Helium (HNT) – What happened to my rewards / earnings?

Sharp decline in earnings? Unsure what’s going on? In this blog post we discuss factors affecting HNT rewards and why your miner may be outputting less than you’re used to.

If you are new to Helium, or are not sure how Helium works, then you should read Helium FAQ for Noobs prior to reading this post.

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.

Earnings down?

Recently I noticed a lot of conversation pertaining to reduced earnings from Helium miners within the community. For the crypto natives this may come as no surprise, but with Helium attracting many newcomers due to it’s low cost of entry and favourable profitability many are confused why their hotspots are suddenly earning less than a couple of months ago.

Helium miners are allocated a share of HNT from a monthly pool each time they perform an interaction with the network such as issuing a challenge, getting witnessed when sending a beacon, or witnessing a beacon from another hotspot. Originally this pool was 5 million HNT per month and 65% was shared amongst hotspot owners depending on their hotspot’s interactions. However several events have happened which have caused hotspot earnings to diminish…

Validators

The Helium network operates a consensus group to manage the block chain, the consensus group earns 6% of the monthly HNT reward pool. Originally these duties were performed by the hotspots themselves and hitting the consensus group was regarded as winning the Helium lottery as taking part in the consensus group was very lucrative. However the demands of the consensus group on hotspots was causing issues for the network and it was decided to migrate these duties to special nodes called validators who had investors stake HNT in return for the validators having the opportunity to form the consensus group. This meant 6% less of the monthly rewards pool for hotspots and a reduction in earnings for hotspot owners.

The Halvening

The monthly HNT reward pool was originally 5 million HNT per a month to be shared amongst hotspot owners, validators, the Helium team & investors. On 1st August 2021 the first halvening occurred cutting the monthly HNT reward pool from 5 million tokens to 2.5 million. There is a finite amount of HNT pre-mined to be used to incentivise the network, and like many crypto currencies the way to ensure continual supply of these tokens is to increase obtainment difficulty over time. Helium ensures this by halving the monthly reward pool every 2 years hence reducing the potential HNT rewards for hotspot owners every-time the halvening occurs.

More Hotspots

To further compound the effects of validators and the halvening more people have been buying and introducing hotspots to the network. Great for coverage but bad for rewards. The reduced reward pool must now be shared amongst an increased number of hotspots resulting in lower per hotspot rewards.

Density

Many hotspots have been deployed alongside other hotspots in major population centres. Originally hotspot owners deploying to these locations would have seen decent returns as they had a good number of witnesses and other hotspots to witness. However HIP 17 punishes hotspot owners who deploy too densely as it is counter productive to increasing network coverage. As a result hotspots sharing hexes have a reduced transmit scale and hence are likely to earn less compared to a hotspot which does not share it’s hex with others. In some extreme cases in cities such as London, New York and San Francisco the density is so high in some hexes earnings are diminished to almost 0. In this case hotspot owners should consider moving their hotspot to a less densely covered area to maximise rewards.

Stale Price

So far we have focused on how HNT rewards are reduced, however another factor is the price of HNT. Even with the halved reward pool and validators sucking up their share if the price tripled maybe we wouldn’t be complaining as comparatively we’d be earning the same fiat currency into our bank accounts. However, over the past 6 months or so the price has stayed relatively stable in the $15 to $20 range. Unless the price breaks out of it’s current comfort zone it is unlikely we will feel any better about the reduced HNT rewards.

Conclusion

By design the HNT rewards on a per hotspot basis will decrease over time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that in real terms you will earn less, however to earn the same as before the price must increase accordingly. In the short term it does appear mining HNT has been less profitable however we live trusting that the price will correct itself with time. Remember the wise words of the disclaimer above, investing in, and mining crypto is a risk and you should take caution when doing so.

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