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.
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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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