Comprehensive Guide to Helium WiFi Hotspots: Everything You Should Know
Only time will reveal whether WiFi will disrupt CBRS radios.
Only time will reveal whether WiFi will disrupt CBRS radios.
There's an upcoming addition to the radio scene: Helium WiFi hotspots. These represent the next step in hotspot technology from Helium and mark a significant advancement. There's a lot to delve into here, so continue reading to learn more.
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If you're unfamiliar with handoffs, here's a quick explanation. Imagine you're walking through a mall area with strong T-Mobile coverage, but then you step into a store with a Helium WiFi hotspot. Your phone seamlessly connects to the WiFi, instantly saving Helium costs as you're now on their network. When you leave the store, you'll smoothly switch back to T-Mobile towers for internet access. This seamless experience is made possible by Helium WiFi's use of Passpoint (https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/passpoint), an enterprise technology that just works. With WiFi, you can expect swift, unnoticeable transitions from T-Mobile to WiFi hotspots. I didn't even mention the best part. You don't need to select any WiFi networks yourself like you normally would visiting another place. Thats the beauty of Passpoint. You don't even need to enter a password.
These units offer significantly broader compatibility since they utilize WiFi technology, supporting virtually all modern smartphones. In contrast, CBRS is currently compatible with phones that support Band48, which amounts to approximately 50 devices, as listed in the support phones list (https://support.hellohelium.com/en/articles/7240207-supported-devices).
In terms of speed, WiFi outperforms CBRS in multiple aspects. WiFi can achieve real-world download and upload speeds of approximately 900Mbps, while the CBRS radios used by Helium have a theoretical maximum download speed of 220Mbps and an upload speed of 28Mbps, as indicated in the specifications here (https://na.baicells.com/product/details?id=95e4cc20-15f8-42cb-921a-ff0e9298bb35#parameter). WiFi is simply faster.
It's undeniable that WiFi has a shorter range compared to CBRS. Most WiFi signals tend to drop when you move outside your house towards the street, whereas CBRS can keep you connected, often reaching your neighbour's home across the street.
Ease of Installation:
The ease of installation with WiFi units is a significant selling point. The initial WiFi hotspots released are indoor units that don't require a complex installation. All you need to do is plug them in and confirm their location. This is in contrast to indoor CBRS radios, which require a constant GPS lock to earn rewards, necessitating the placement of a GPS device near a window, limiting installation options.
Now, let's talk about pricing. The anticipated MSRP for these new indoor WiFi units is around $250. This is a remarkable cost-saving, especially when you consider that the CBRS setup can range from $2,500 to $7,000. This lower price point makes WiFi units accessible to a wider audience, removing the barriers associated with the higher cost of CBRS and fostering more deployments throughout the county.
Now, let's delve into the heart of the matter: Rewards. As outlined in the current Helium Improvement Proposal (HIP93) available at (https://github.com/helium/HIP/blob/main/0093-addition-of-wifi-aps-to-mobile-subdao.md), each indoor WiFi unit will earn you 400 static coverage points. These units will also cover a single res12 hex, which spans approximately 30 feet in width. This suggests that for multi-unit deployments, you can anticipate spacing these units about 30 feet apart.
There's another crucial detail to consider. Currently, you can only deploy one indoor WiFi unit per hex. While this policy might evolve in the future, it's essential to take note of this restriction. So, you can't simply stack 30 of these units in a closet to manipulate rewards.
For comparison, let's consider a 430h device, which might earn you around 3,000 coverage points. However, when you factor in the price difference, it becomes more apparent. Investing $250 in a WiFi unit yields you 400 points, or roughly 0.625 coverage points per dollar. In contrast, the 430h costs $2,500 for 3,000 points, which translates to about 0.833 coverage points per dollar. From this perspective, opting for the CBRS unit seems to be a more sensible choice. But, these numbers dramatically change when talking about hex boosting. More on that below.
Hex boosting represents a novel concept in the world of Helium. In straightforward terms, deploying within a boosted hex can potentially amplify your rewards by up to 100 times.
To illustrate the impact, consider a scenario with one boosted hex offering 100x rewards. Placing a WiFi unit in this hex would yield you a remarkable 40,000 coverage points. In contrast, you might assume that a 430h device would earn you 300,000 coverage points, but that's not the case. The 430s operate based on a modeled coverage system (https://www.heliumdeploy.io/blog/what-hip74-means-for-helium-5g-rewards), where each hex it covers can earn a maximum of 16 coverage points. When you multiply this by 100, it only amounts to 4,584 total coverage points(4,600 - 16 original coverage points on the hex).
Do you wish to get your own WiFi hotspot in a boosted hex? You can sign up here to reserve your hosted WiFi unit in a 100x boosted hex: https://form.typeform.com/to/s40K4gml. This offer is available to anyone around the world, including those in the USA.
In summary, WiFi units simply outperform in this context, offering 40,000 coverage points compared to the 4,584 points of the 430s. For a comprehensive breakdown of the calculations, please refer to the linked blog here (https://www.heliumdeploy.io/blog/introducing-hex-boosting-your-essential-guide).
It's evident that WiFi hotspots are poised to make a significant impact in the deployment arena. Their affordability and ease of installation make them a clear winner. Couple that with the potential for boosted hex rewards, and the choice becomes a no-brainer. As we focus towards data transfer in the future, the rapid WiFi handoffs appear to be the most practical choice. Anticipating high demand for these units, one can only hope that they won't face scalping issues like the early days of LoRa. All in all, the transition to WiFi represents a smart move on Helium's part. The lower entry cost will undoubtedly stimulate more deployments,.
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