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Hosting a Helium hotspot is an exciting way to contribute to a cutting-edge technology while earning passive income. Hotspots earn rewards primarily by participating in Proof-of-Coverage, in other words, demonstrating the technical capability to transmit data on the Helium mesh network by responding to “challenges” issued by neighboring hotspots and receiving $HNT in return. If the hotspot is located in a prime location with the perfect density of surrounding hotspots, it can earn the equivalent of hundreds of US Dollars every day.

It’s no wonder that enthusiasts and profit-seekers alike are rushing to buy Helium hotspots.

Those lucky enough to already have hotspots set up will quickly move on to the next stage: optimizing those earnings. While this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide, this post will contain a lot of what you need to know to make your next buying decision. Thankfully, all of the antennas and accessories that you need are available at the RAKwireless store.

Antenna Basics

Though some of these points have been rehashed quite a bit, it can be helpful to reinforce them.

As the saying goes, bigger isn’t always better. In many locations, the stock antenna–that narrow plastic rod poking out the side of the hotspot–will out-perform the after-market alternatives (including popular choices you can find on Amazon). Take into consideration that antennas don’t add any energy to or “boost” the signal, they just change the pattern in which signals are emitted. Higher dBi means the signal will become more directional, so a poor line of sight and obstructions could cause more harm to earnings.

Original Stock Antenna

The RAKwireless store stocks replacement antennas for $5-10 each. If you lose your antenna or break the pin while removing it, this is your best bet for an exact replacement. The majority of Helium hotspots use these antennas. Those in urban areas and without options for outdoor placement should spend some time using these antennas, as they are likely the best option available and can out-perform the significantly larger alternatives. The gain is 1.2dBi – 2.3dBi depending on the frequency.

5dBi Antenna

This newly-released antenna will be the most popular choice for those wanting to place an antenna outdoors. The stock antenna, connected to the hotspot, would be difficult to place outside without risking damaging the hotspot. With a cable (remember, the shorter the better!) and a proper mount, upgrading to the 5dBi antenna can prove to be a major upgrade. Also, at just $35, many would feel it’s an upgrade worth making. You can also test it indoors with RAK’s antenna magnetic base.

5.8dBi Antenna

This antenna, priced at just $5 more than the 5dBi antenna, is also nearly twice as long! This is a piece of equipment that demands being placed outside. Due to its size, you must also consider how to mount it and secure it. Does the extra .8dBi make that much of a difference? The difference between 5dBi and 7dBi or 8dBi, in terms of how the signal path is altered, is actually quite significant. While the availability of the 5dBi will surely cannibalize sales of this gain slightly, this remains a great choice for those looking to take advantage of elevation.

8dBi Antenna

While this isn’t the absolute highest gain one could achieve, it’s likely the most anyone would need. These 8dBi https://rakwireless.kckb.st/a98dae1dantennas perform poorly in city settings. They are best purchased by those who are struggling to get any witnesses at all. Also, there is a use case in cases where a user has access to extreme elevation. Facilities located near the tops of mountains may be optimal candidates. Those purchasing high-gain antennas also may have access to radio towers and other industrial high points that are built for radio broadcasting. There is very little middle ground for these antennas.

What are your neighbors doing?

If you’re not interested in diving into the nitty-gritty of how the protocol works, you can make a significant amount of headway by using the Helium Explorer coverage map. Assuming you already have your location picked out, you can analyze the earnings of different hotspots in each hex tile. For example, The Loop in Chicago. Now, while there’s no guessing the exact setup or precise location of each of these antennas, it can be inferred that the superior hotspots are located on higher floors, have less obstruction, and are connected to more witnesses. Some hotspots may connect to more witnesses by having low gain, others might be better with a 5dBi antenna.

In a more suburban setting, you can likely drive around near other hotspot locations and easily determine who has an antenna on their roof and who doesn’t. This type of information is free to gather and may help advise what you end up doing with your hotspot.

Summary

While, in some cases, a hotspot may not see a dramatic difference between antenna types, it’s logical to say that each hotspot does indeed have an optimal antenna, in terms of gain. The placement and the positioning of antennas is too complicated for this post; the best advice I can give is to purchase an antenna from an approved Helium manufacturing partner so you don’t get stuck with a piece of junk that doesn’t perform as well as the Amazon reviews claim. Remember, you can always revert to using your stock antenna! Finally, if you’re still lost about which antenna is going to be best for you, head over to the official Helium™ discord. To seek some advice from those already on the people’s network.

How to Choose the Right Helium Hotspot Antenna