Antennas and Frequency Explained
Best Antennas for your Helium Hotspot: Increase your HNT Earnings by Upgrading your Antenna
It is no longer news that the Helium network is rapidly gaining popularity. Ultimately, the Helium network intends to provide super-fast connectivity to billions of people worldwide. They have created a network of IoTs around the world to achieve this. They plan to connect everything meaning you won't lose any of your belongings ever again.
The Helium Network is still growing exponentially. Right now, there are more than 700,000 routers on the network. These routers or miners are gaining popularity because they provide rewards for the owner in HNT tokens.
These tokens are a form of cryptocurrency that you can exchange easily, and you can choose to spend them as is or convert them into other forms of payment. To maximize your earnings, you need excellent connectivity. This article will discuss what antennas are best to have and the things to consider to optimize your hotspot connection and improve your earnings.
How to Choose the Right Antenna
It is crucial to know that the Helium antennas ship with the stock antennas. These antennas are usually the baseline, basic antennas that can establish the required connection for you to begin mining and receiving your tokens. For instance, the Nebra hotspot has a stock 2dBi antenna that works for everyday use.
It is advisable to use these stock antennas for a while to fully understand how the hotspot works. After a few weeks, when you are fully conversant with the Helium network and understand the workings of the miner. You are ready to upgrade to a higher grade antenna to establish better connectivity with the Helium network.
To pick the best antenna, there are a few things you need to understand first. They are:
The Frequency Bands
The Helium network operates with different frequencies worldwide, and these unique frequencies are determined by geography. For people who reside in USA and Canada, the helium frequency would be operating on the 915 MHz ISM unlicensed band, and it runs on the 869 MHz band in the UK.
Antennas come configured to operate within specific frequencies. Therefore, your location would influence whatever antenna you would choose. Most antennas can conveniently cover the 915 and 869 MHz, frequency bands. This means antennas that would operate well in USA or UK are readily available and on-demand.
You might need to do more searching to find antennas that work in more obscure regions. However, with the exponential growth of the Helium network, more and more antennas that support a wider range of frequency bands would be made available.
Frequency Band (MHz)
USA and Canada
Australia and New Zealand
Table 1: showing the different frequency bands for different regions.
The ideal location for a Helium antenna is on top of the highest building in your vicinity. Generally, the higher up the antenna is, the better. Usually, most people do not have access to very high spots. It is very common for people to place their antennas in their homes without much thought.
Because of the height issue, more people are beginning to opt for antennas better suited for their location rather than trying to fit an already working tirelessly to build a high point for their hotspots. This means that your preferred antenna should cater to either a living situation, a house, or an apartment building.
The House situation.
If you live in a suburban environment, surrounded by other homes, you may find that the best place to place the antenna is on an elevated surface like the roof.
For situations where the rooftop is unavailable, you might rig a stand and put it on the exterior wall such that the signal received is as strong as advertised.
The Apartment building situation
Depending on how high up your apartment is in the building, you may need to acquire a stronger antenna that can boost the connectivity of your hotspot, so you're always connected.
Radio Gain describes how well your antenna can amplify a signal to compensate for losses and remain working even when the receiving signal is low. The right gain value optimizes the signal input and can help maximizes HNT earnings.
This sounds great, but you can't infinitely increase the gain for your antenna. This is because for every increase in the gain of an antenna, the narrower the beamwidth becomes. You can liken this to a beam of light from a flashlight. The more focused a beam is, the narrower the beam is. Making it more challenging to see the peripheral environment.
It is wise to balance the antenna gain and the beamwidth. We discovered that antenna gains with either 5.8 or 8dBi are optimal for most environments. However, you may want to consider using a 4dBi setup in city environments. It works well in both indoor and outdoor city environments.
The 10dBi setup is only recommended for highly open environments, and signals tend to bounce off different surfaces, which is bad for equipment with narrow vertical beamwidths. But if you stay in a very open environment with an unobstructed line of sight, you should go for higher gain setups.
Image 1: showing dBi gain as a visual.
Directional Antenna or not?
Having an antenna that can focus reception and transmission on a minimal horizontal and vertical range can be useful for other types of data transfer. There will be no distractions from the surrounding area when you take this focused approach.
We usually don't use directional antennas for Helium hotspots. Because the goal of Helium Hotspots is to make the network bigger, they need to be able to send and receive data in all directions at all times to do that. Directional antennas can help a hotspot get more signal, but this will cut down on how much you can send out in other directions.
Positioning the Antenna
The position of the antenna, in most cases, is the most crucial aspect of optimizing your antenna for the Helium network. An effective position of the antenna is more important than the type of antenna that you get.
When selecting a spot for your antenna, you need to ensure that the topography is right to get the best reception for your device. Topography describes the environment around a geographical area. It refers to the buildings, landscape, water bodies, etc.
