Disclosure: I may earn affiliate revenue or commissions if you purchase products from links on my website. The prospect of compensation does not influence what I write about or how my posts are structured. The vast majority of articles on my website do not contain any affiliate links.

Introduction

Update: This is a popular blog post. The price of Helium has almost tripled since I first published it. It was written when the USD/HNT exchange rate was $4. I will not be updating the figures in this article, I recommend checking the current price here and performing your own adjustments!

Three weeks ago, I wrote a post about the antenna I bought for my Helium hotspot. My blog serves as a repository for semi-structured brain dumps so I rarely check page views and never perform any of those optimizations people talk about. I noticed a huge uptick in people subscribing to my mailing list at which point I decided to check my analytics. It was shocking to see that article was receiving more weekly views than anything else I’ve written, almost by a factor of five!

The more pressing question I’ve been getting from friends and readers of my blog isn’t about these after-market antennas. People just want to know how to set up a hotspot and start earning HNT! What are the options for getting started?

The Mania that Accompanies Waiting

Helium is in an unprecedented spot in the cryptocurrency world. There is a serious buzz around the technology and even more excitement accompanying the insane ROI that many people are claiming to get from mining HNT. There’s a problem, though. Each person who wants to shell out hundreds of dollars for a miner isn’t able to get one, especially if he wants the miner anytime soon.

The technology is a victim of its own success during this rollout phase. The technology underpinning these miners, the centrum of the whole Helium–LongFi–IoT thing, is proven but doesn’t enjoy widespread mainstream use. There isn’t a super-enticing, paradigm-shifting use case–yet.

There is a supply bottleneck for miners. They’re only produced by approved vendors and it’s safe to say that these vendors didn’t forecast the extent to which demand would explode. Shipments have been delayed for months and months.

Folks are sitting on the sidelines willing to do anything to get a miner. The hotspots which retail for ~$350 are being sold for over $2000 on eBay. I’m not talking about a few anomalies–the going rate seems to be right around $2000. Those not wanting to shell out such a massive sum have expressed willingness to set up other people’s hotspots. In those cases, the owners still have control over the wallet and only share a small sum with the end-user desperate to enter the market.

It doesn’t help that there will be a “halving” of rewards in August 2021.

Further, those looking for general exposure to the token will be disappointed to learn that Binance.us‘s identity verification process which can be used for USD transfers has a significant backlog. It took me about two months to finally get approved after 3 separate rejections. (It’s free to sign up so you might as well start the process now!)

People are going crazy for miners while others are losing interest in the technology. They feel like they’ve been left out. In this post, I will outline all of your options for obtaining a Helium hotspot or otherwise gaining exposure to the People’s Network.

Option 1: Pay Market Price

If you’re dying to get your hands on a Helium miner because other hotspots near you are making a killing, this is a reasonable option. If you use a platform like eBay, you get protection against malfunctioning or stolen hardware. The current market price for a “new” miner on eBay seems to be $2000, based on completed sales.

The price of HNT at the time of writing this article is $4.18 and that’s the price I’ll be using (check current price here). If you mine 100 tokens per month, or, roughly, 3 per day, that’s over $400 per month. You’d have your miner paid for in less than half a year, not to mention that the miner itself will still retain some value.

This is one of the most expensive ways to dive in. If you can make the numbers work, it’s not a bad idea. However, you’ll probably agree with me that something about this feels inherently wrong, since it will encourage future hoarding and scalping.

The main risk here isn’t that the hotspot shows up broken. The risk is that your rewards won’t match your projections. Don’t forget that all future rewards with be 50% of what they are today, starting in August of this year. So, every extra day when it comes to shipping and setting up the hotspot can be assigned a dollar value.

Also, you have no control over your neighbors’ behavior. You might live next to a Chad who is ready to set up three miners of his own. That will destroy your earnings. Such a thing could happen at any time. There’s no way to gain immunity from foolish neighbors who encroach on your 300m radius. There’s no first-hotspot advantage.

There’s also the long-term market risk if Helium doesn’t really take off. Such a built-for-purpose piece of hardware might be worthless in five years. As supply gradually increases and sentiment shifts, the hardware probably won’t sell for MSRP, nevermind $2000.

Option 2: Get on a Waiting List

Nobody wants to spend three hundred dollars just to sit around and wait while early adopters get rich. However, this is the most sane option for the masses. I’m on the waiting list for two hotspots myself and I am not ashamed to admit it.

1. As other manufacturers have sold out of hotspots, the most popular choice has become the Bobcat 300 miner. Bobcat has been delivering orders to customers much more quickly than other suppliers!

