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. 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.

2. The new choice is 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, and the updated delivery schedule on the website seems to honor this:

I will update this post if there are any further delivery delays. The Nebra devices are considered higher-quality, but that ultimately won’t affect your 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 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 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.

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 (pre-production!)

Note that this is a new aspect of Helium and it is not yet possible to run a validator in production.

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 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.

Also, 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, it’s reasonable to place an order with Cal-Chip or Nebra. 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 $40,000 USD. Thanks for reading, happy mining, and let me know what you think below!

How to Obtain a Helium Hotspot and Start Mining HNT
  • Pingback: Setting up a Helium Hotspot with an After-Market Antenna | Tim O'Hearn()

  • 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.

  • 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).