Written by Nik Hawks (a.k.a. Gristle King)
Helium Hotspots were designed to be used by your grandmother, so there’s not much to getting the Hotspot working. To get it working WELL, on the other hand, requires a few more steps. They’re simple, but in some cases require extra work in order to maximize the earning potential of a given location. I remember these steps with the acronym PIHO, which stands for Power, Internet, High, and Outside.
Power & Internet Connection
First, let’s talk about the basics: Power and an internet connection. Power is pretty easy; just plug it into the wall outlet and you’re good. As long as you’ve got a stable power grid, this is the easiest thing to accomplish. Internet connection can be a bit more tricky. Almost all Hotspots have the ability to connect to the internet over WiFi, but that doesn’t mean you should use WiFi to connect. In general, I recommend against it. Using WiFi is one of the leading causes for lower earnings and frustration. Why? Because WiFi doesn’t offer the kind of stable internet connection that a Helium Hotspot needs.
You see, a Hotspot is a node in a network, and it has a job to do. Part of that job is earning you HNT, and it does that job by being a good and useful node. How does it do that? Let’s think of the network as a giant map with lots of pins and labels. The pins tell you where the nodes are, and the labels give you information on each node: Whether or not it’s active, what it’s being doing lately, how old it is, and a long list of other data. That “map” (the blockchain) is constantly being updated as new nodes come online, nodes move, or drop their internet connection, or their owners change the antenna details, etc.
Every Hotspot is required to keep a copy of at least a part of that map. Updating that map on a continual basis means moving a lot of data. Moving a lot of data over the internet requires a stable connection. Keeping a good copy of the map is just table stakes. If you don’t have a good copy of the map you can’t begin to really contribute. If you can’t contribute, you won’t earn. So, if your Hotspot doesn’t have a stable internet connection, it is much less likely to earn. The very first important thing you can do for your Hotspot is make sure it’s connected via an ethernet (LAN) cable!
Antenna High, Antenna Outside
Cool, now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s talk about two more generally good practices when it comes to placing your Hotspot: Antenna High, Antenna Outside. Remember WUPU coverage (Wide, Unique, Provable, and Useful)? We talked about it over in The Top 5 Things To Know About Helium Mining. As it relates to Hotspot best practices, WUPU demands that we get our antenna up high and ideally, outside. Now, you don’t absolutely HAVE to do this, it’s just a general best practice. There are a number of reasons you can’t get it high and/or outside. Maybe you’re in an apartment or condo, or you’re renting a place and the landlord isn’t ready to let you drill holes in the wall.
However, if you want to maximize the earnings for a given location, the higher you can get the antenna and the less obstructions it has around it (walls, roof, even trees), the better. How do you get the thing high and outside? That requires a few more articles to explain, but in short, usually the best way is to get the hotspot as high as possible in your building, then run an antenna cable out to an outdoor antenna that’s even higher. This way you protect the Hotspot from outdoor weather and you give the antenna as much chance as possible to see, or Witness, other Hotspots. Again, that’s not the only or always the best way, it’s just usually a generally good practice.
Other options include putting a higher gain antenna (say, 6-9 dBi) in your attic, knowing that some of that gain will be “attenuated”, or weakened, as it passes through the roof. However you do it, the higher you get your antenna, and the less obstacles it has to go through in order to communicate via radio signals with another miner, the better. Get PIHO right (power, internet, high, outside) and you’re well on your way to having the best possible HNT earning outcome for your given location. Rock on!