2. [Now sold out] The first choice and, until recently, the only choice here was the RAK Hotspot Miner v2 distributed by Cal-Chip. It costs $345 after the recent price increase. Many orders from 2020 have still not been delivered, and the current lead time appears to be a very optimistic 3 months. However, batches of the miners continue to ship out–it’s not like this is some type of scam.

3. [Now sold-out] A newer choice was the pre-order of the Nebra miners. There are both indoor and outdoor miners in this batch at prices comparable to RAK. I have ordered both the indoor and outdoor miners so I’m in the Nebra camp. The initial batches were estimated to ship in April and May, however, the delivery schedule, which I will not continue updating, has been delayed significantly. Customers are not happy.

I’ve created an additional article where I discuss delays and shipping updates in more detail. Though some devices might have slightly better features, you can expect the same rewards rate. You’re still going to be waiting for months and it’s not worth trying some pre-order alchemy in order to save a few weeks.

There’s really no downside to taking this route, except that you’ll have to sit on the sidelines for months after already having spent money on the preorder.

Option 3: Use a Shared Hotspot

Shared hotspots get a lot of flak. The first reason is simple: it’s counter-productive to have whales making bulk miner orders. If they know the demand is there, it’s tempting for some titan of industry to buy many miners with the intention of renting them out. In turn, this decreases the available supply for people like me and you. If you’re new to Helium, this is necessary because placing the hotspots too close to each other will typically decrease rewards.

I get the argument that this isn’t a fair model. I don’t think it will last particularly long, because eventually, we’ll get to the point where miner supply has normalized and rewards have dropped to a point that some late-adopters are willing to sell their used minors for discounted prices.

Many people see using a shared hotspot as a way to dip their toes in and bridge the gap before their shipment arrives.

Tim O’Hearn (that’s me!)

The benefit of using a shared miner is that there is no risk or cost to you. You just sign up, enter your information, and, if your application is approved, you get a miner! Then, on a regular basis, your share of the rewards is sent to your wallet. Note that the miner will be locked to the owner’s wallet, so if you try to hack or re-sell the miner, you’ll be in big trouble.

I wasn’t explicit in my last post, but my hotspot is a shared hotspot.

A friend told me about the website Hotspotshare.com. I applied on the website and, within a week, I had the hotspot set up and mining HNT.

In all honesty, my suspicion was that this was too good to be true. However, setup was seamless and they even shipped the thing (a RAK miner) express mail. There was no weird contract for me to sign and I didn’t have to post collateral. I’d highly recommend applying for Hotspot share as it’s a risk-free way to start earning HNT. If you do, think of me and use my referral code “BALLOON.”

The only real risk for shared hotspots is that they’re usually only paying out rewards once per month. A lot can happen in one month as far as crypto prices are concerned. Imagine you mine 300 HNT and the price shoots up to $10 USD per coin. A shared hotspot provider might be motivated to delay or obstruct payment even at the cost of losing the miner that they bought. $1500, in that case, might be worth screwing over a customer.

Update: Many readers have reported that Hotspotshare appears to have run out of hotspots. It’s definitely still worth applying.

Option 4: Build Your Own DIY Hotspot

Just kidding. It isn’t possible to build your own hot spot. Only hotspots distributed by approved manufacturers can mine HNT. This comes up quite frequently in the community and I thought it’d be helpful to state this in a blog post that might serve as an introduction to Helium for some people.

Option 5: Run a Validator

See my new article where I explore Helium validators in depth

If you can collect 10,000 HNT, you can set up a Helium validator. This is a cloud-based application that helps secure the network. Rather than needing custom hardware, anyone can do this. Of course, you need some technical abilities and you need a whole hell of a lot of HNT. At the current market value, that’s over $41,000 USD!

If you host a validator, you get rewards. This is for people who are both well-capitalized and strongly believe in the technology. You can leapfrog over the people waiting in line for miners and can earn HNT in a unique way. Of course, if too many people start doing this, the rewards for running a validator will decrease.

Option 6: Start Trading Helium

Whether you want to run your own validator, sell the HNT you mine, or just speculate on the future value of the currency, you need to find an exchange where you can buy, sell, and trade Helium!

The primary (only?) major platform in the US is Binance.us. I recommend setting up an account here and starting the account verification process as soon as possible. It’s a really popular platform and it can take many weeks to get fully verified. There are several required verification steps in order to deposit USD or to execute large trades. So, even if your miner is back-ordered, you should probably get set up on Binance as soon as you can. You never know how long it will take to get verified for the level of access you seek.

