Helium 5G: Exciting News!

This new information will tell me which direction to point my CBRS Small Cell radio in order to provide the best (and most profitable) coverage. The new mapping tool shows my signal as a mere ‘average’ cell signal. See below.

I’m looking to achieve anywhere between a -50 to -79dbm signal, or 25.0 SNR. At these operating frequencies, obstructions degrade signal strength. So now the work begins to get pointed in the right direction, and eliminate all obstructions if possible.

Is this signal level attainable with an Indoor Small Cell?

We’re about to find out. Once I’m convinced I know where to point it, if I’m not at, or near enough to, my target signal strength, I’ll consider putting the indoor radio outdoors, in a weatherproof enclosure.

I’m also not ruling out the purchase of a high power Outdoor Small Cell. I’ll wait to see what the $MOBILE tokens are worth before I purchase anymore 5G radio equipment.

New Information

My 5G Small Cell Signal Strength: Hidden Green Mole -96dbm 9.2 SNR

What’s a Good Signal Strength for a Cell Phone?

If your outside signal ranges from:

Signal StrengthGeneral Results
-50 to -79 dBmConsidered great signal (4 to 5 bars)
-80 to -89 dBmConsidered good signal (3 to 4 bars)
-90 to -99 dBmConsidered average signal (2 to 3 bars)
-100 to -109 dBmConsidered poor signal (1 to 2 bars)
-110 to -120 dBmConsidered very poor signal (0 to 1 bar)

I have plenty of room for improvement here.

MOBILE Proof-of-Coverage: The Road Ahead

Early in a network’s development, it is essential to reward builders for their efforts to provide initial deployments and test basic network operations at a meaningful scale. As such, HIP 51 and 53 proposed a Genesis period of Proof-of-Coverage (PoC) rewards on the MOBILE subDAO.

Over 6,500 small cells (at the time of this writing) have been deployed on the Helium 5G network and with this scale, some community members have correctly raised concerns about the quality of coverage on the network. The strength of the network is predicated on providing useful coverage for phones and other devices. A small cell’s rewards should be aligned with this ultimate goal of usefulness and differentiation from traditional mobile network deployments.

Over the course of the next 12 months, PoC rewards will evolve from allocating tokens for simply being online to identifying and rewarding useful coverage. Improving our identification of overly-dense deployments will also ensure that the network continues to grow in a healthy way and avoids early arbitrage of PoC rewards. As with all incentive based systems, this is an iterative process and the community should expect frequent updates.

These changes are being communicated well in advance to give current and future network builders the opportunity to optimize radio setups to help ensure they can yield rewards for delivering useful coverage.

Determining useful coverage and the impact on MOBILE PoC rewards will be based on a number of factors:

These factors will be rolled out in stages over the course of the next twelve months and explained in detail to ensure network builders can take concrete steps to plan or improve their setups.

Planned release: Implemented

Radio uptime data is a strong indicator for radio reliability, and as such is a key element of service-level agreements (SLA).

There are a variety of circumstances that can affect radios staying online, including power outages, extreme weather (for example, 300 radios were knocked offline during Hurricane Ian), and defective equipment.

Service providers need to understand the reliability of a particular radio before connecting a subscriber to that radio. Historical data of regular dropped connections, for example, could indicate that a radio would not meet the expected quality of service that a provider has guaranteed a subscriber.

During the Genesis period, rewards were issued based exclusively on data provided by the Spectrum Access System (SAS), and radios have not been penalized for intermittent outages.

Recently, along with heartbeat data, a preliminary algorithm was introduced that can track radio uptime.

As the network matures and competition among radio operators increases, if your radio uptime becomes significantly worse compared to peers, your rewards will decrease.

It is recommended that radio operators closely monitor their radio uptime data and take care to ensure that equipment remains online and in good operating condition.

Planned release: Q4 2022

In contrast to the IoT network, high throughput and low latency are crucial to the usefulness of a 5G network. As such, providing quality backhaul to 5G radios is key to the reliability of the network.

