If you’re new to Helium, or if you’re looking to get another hotspot, this is the article for you.
We will go over exactly how to pick the best Helium location for your new hotspot.
If you clicked on this link it’s probably safe to say that you know Helium works on POC (proof of coverage), and with this knowledge, you are at least aware that some locations will vastly outperform other locations.
The reason behind this – Helium rewards hotspots that add value to the network.
How do you know if a location will add value? And how do you know how much value is associated with one Helium location vs. another?
Helium bases rewards on a few basic principles.
As you can see, the vast majority of rewards are based on witnesses.
Witnesses come from nearby hotspots sending out beacons, if the beaconing hotspot has a clear LOS (line of sight) to your hotspot, you can expect to receive a reward each time this nearby hotspot sends out a beacon.
Line of Sight
If you live in an area with hills or mountains, you might not connect to another hotspot even if it’s just five hundred feet away because the signal cannot penetrate through the earth. Radio waves bounce off of reflective surfaces like glass and metal, this is why an outdoor installation will outperform an indoor setup (almost) every time.
Thin amounts of plastic wrap, wax paper, cotton, and rubber are not likely to interfere with radio waves. However, aluminum foil, and other electrically conductive metals such as copper, can reflect and absorb the radio waves and consequently interfere with RF transmission. In some instances, metal roofs can interrupt signals on correctly installed outdoor installations.
It’s safe to assume that a decent amount of hotspots are used inside and thus surrounded by refrigerators, cars, TVs, AC units, etc… This is why getting your hotspot outdoors and as high as you can is generally the best bet. Looking down on hotspots around you from 25ft up or higher gives you the height advantage to overshoot these metal appliances and have a clear line of sight to hotspots around you.
- Walls, non-metal roofs, and trees do have an effect on RF signal transmission, but not as much as dense, reflective surfaces like cars and AC units. This is definitely worth considering if your Hotspot is on the ground floor.
Line of sight is incredibly important for any Helium location. If your Hotspot is behind walls, trees, or any other solid object, it will negatively affect potential rewards.
The best resource available for checking if your potential hotspot locations are profitable is the Hotspot RF Portal, when you sign up it allows ten free simulations that will take terrain, height, and strength of antenna into account. It also shows nearby hotspots and which ones you will connect to based on your input.
If you opt into the paid features, you will also get an accurate estimate of rewards.
A lot of people assume the higher the antenna gain, the more rewards. This is correct in the majority of scenarios but there are some exceptions:
Refer to this RF model to help you decide which antenna is best for each environment.
For the majority of hotspot owners, a 5.8 or 8 dBi antenna is the best fit, it reaches out far, but won’t skip over hotspots that are nearby.
For people in big cities with tall buildings, or people in mountainous terrain, you might want to consider a 3 or 4 dBi antenna. (Keep in mind, this model is two dimensional, most antennas are omnidirectional, meaning the signal will follow this pattern 360 degrees around the antenna) The best way to describe the difference in antenna strengths is to visualize a compressed sphere, above 3 dBi the frequency begins to compress from the top and bottom, sending signal further out on the X and Z axis while compressing the Y-axis.
Remembering what we talked about earlier, radio waves bounce off of reflective surfaces. This could come in handy in a big city where the buildings are blocking any long-distance transmissions. If you know you can’t reach more than a couple miles out due to buildings or terrain, you will probably be better off with a lower gain antenna to blanket the areas you can hit. It’s also important to note that a powerful antenna will likely send invalid witnesses at a close range, these invalid witnesses will not produce rewards.
Our Free Simulation Portal will show you exactly how far your antenna will reach and how many hotspots you will witness. Our paid plan includes estimated rewards.
When you look at hotspots on the map, there is a transmit scale associated with each hotspot.
This transmit scale is a percentage of rewards that are sent out with every beacon ranging from 0.01 to 1.0.
This chart shows the official reward structure designated by Heliums HIP: 15.
Using this knowledge you can ascertain an estimate of a specific locations rewards. However, if you’d rather use the portal, it will do all this math for you while taking antenna gain and terrain into consideration.
As you can see, there are several factors that go into an ideal Helium hotspot location. As a general rule of thumb, the best location available to you will have the following:
Several hotspots within 10 miles
Many hotspots in one location may lead to decreased rewards due to saturation, but in general, a hotspot with 10-100 nearby hotspots will out-preform a hotspot with less than 10 nearby devices. One massive and uncontrollable factor will always be how other hotspots are placed and if they are relayed.