However, you can always use another site like Coinbase for easier USD-BTC exchange, then transfer to Binance. From there, you can exchange BTC–>USDT–>HNT. Meaning you won’t have to wait for slow Binance verification in order to purchase.

Signing up for Binance allows you to speculate on the price of HNT. Whether you own a miner or not, you are free to trade HNT and profit that way. You can store any HNT you purchase on your wallet on your phone or use it toward a validator if you accumulate significant holdings.

Summary

I hope this guide can help people better navigate entry to Helium. Whether you want to make some money or just want to learn more about the technology, obtaining a miner is a logical first step. If you have deep pockets and the hotspots near you on the Helium explorer are making a lot of money, it might make sense to pay market price on eBay.

If you have a passive interest and are fine with waiting many months, the best choice is to place an order with Bobcat. You’ll save a lot of money, in absolute, upfront terms, by going this route.

If you want to get involved with a shared miner at no cost or risk to you, you can use Hotspot Share. I use a miner provided by this service and I’ve been surprised by how seamless it’s been. Use code “BALLOON” at checkout to help support my blog.

If you have deep pockets, a long-term mindset, and strongly believe in the technology, you can host a validator. The will probably require buying a lot of HNT on Binance.

Though Helium may seem inaccessible right now, there are options for people at every price point literally ranging from $0 to over $150,000 USD. Thanks for reading, happy mining, and let me know what you think below!

How to Obtain a Helium Hotspot and Start Mining HNT
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  • What_Was_I_Thinking

    Great info on options for running a hotspot. Do you think there is a limit on the number of hotspot’s you can order.

    Do you post on the Hive blockchain?

    Cheers

    • I know that Cal-Chip asks you to message them directly if you’d like to order 50+. I’ve seen a few orders that have originated from my blog that have been as large as 10 or 15 hotspots.

      As Helium has exploded in popularity, so has this blog post. I don’t have access to any information that is not publicly available (working on it!), but it’s become very clear to me over the last few days that the supply chain is going to be completely overwhelmed. My guidance right now is that there is pretty much no way someone ordering a hot spot today will get it in 2021. Planning a huge order is going to be extremely hard to forecast.

      This being said, to my knowledge, these suppliers still offer full refunds, so I am comfortable with the current situation. There are plenty of ways to still get involved with Helium.

      I haven’t done in-depth research on Hive but I am happy to report that, since monetizing my blog, I’ve been able to carve out a lot more time to research and write more niche articles on topics that interest me. It will be a very exciting summer here. Thanks for your comment.

      • Kevin Do

        How long does hotspotshare approve and send to you . Been two days and I got no reply of approve or Deny .

        • Hey Kevin, I was not exaggerating when I said that the time that passed between submitting my application and having the miner running was less than one week. I have had plenty of friends attempt to sign up for Hotspot Share and also get waitlisted. The number of active miners available on their site has held steady for at least a month now.

          This said, it’s a legit provider and I still highly recommend it. They paid out on the 7th or the 8th of this month and I do have the stub to prove it if anyone is curious.

          • Kevin Do

            Màybe they’re low on supplies . I’m still waiting as well and I used your code for registration. I’m hoping for a quick turn time . How many HNt are you averaging a day ? I know depends on locations:hotspots nearby that can make a difference in earning .

          • I strongly suspect they prioritize requests based on profitability of the area. I’ve been averaging 1.5 per day for the last few weeks. I’m in a tough spot where I’m in one of the most dense parts of the city but I face in the least dense direction. There are plenty of hotspots in Chicago earning 5 HNT per day.

  • Michael Ritten

    Thanks for the breakdown. Unfortunately it appears that ordering from Calchip (RAK) is almost useless at this point. Numerous reports on Reddit of individuals still waiting for their miners since November who have also discovered that Calchip has prioritized large bulk purchases and company orders over individuals. Calchip has also added a “no cancellation or refunds” notice to their RAK hotspot page… not sure how they can tell people they can’t cancel their order after months of waiting especially with credit card issuers willing to back the consumer as well. They apparently have no problem taking on new consumer orders with no delivery expectations in sight since they are sending available RAK hotspots to youtubers (Voskcoin) to promote and essentially help Calchip gather more orders (with a no cancellation or refund policy), while continuing to raise prices as well. Smells really fishy… latest orders are over the 20K order number mark and Calchip is only providing estimated delivery time frame of June for orders from #9664 – #11259 currently. That’s less that 2k orders with an estimated delivery date of June that were probably placed in Q3 and Q4 of 2020!

