilities or upgrades, such as being rated for outdoor use or including the option for cellular connection. The largest differences for the end user come down to antenna/cable upgrades and optimal hotspot placement which we cover later in this article.
Where to purchase a Helium Hotspot?
We only recommend going to ROKSPOTS.com to purchase a Helium Miner. ROKSPOTS is an exclusive venture of Rokland Technologies offering low priced Helium miners and light hotspots.
What antenna is best?
Antennas are like tools; you need the right tool for the right job. This section is a brief overview about the best antennas for your hotspot. For more detailed information view our article: Getting the Right Antenna for Your RAK or Other Helium Hotspot Miner. As the gain of an antenna increases, the antenna's vertical path gets narrower (this is the angle at which the antenna can transmit and receive). If the vertical path of your antenna is too low, you may over or undershoot the hotspots you are trying to connect to.
For heavily populated city environments we recommend our 4 dBi Helium Hotspot Fiberglass Outdoor Antenna
For suburban environments we recommend either our 5.8 dBi Fiberglass Outdoor Antenna or our 6 dBi Fiberglass Outdoor Antenna
For more rural applications we recommend our Rokland 915MHz 8 dBi outdoor antenna as this provides a nice tradeoff between the signal's vertical path and total reachable distance.
For very rural and remote locations (for urban or suburban locations) we recommend the Rokland Backcountry 10 dBi Outdoor Fiberglass Antenna or the Rokland LoneWolf 12 dBi Antenna.
Do you need special antenna cables?
If you plan to get a higher gain dBi antenna you want to pair it with an appropriately shielded antenna cable. Antenna cables are rated with different grade shielding levels. The antenna cable's shielding reduces signal gain loss between your antenna and your Helium hotspot. So, if you buy a higher gain dBi antenna, but use a very low-level shielding antenna cable, you lose some, if not all the benefit, of your higher gain dBi antenna. For most cable lengths we recommend at least 200 grade shielding, and 400 grade shielding when using a cable longer than 20 feet.
*Hotspot placement depends largely on your terrain/natural obstacles. For dense city applications expect to connect with hotspots around 1 mile away. For rural conditions, with the right antenna and placement, you may reach up to 10 miles away.
How close together should your hotspot be?
As mentioned earlier, the more hotspots you interact with, the more HNT you earn. There is a caveat to this rule. If you are too close to another hotspot, closer than 300 meters, you now compete for available HNT in that location. The Helium network rewards miners for providing coverage and helping to build the Helium Network. Multiple Hotspots in the same exact location will not help to build the network. Place your Hotspot at least 300 meters away from the next nearest Hotspot. Conversely, if you are too far away (10 miles in rural flat areas, or more than 1 mile in densely populated areas) you may not effectively communicate with other Hotspots, thus you earn less HNT. Hotspot placement is one of the largest contributing factors on how much HNT you will earn. Be sure to check out the Helium Coverage Map to see the number of hotspots already existing in your area.
Taking into account the placement of your Hotspot, the antennas and the cables you may now wish to find the optimal setup for your specific location. We use a company named HotspotRF. Through their interactive portal you are able to experiment with multiple variables to find out the most optimal antenna and cable setup for your area. We ran a simulation at our home office using the following settings and got the result you see on the left:
Frequency: 915 MHz
Antenna Gain (dBi): 2 (this is approximately the stock dBi of the RAK 2 miner antenna)
Cable Loss (dBi): 0.6 (this is our listed gain loss for our 16 ft. CFD/RFC-400 low loss extension cable)
Height: 10 feet
As you can see, assuming we used the stock antenna we would have reach zero nearby Hotspots. So, we re-ran the simulation, this time using our 8 dBi Omni Outdoor 915 MHz Antenna, and on the right you can see we are now able to reach at least 3 nearby Hotspots. Clearly, selecting the right antenna and cable makes a huge impact on your ability to mine HNT.
How to turn your HNT into cold hard cash?
So, you have gotten this far. You have a hotspot, antenna, cables, plugged everything in, mounted all necessary components and are ready to start collecting and converting your HNT into cash. Well, you have a couple small steps first. First, download the Helium Network application on a mobile phone. Follow all instructions and at the end you will have setup your very own Helium Wallet. This wallet is where all the HNT you mine is initially deposited. As you accumulate HNT you may wish to exchange your HNT for other currencies. You may go straight to cash or opt another cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin (BTC). For either method, you need to create an account on an exchange such as binance.us (This link is strictly for the U.S. Binance site, so if you are located outside the U.S. find an exchange relevant to your location). After setting up a Binance account simply transfer your HNT from your Helium Wallet and exchange for dollars or BTC or any other currency.
I mined HNT this year, do I have to pay taxes next year?
Yes! If you mined any HNT you will need to report the earnings on your tax return (in the USA) the following year. No need to worry, the process is not hard to do. We have created two Tax Time videos to help walk you step by step through the process of reporting your mined HNT income as well as how to report the buying and selling of HNT.
At Rokland our mission is to help maximize your mining!
We carry top of the line antennas, cables, mounts, lighting arrestors and just about any other accessory or upgrade you need for Helium mining. We take custom orders too! So, if there is anything we did not cover in this article that you just need to know please reach out to us! We are here to answer your questions and make your mining as profitable and painless as possible. Reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Live Chat (just click here) Monday through Friday EST 9am-5pm.