The antenna should match the topography or its environment for optimum reception and transmission. Flatlands with many obstructions like trees and vegetation may require a high gain transmitter to connect to other hotspots.
You can choose a location by checking it on the helium coverage map. However, it is also essential to check the location on google maps or any other suitable satellite maps to ensure that hills don't border the location because no signal can pass through the earth.
Research has shown that although buildings will let the signal pass through them, it does dampen the signals a bit. Research has shown that an 8-inch thick reinforced concrete wall will reduce signal strength by up to 27dB, while an interior wall will reduce it by about 3 dBi.
To describe this decrease in power, we call it "attenuation." With helium hotspots, you don't want to lose any of the signals. Many things can cause attenuation, including the soil, structures, and even individual trees. To calculate how much power is lost, we need to calculate.
The American hotspots begin with a dBm of 27. Europe and other regions operate on lower strengths, typically starting at 14 or 15dBm. To calculate your Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP), add the antenna gain (dBi).
That translates to 33 dBm of EIRP when using a 6dBi antenna and a US hotspot. The response in the direction of antenna gain is 33dBm when you add 27dBm and 6dBi. After this, you'll need to figure out how much cable and connection loss you'll have to consider.
Antenna cable connections to a radio, radio antenna cable, and so on all lower your EIRP by about.5dB. Most people prefer to use a "low loss" cable-like LMR400 to connect their smartphones and tablets because cable losses vary from cable to cable.
So, for instance, if you place a hotspot in the north part of a building. You will discover that you will get more witnesses in northern regions than in southern. This is because many obstructions prevent your router from effectively transmitting and receiving signals to and from other hotspots in the vicinity.
This is an excellent example of why you should avoid placing your Helium antenna indoors. You would be cutting your gains because of this inefficiency.
Water allows radio signals to travel much further than they would if it was on land. Waves generally move faster or slower in different mediums. Just like light and X-rays, radio waves travel more quickly in water than in air(land).
Therefore, placing your antenna near a body of water would boost your signal reach, and you could record connections from farther regions.
Going higher is generally better when choosing a good position for your antenna. However, it does come with its considerations. From the antenna's point of view, the higher it goes, the flatter the relative environment becomes. As mentioned earlier, a flat region would require a lower gain antenna for optimum reception and transmission.
The lower gain antenna is good at higher elevations because it has a much higher vertical beam-width and can receive and transmit signals from all directions. So even in highly populated cities, as long as you raise the antenna above most buildings, you can use a lower gain antenna of 4dBi.
Lines of Sight
To make the most of your hotspot, you need it to interact with as many other miners as possible. The best way to achieve this is to ensure that you aren't being obstructed.
Helium antennas do not generally get through more than two buildings. So if you have a two-building obstruction in a particular direction, you won't be able to interact with other devices meaning your potential earnings would be cut short. You need to ensure that your antenna isn't blocked by anything to fix this problem.
The highest earner on the helium network, the owner of the hotspot Docile Bone Pony, DBP for short, has their router on top of a 16-story building where there is no significant obstruction. The antenna can clearly "see" other helium routers from this height without any blockage.
DBP earns so much because the other miners in the region aren't placed as optimally, and this means the other routers have no choice but to interact with DBP. They have created an HNT monopoly and are earning massively.
Another consideration for the placement of your helium antenna is the distance from obstruction. This is because radio waves spread outward from the source. Therefore, a transmitter placed further away from obstacles allows the radiowaves to bend around obstructions without any loss in strength.
It is easier to dampen or reduce the strength of your signal than to boost it, and this is why placing your antenna in an ideal location is a much more meaningful conversation than what type of antenna to choose. It is possible for someone with a "weaker" antenna to be more efficient and ultimately earn more than someone with an excellent antenna.
The Best Antenna for your Helium Miners
In a building, you could choose a McGill Tuned Antenna 3dBi or McGill Tuned Antenna 6dBi. They should be placed outdoors on an elevated plane. However, there are great options for mounting them inside against a window.
If you stay by a mountain or a hill with a view of civilization in the other direction, you should get a high gain antenna. This would be more efficient since the only possible routers in your vicinity are in the direction away from the mountain, and it is more efficient this way. You could also use either the McGill Microwave 13dBi Tuned Directional Antenna.
The numbers on the antenna can be misleading to buyers. It is easy to think that a high gain antenna is better than a low gain one. However, these two products are made for different use cases and possible scenarios.
This makes choosing the best antenna a more subjective topic. Depending on the living conditions, individuals would have to select different antennas—the various considerations for choosing the perfect antenna for you.
FAQHow to improve Proof-Of-Coverage?
Moving the Hotspot to a different window, or higher floor if possible. Metal window screens or mesh can affect radio signals, so if those can be removed it may improve the signal.
Does glass create any interference?
High-rise buildings can have a UV protective layer on the outside of the building glass that is known to block and interfere with radio signals.