    Bobcat doesn’t seem all that promising either since their checkout process includes using what appears to be a chinese credit card to crypto conversion checkout process that is very messy as well as sketchy using a 3rd party credit card processing site that asks for a DOB and in some cases wants you to upload a picture of your passport or ID? Yeah no thanks.

    With HNT halfing in the next few months it’s also not the best time to get into a long line for a miner at this point unless other manufacturers can get units out sooner. Almost makes more sense to just purchase the HNT on an exchange instead of mining (when profits will be decreasing after the halfing and as more miners come online).

    • Thank you for this comment. I have had people reaching out to me privately with these same concerns and even as I’ve wanted to publish more posts about the Helium universe to take advantage of the traffic I’m getting, I do feel that I have a duty to keep people apprised of the risks.

      I have struggled to get dialogue going with any major manufacturers. If Bobcat emails me back and says “here’s a crazy affiliate deal 4 u!” Am I going to accept that deal? Yes. Am I going to lie about what’s going on in the hardware manufacturing world and rank one supplier over another just to make a few hundred bucks? Absolutely not.

      I have about 3 additional blog posts queued up that I don’t really want to publish until I have more clarity. The reason I added #5 and #6 to this guide was, to your point, because these are the methods that I myself was using to gain exposure to Helium while I waited for my other miners!

  • Tausif Salim

    Thank you for all of the helpful information in one place with regards to HNT mining. I am waiting for my nebra devices to ship in July, and was wondering if I should sign up with Hotspotshare for the time being. My plan is to return the hotspotshare devices after my own devices arrive so I no longer have to share 50% of earnings. Do you see any risks or potential issues with that plan? Is it possible to switch out to a device linked to my wallet for the same location once I return the device?

    • It doesn’t appear that Hotspot Share has shipped out any new miners since the time I received mine. I have several friends on the waiting list so it seems likely that they ran out of miners.

      My thought is that it wouldn’t hurt to sign up. There’s no contract so it’s a pure gain for you there for however long you have it. It would never be linked to your wallet. It’s linked to Hotspot Share’s wallet and they send payments to your wallet once per month.

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  • Dave R

    Newbie question here: I purchased four Bobcat miners. My goal is to set up in my home and three family members homes. On the HNT app can I set up multiple miners or do I need to do something different.

    Thanks Dave

    • Yep, you can have multiple hotspots registered under your wallet/app.

  • cindylynndempsey

    Could you tell me if this is true. I was signing up with Ihub and the person said this:
    I am discovering things that I’m going to tell you all right now, if you have reserved a hotspot with ihub, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT commit to the purchase. I will explain to you in the video but you need to make sure that you don’t allow ihub to “claim” your location, or they will be able to prevent you from ever mining helium on your own property.

    • I have no knowledge of what “Ihub” is. I do not share that concern for asserting your location for a shared hotspot.

  • Electricity cost has a negligible affect on the profitability of mining Helium.

    • Shadrack Githendu

      Kindly am shadrack from Kenya interested to mine Helium in Kenya ..please share the steps or the link please

  • Jeff Alberda

    Going to go the shared route as buying a miner seems impossible. Hopefully they approve me. Used your code. The website seems to be throwing up error though, any time I submit something.

    • The shared route is oversaturated, and I doubt you’ll be able to find anything approaching a 50% split unless you have an incredible location. Best options right now are simply investing or paying market price for a hotspot to be shipped immediately.

  • Hotspotshare.com looks very fake, can you post actual proof not just a box & sticker.

    They ask for a drivers license and enough personal information to perform credit fraud.

    Their social accounts are full of comments like “Can’t login” “Error when signing up” “No one’s ever responded”

    • Hey, totally understand your concern. Full transparency here: I haven’t received any additional compensation for promoting Hotspotshare on my blog. Since I first mentioned it I think they’ve only sent out about 70 additional hotspots, while this post has generated well in excess of 10,000 clicks. So anyone trying to go this route is guaranteed to be disappointed. Getting on the waitlist or further researching the company isn’t worth your time.

      Do the W-9 disclosure requirements bother me a bit? Absolutely. Do I also get errors now when logging into the website? Now that you mention it, yes.

      I have been paid by Hotspot Share fairly every month since I signed up. The last few months they’ve usually paid out around the 15th of the month. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/66d8d9ebaacf4b72676f1e39e6c99df9633dc7c1537d91f8b68d87f01b82107f.png

      • Thanks for the reply, still a bit disconcerting but do appreciate the additional transparency.