Recently, the Helium Explorer was updated to display statistics from backhaul speed testing. Initially this is just for informational purposes, but soon radios with acceptable speeds and latency will earn full rewards, and those with less reliable backhaul will receive fewer rewards.

Making sure your radio is connected to a low-latency, fast internet connection can help ensure your backhaul tests remain at an acceptable level to earn full rewards.

Planned release: Q4 2022

Obstructions indicate any objects or obstacles that might impede the path of a signal. The placement and direction of radios is critical, as CBRS signals do not travel well through walls or dense trees.

Quality of placement and radio direction means the difference between your signal traveling for several city blocks versus not traveling anywhere. In order to optimize for useful coverage, it is crucial that signal paths be clear and unimpeded as much as possible.

Here is what you need to know in order to optimize your radio’s location:

A properly functioning radio on the Helium 5G network continuously advertises its location, direction, beam width, and radiated power. This information, coupled with a number of geospatial data sources, can provide a 90% accurate estimate of realistic receive signal strength within the hexes (locations) surrounding your radio.

Take for example the data below for a 430H radio mounted on a small office roof in downtown Boulder:

Over the course of the next three months, users will see this data populated in the Helium Explorer, indicating how many of the surrounding hexes to which a given radio is able to provide coverage.

After the initial informational roll out, rewards will become a function of the number of hexes covered and the corresponding signal quality in those hexes. It will also be scaled to take into account geographic areas with too much coverage.

This is an ideal time to optimize radio placement and direction to ensure rewards are not affected as these changes start to come online. It is also a good time to start placing radios where coverage does not overlap. Although some amount of redundancy will help a network’s reliability, 5G coverage is significantly different from the LoRaWAN deployments that many are used to in the Helium ecosystem. Since spectrum is shared, too many radios in overlapping segments will limit the usefulness of the network in that area.

Planned release: Q1 2023

Building the largest, most useful 5G network is a goal of the MOBILE subDAO, but not all locations are created equal. Although network builders are able to set up radios anywhere, it’s important that these radios are deployed in areas that will have real usage. This is where Service Providers, like Helium Mobile, can help guide the “shape” of the network as it deploys more widely over the coming months and years.

Although the logistics of this functionality are still in development and we believe that a governance change needs to be proposed to support this economic change, we believe that Service Providers should be able to influence where radios could be deployed by increasing rewards for particular geographic areas depending on where their customers are frequently using service. By boosting these areas, the demand side of the network (real subscribers) can meet the supply side of small cell deployers.

Planned release: Q1 2023

Between the Spectrum Access System (SAS) Oracle, heartbeat data, obstruction data, and location-based optimization, the network will have a significant dataset to accurately and equitably incentivize useful coverage.

However, we know firsthand there will always be some amount of arbitrage when there is an incentive-based reward system. To that end, there is a plan to develop Helium mappers to act as enforcers of data validation on the network.

Mappers will roam the physical world and share PoC data as evidenced by their internal modems. This allows us to validate or invalidate the data collected by Oracles and automatically adjust rewards for those who are spoofing the network by broadcasting falsified data.

There will be two ways users can map the network:

  1. With Spot: a dedicated mapper hardware, is capable of extremely efficient scanning for cells and will be the best way to earn mapping MOBILE rewards.
  2. As a subscriber: Helium Mobile subscribers will be able to map the network from their phone on an opt-in basis using the Helium Mobile app. While the rewards will be less than mapping with Spot, there is no additional cost for subscribers to participate. Future service providers will also be able to offer this as a product feature for their subscribers.

Spot mapper beta availability is expected before the end of 2022, with broad availability rolling out early 2023.

As we enter this next phase of building and scaling the network, it is crucial that we shift our focus towards providing reliable and useful coverage on the Helium 5G network. We look forward to building this network together with Small Cell Deployers, Mappers, Subscribers, Service Providers, and the Helium community at large.

Author: K6HR

Licensed since 1994. Active on HF / VHF / UHF / Satellite.