Helium is an innovative network that works on blockchain technology. It works for many things and issues its own cryptocurrency known as HNT as well as Data Credits.
In this article, you will learn how to mine it and whether you can build your own Helium miner.
Can you build your own Helium miner?
No. It is possible to build a hotspot to route data for LongFi devices, but you can’t build a hotspot that becomes a part of the blockchain and mines HNT. This, however, is something that can happen in the future.
If you look online, you will find people who successfully built their own hotspots and accessed the network. This, however, happened in earlier versions of Helium.
Right now, mining HNT requires you to get a hotspot approved by Helium. We will soon explain all about it.
According to an old answer by one of the devs to a post on Reddit, Helium should soon enough allow for anyone to build their own hotspots and get into the network. Building a hotspot is not easy but can save money if you know what you are doing.
In that post, the dev explains that “This can’t happen until we release the data credit (DC) infrastructure” and “DCs are required for staking a hotspot to join the network.
Helium is currently supplying the DCs for all Hotspots joining the network. Soon you’ll be able to supply your own DCs, and build full miner hotspots.”
The answer was given in late 2019, and Q1 probably meant early 2020. However, right now it is still not possible for people to enter the network without an official hotspot.
Can you mine helium on PC?
The only way to mine Helium is through a hotspot. Different from GPUs and CPUs which mine using processing power and consuming plenty of electricity, these hotspots use radio signals and mine through a consensus protocol called Proof of Coverage (PoC).
How to start mining Helium?
The first thing you need to do if you want to mine Helium is getting a hotspot. There are plenty of models and you can learn which are the approved hotspot makers through Helium’s official website. Since right now Helium is still not approving DIY models, you should only acquire hotspots that figure in the list:
- Helium, Inc.
- Nebra Ltd
- RAK Wireless/CalChip
- HeNet BV/LongAP
- Smart Mimic
Other companies can make their own hotspots and submit them for approval, though.
How mining works
Before diving into the different options of hotspots that you can choose from, let’s understand how the mining of HNT works. It already was said that it works with PoC and it uses radio signals.
Actually, the signal emitted by Helium hotspots is called Helium LongFi or simply LongFi. It has 200 times the range of Wi-Fi. Most of them use the LoRaWAN protocol (one of them uses 5G).
As for block time, Helium aims at a 60-second block time. Every 30 blocks make an epoch, and it is when an epoch is completed that the rewards are given to miners. As you can see, this works differently from many popular cryptocurrencies, where rewards are given after each block is mined.
According to the Helium FAQ, there is no way to know how much you will earn exactly. However, you can come close to that.
This blockchain rewards hotspots for securing the network and providing coverage. Rewards are given in the form of Helium tokens, ($HNT).
As already mentioned, rewards are distributed after each epoch (roughly 30 minutes). Each block requires hotspots to perform different tasks (there are 20 types of transactions). Rewards, then, are given according to the task performed:
|Reward type||Percentage of reward||Total HNT Earned|
|Network Data Transfer||Up to 32.5%||Up to 1113.0145|
Once you see the words “challenger”, “challengees”, “witness” you might think that you will be required to perform actions. Well, you won’t.
Similar to mining on a computer with the help of CPUs, GPUs, or ASICs, all you have to do is set up the hardware and make sure it keeps running properly. Your hotspot will perform the different tasks when it is required according to the network’s needs.
According to the Helium website, these hotspots only consume 5w. So, this is a huge alternative to Proof of Work mining.
No wonder it is hard to get your hands on one of those hotspots. They are rare, so in most makers’ sites, you will order your model to arrive only in a few months.
Storing your coins
When you buy your hotspot, you need to set up a wallet where your $HNT will go to. You have three options to choose from: the Helium app wallet, the command line interface wallet, and the ledger wallet. You can learn about each of them here.
Best miners in the market
There is already a good number of hotspot makers out there, so choosing the right one is key. We will help you with a concise list of three great hotspot miners.
Bobcat 300 is one of the most popular Helium hotspots because of its hardware that stands above the average. As you can expect, its price is also a bit higher due to that.
- Enhanced 4dbi antenna (other hotspots come with 2dbi antennas)
- Quad-core processor
- 64GB storage
Bobcat 300 is superior to its competitors because of the features just described. While most hotspots count with 2dbi antennas, the 4dbi antennas of Bobcat 300 can give 150% wider coverage.
Its quad-core processor is also a unique feature since most hotspots are built on Raspberry Pi.
Finally, its storage is also higher than what you can find with other hotspots. More memory means the miner can compute more at the same time, as well as longer device life expectancy.
The Kerlink Wirnet is not only a Helium hotspot miner. Its description states that it is a LoRaWAN gateway to be used for public or private networks that require IoT connection. The version we are linking here has the ability to connect to the Helium network and mine HNT. This way, you can get more than just a miner.
- Unlicensed band Long Range (LoRa®) bidirectional communications capabilities
- Supported bands: 863-873MHz & 915-928MHz (depending on the version)
- Highly secured device relying on a hardware secure core
- Unit dimensions: 160 x 90 x 35mm (weight 500 g)
- FCC/ETSI certified
- Waterproof casing (IP30)
Although SyncroB.it’s hotspots are pretty expensive, they offer plenty of coverage. You can select between models to make sure yours will have the right frequency to work where you live. These hotspots already cover 94 countries and 7849 cities.
Unfortunately, you have to buy the antenna separately. However, the antenna is not so expensive and you get a discount if you buy it along with the hotspot.
As of now, SyncroB.it offers three different models, one covering Europe and UK, another one covering Australia and New Zealand, and one more to cover the USA and Canada. However, since they claim to cover over 94 countries, you can look online at forums such as Reddit and check if any of these models are compatible with the frequency of other countries.
Out of the three recommended hotspots on this article, SyncroB.it gives the most information about the features of their model:
- Concentrator based on the Semtech SX1302/SX1303
- Raspberry PI Compute Module 4 (32 GB Storage, 2GB RAM)
- Motherboard can be swapped between 2 cases (indoor and outdoor)
- Built-in heatsink for better temperature management
- Voltage support from 12 – 48 volt
- Support for Passive PoE
- Local Web dashboard for easy diagnostics and reporting
- Remote Management console
- Different methods of onboarding (BLE, local web onboarding, remote onboarding, or link onboarding)
- Automatic self-diagnostic and repair.
- Shutdown in case of power failure (prevents corruption of EEMC)
- Wi-fi and Bluetooth
Which miner is the best to buy?
Right now, Helium hotspots are being sold out as soon as manufacturers have enough stock to sell. That being said, the best miner to get is whichever you can get your hands on.
After all, Helium is an amazing network that doesn’t pollute nearly as much as Bitcoin or any large PoW. Moreover, if you live in a city where other people already have hotspots, it will be easy to make a profit.
We listed the three hotspots above because they truly are great options if you want to start looking for hotspots.
You can find deep reviews about them online and confirm that they do the job well. But you don’t need to cling to only them, as other companies are also putting the effort at delivering great devices.
Cryptocurrency is all about innovation. The limits of blockchain networks are still being tested and this technology still has much to offer.
Helium is amazing due to its low energy consumption and allowing a decentralized network of IoT devices. If you are a crypto or just a tech enthusiast, getting a hotspot seems like a sweet deal.
And, to emphasize the leading question of this post, right now it is impossible to make your own hotspot, so you have to cling to the makers approved by Helium devs.