Helium (HNT) – Fixing Relayed Hotspots

Earnings down? Feeling gloomy? See all this chatter about being relayed and port forwarding? This guide tells you how to identify if your Helium Hotspot is being relayed and how to fix it.

Disclaimer

Fiddling with crypto is generally a risky venture and your cashola is at risk. This is not financial advice and any crypto dabbling you do is entirely at your own risk. Prices and earnings correct at time of publishing but will vary with time.

We cannot be held responsible for any damage, loss of services or any other losses as a result of screwing up your router or any other equipment by following this guide. If in doubt read the manual and perform your own research.

Is my hotspot being relayed?

There is an easy way to check if your hotspot is being relayed, head on over to https://explorer.helium.com and find your hotspot by looking on the coverage map or by typing the hotspot name into the search box.

If your hotspot is being relayed you’ll see a badge like this one underneath the map…

What is being relayed?

Helium hotspots need to talk to each-other over your internet connection to do their job, they share information like when to send beacons, when a beacon has been witnessed and who is in the consensus group, it’s all part of being a member of the decentralised network. Your hotspot becomes “relayed” when other hotspots cannot connect to it directly, and hence it relays all it’s messages through another member of the network. This is less than ideal as it adds complexity to the network and you have to rely on another hotspot passing your messages in a timely manor.

Why is being relayed bad?

Being relayed is bad as it adds extra pressure to other hotspots to relay your hotspot’s messages to the network, if everyone ran a relayed hotspot the network simply wouldn’t function as fundamentally for a decentralised network to operate it must rely on peer to peer connectivity between the nodes. Helium community have speculated in the Discord that being relayed may be responsible for infrequent challenges, fewer beacons and failed witnessing, if this is the case it’s not only bad news for the network but also for your HNT reward earnings.

How do you become relayed?

Most internet connections these days are via a router with many devices sharing the same connection. This works by a process called Network Address Translation (NAT), and it allows many internal devices with internal IP addresses to share one external (WAN) IP address. This works great for outgoing traffic. However in the case of peer to peer it relies on not just outgoing traffic but incoming traffic also. Incoming traffic is sent to your external (WAN) IP address which sits on your router, when it hits your router 1 of 2 things happens…

  • The router doesn’t know which internal IP address to send the traffic to and it sends the traffic nowhere.
  • The router has a port forwarded to the internal IP address so it knows which device to send the traffic to.

Sometimes devices can request the router forwards a port to them without configuring anything, this happens via a thing called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). If your hotspot supports UPnP and your router has it enabled you may be lucky and it may have sorted itself out. However if you are showing as relayed in https://explorer.helium.com then it is likely that your port isn’t forwarded and your router is dropping the incoming peer to peer connections hence needing to be relayed. The good news is most routers support manually port forwarding to your Helium hotspot which fixes the issue.

How To Fix

You can fix your hotspot being relayed by port forwarding the required ports to your Helium hotspot on your router, this allows the hotspot’s peer to peer connectivity directly without being relayed via another node.

The port you need to forward to your hotspot device is:

44158 – TCP

Each router has a different process to forward ports, way too many to cover here but luckily Port Forward has guides for most popular routers – https://portforward.com/router.htm. If your router is supplied by your ISP and doesn’t appear on Port Forward your ISPs technical support team should be able to assist.

Once your port forwarding has been setup the status on https://explorer.helium.com will not update immediately, it may take up to 24 hours for the network to work out your hotspot no longer requires relaying.

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4 Comments

  • Hello,

    Thank you for this very relevant post. I own a few hotspots in Switzerland and it’s been 3-4 days now that they all show a sharp decline in earnings. If you check Main Sable Bull and essentially all the 50+ hotspots around it, they all display a ‘relayed’ status. I find it strange that it affects all devices simultaneously.

    The fix you mention seems to be on a case per case basis, whereas the issue I’m facing involves dozens of devices. Is it a larger problem that can’t be fixed individually?

    Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    • Hello Gilles,

      It would appear that all hotspots suddenly became “relayed” overnight, however this isn’t really the case, the reality is that the dashboard just never reported it before so nobody had visibility of the issue. The chances are a large number of hotspots have always been relayed, although this isn’t good for network health and if you are relayed by a bad peer not good for your challenges either. However if you are relayed by a good, stable peer then your earnings are unlikely to have been affected by relaying.

      There are other factors that have affected earnings recently, only a finite number of HNT can be mined per block and this is shared amongst all mining devices. The network has grown from ~18k hotspots to ~26k hotspots within a few weeks, which is great for coverage but means that finite amount of HNT each block must be spread amongst more devices resulting in reduced HNT earnings for everyone.

      Hopefully this makes sensee.

      Best Regards,

      Rob

      Reply
  • I have been looking at this relayed issue and I am not sure if the TCP port forwarding (44158) solves this for all instances. I have at least 2 device that are reporting to being relayed, but both have their ports forwarded properly. These ports were forwarded at the install 1 month ago, so it is not a 24hr delay either. I read somewhere that additional configuration might be needed, but without going into detail.

    Reply
    • @Ronald, out of curiosity are you using GSM / 3G / 4G / LTE backhaul for your hotspot? Some providers (particularly cellular / mobile) use CGNAT where their customers sit on internal IP ranges and they are natted out to the internet at the provider level and many subscribers share the same IP. In these cases port forwarding is not possible.

      Reply

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