Example: If there are 8 hotspots around you but 3 are relayed and another 2 are installed in poor locations, it will dramatically decrease your potential rewards. However, if there are 25 hotspots around you and 10 are relayed and 8 are installed poorly, you can still expect to earn more than the hotspot with fewer potential witnesses because the hotspots that are installed poorly will likely miss beacons and the correctly installed hotspots will reap the benefits lost by the poorly installed ones.
The higher the antenna, the better the rewards. This is the second most important factor in earnings. On average, the highest-earning hotspots are all 50+ meters high. This doesn’t mean that you need to rent a cell tower to get good rewards, it just goes to show that this aerial vantage point is ideal due to fewer obstacles in the way of RF transmissions. You can easily out-preform the majority of hotspots in your area by simply getting your antenna over the roof-line. This can be achieved in a few different ways.
Roof – This is the cleanest and least obtrusive way to get higher rewards. Just like a satellite dish, you can simply mount a tv antenna mast to your roof and attach the antenna. With this install, you can even leave the hotspot in your house or attic and run the appropriate cables to your roof if you don’t want to leave your hotspot outside in an enclosure. If you have a chimney or an existing exhaust pipe in the roof, you can also utilize those structures and avoid drilling into your roof.
Flag-Pole – This is a great option for many people, especially those utilizing hosts and rental properties. You can get a flag pole from Amazon or harbor freight for between $50-150, cement the flag-pole sheath in a five-gallon bucket, and bury it in the yard. The beauty of this installation is that it doesn’t require any drilling or damage to the property. These flag poles are also telescopic, meaning you can lower them with ease to adjust antenna placement or swap antennas. They are great for rental properties because once you leave, you can simply fill in the hole you dug and it’s like you were never there. You can mount the hotspot to the poll, under the siding of the roof where it overhangs the wall, or in your house/attic with the appropriate cables.
Antenna-Mast – If you are serious about maximizing your rewards, you may want to at least take a peek at the local section of Facebook marketplace for an antenna mast. These masts are generally modular and can sometimes reach 60ft or more. Antenna masts are not cheap, some of them go for thousands of dollars. That’s why we suggest checking marketplace first to see if there’s one available for a lower cost.
Tree – You may want to hire a climber for this one, but with a solid plan, the right materials, and a tall tree, you can get up to (or even over) 100 feet off the ground and really get the advantage. This method can get you higher than any antenna mast, and most likely for less money.
Local Businesses – This one takes finesse and sometimes even a business license + insurance. We have contacted cell towers, hospitals, schools, apartments, you name it, and the responses are generally the same. “Send me your business license” “Do you have insurance in case of a lightning strike” “rental space on the roof is $1000 a month” These are very common responses if you are contacting a large business.
Off-Grid – With the right set-up (and permission) you can install an off-grid hotspot in tons of places. This opens the door to some amazing Helium locations up on hills or cliffs overlooking entire cities. You’ll need a locked and secured enclosure, a solar panel, battery, and the right cables.
Hosts – Contact friends or family who live in tall apartment buildings, ask small businesses that have good locations and tall roofs, you can even try to post about the opportunity on social media and see who responds. One of our employees posted in a college freshman Facebook group asking if anyone in a specific (tall) building wanted to earn passive income, and they got several responses from kids who were happy to leave a hotspot plugged in for just $50-100 a month. Another employee posted his opportunity to a Helium Facebook group offering a 50/50 split on rewards after ROI and got a lot of responses. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and meet new people, this is the peoples’ network, the power is in our hands.
Antenna + Cables
This is the third most important factor in maximizing rewards. With a quality antenna that matches the specifications of the terrain and a low-loss LMR cable, you can expect to fully maximize the potential of your Helium location.
If your antenna is over the roof-line in your area, your best bet is a high gain antenna. 5.8-12dBi antennas will reach far and wide to get you witnesses and increase rewards and they will out-perform low gain antennas every time. If your antenna is surrounded by mountains or sky-scrapers, you may want to try a low gain antenna in order to blanket the immediate area.
RF signals have no chance of passing through the earth or several large buildings, putting a high gain antenna on the 3rd floor in downtown New York will most likely earn fewer rewards than even a stock 1.2dBi antenna.
Once you have a good Helium location, be sure to check out our Master Guide to Helium Mining to answer all your questions about antennas, cables, enclosures, and more.