Helium Data-Only hotspot with RAK WisGate Edge Prime

RAK7240

It’s time to extend the Helium network out of the city centers ! Now as most of the Helium Pioneers have stacked a lot of HNT, it is time to reinvest a part of it to grow the attractivity of the network and improve the future value of the token as a consequence. At least it is my point of view on what every Helium participant should start doing. Each hostpot revenue is currently sufficiently high to participate to network extension with Data-Only equipment.

Data Only Hotspot are LongFi (LoRaWan) gateways not doing mining, they are just relaying data and, as a consequence, only earn token for packet transfer. If the network use becomes high, this could be an interesting revenue.

Data Only Hotspot target 2 different use-cases:

  • Low density area, they are the zone where you don’t have a big chance to have many other hotspot around and full hotspot price won’t make it interesting regarding the low chance to get PoC reward. Basically, they are good to deploy in the countryside, mountains … to extend coverage but not expecting high revenue. This is important to do to enable used-cases based on a large coverage for the network.
  • Professional networks. This is the main, short term, interest of Helium Data Only Hotspot. Service providers using LoRaWan are mostly relying on private networks with owned equipment’s. These equipment can be migrated or deployed on the Helium network with Data-Only Hotspot without risk of market shortage, larger reliability and lower cost and lower bandwidth and power consumption than full miners. Service providers get different advantages for doing this: get benefit of the existing Helium coverage worldwide (as primary solution or as a redundancy) and get some income for transferring other LoRaWan communication.

For my first experimentation with Helium Data Only Hotspot, I made the choice of RAK Wisgate Edge Prime because this device is reasonable price for high end experience. It is outdoor, with LTE, supporting PoE under $400. This is really fitting well with the second use-case : professional deployment I noticed above. I will later review the Dragino lower cost gateway for addressing the first use-case.

Rewarding

As this question is the main question asked by the community (You’re crazy guys) By definition Data-Only hotspot does not earn token other than the communications ($1 per 100.000) messages accepted by routers. Currently the Data Only are not rewarded at all. The DC rewards will come later.

Unpacking

The gateway package content is really complete with the gateway on the left side with a really high quality metal enclosure. With all the needed antennas – 2x LTE, 1 GPS antenna, all the needed components for PoE injection and the amalgamating tape. There is also all the needed parts for attaching the gateways and antennas.

This gateway uses multiple antennas. When choosing the 16 channels version (for USA mostly) two of the antennas are dedicated to LoRaWan, 1 for each of the 8 channel group. When using a 8 channel version, this antenna connector is used to improve the LTE reception. There is also an outdoor antenna for WiFi on the bottom of the gateway. On the bottom, you can plug an Ethernet cable to provide network and power. This is the only way to power the gateway. In case you have PoE network, a PoE injector is also provided within the package. The last antenna is a GPS antenna for getting the gateway position.

On the bottom of the gateway, there is also a console cable for debugging and the SIM card holder. You can’t open the gateway without loosing the warranty.

Once plugged on Ethernet, the cable removal will be a bit complex, you need something long and thin to move the Ethernet pin and plug-out it.

Inside the RAK7240

Something you must not do… open the Wisgate. I’ll do it for you so you won’t have to do it. And honestly don”t do it or you have a risk to reduce the heat dissipation of the product.

Inside the RAK7240

Inside you have a design really similar to the WisGate Edge Lite. the main different, here, you have 2 Pci-Express slot. The second one will have a second LoRa concentrator for the 16 channels version. you can notice the seal tightness all around, including on the Type-N connector. You can also notice that the concentrator (gray bloc on bottom left) does not have a heatsink. The reason is that the entire metallic box is the heatsink. As you can see on the picture above, the concentrator is in contact with a big piece of metal also in contact with the enclosure. That way the heat dissipation is really great.

RAK7240 heatsink

Upgrade firmware

It’s always good to upgrade the firmware. The latest version can be obtained on RAKWireless download area. This post is based on firmware WisGateOS 1.1.1

Antennas Installation

After installing the antennas on the hotspot, I used the Insulating tape to protect against the weather. I know, there are different schools about this point, so you will choose you own one. By-the-way, here is the result:

Insulate tape installed on RAK Gateway

Install Wisgate as an Helium Data-Only hotspot

As a reminder, such hotspot is not a miner, it is not getting reward from PoC or Challenged like a Rak Helium Miner do. This one is just relaying the network traffic to Helium network.

Basically, we are going to install a new service on the RAK Hotspot, it is named gateway-rs and it makes the operations to relay what comes from the packet forwarder to Helium network. So this software is listening on port 1680 and, once launched, we will just setup the Semtech packet forwarder to send data locally to this service.

To install this service we are going to download the gateway-rs service from the Helium repository and install it on the hotspot. The package to install is helium-gateway-vX.X.X-xxx-ramips_24kec.ipk for this model of hotspot. Make sure you select the right one. Then we can upload this package on the hotspot (same password as on the web interface):

[~/Download] scp helium-gateway-v<version>-ramips_24kec.ipk root@<ip of your hotspot>:~/

Note: you can also directly download the ipk from the RAK gateway with wget command.

Once done, you can connect to the hotspot using ssh and install the gateway-rs service:

[~/Download] ssh root@<ip of your hotspot>
[root@RAK7240:~#] mv helium-gateway-v<version>-ramips_24kec.ipk /tmp
[root@RAK7240:~#] opkg install /tmp/helium-gateway-v<version>-ramips_24kec.ipk 
[root@RAK7240:~#] rm /tmp/helium-gateway-v*.ipk

The installation automatically enable and starts the service. Then you need, if you are not US915 to setup the right zone by editing /etc/helium_gateway/settings.toml. I also recommend to deactivate the auto-update mechanism during the alpha tests. Add your corresponding zone on top of the file.

region = "EU868"
                
[log]
...
[update]
enabled=false

Then restart the service

[root@RAK7240:~#] /etc/init.d/helium_gateway restart

So the next step is to configure the Semtech packet forwarder to reach the gateway-rs service. This can be done thanks to the web UI.

configure RAK7240 as helium data-only hotspot step 1

You need to switch the RAK into Packet Forwarder mode, then you can configure the Semtech protocol with the following values:

Configure RAK7240 as helium data-only hotspot step 2

Register the Gateway on Helium network

Now we need to register the gateway into the Helium network, that way the gateway will have a name and be visible on the Helium map. For executing this action, you need to have a command line wallet with HNT available on it.

if you do not have a command line wallet, you need to create one.

[~] sudo apt-get install pkg-config libssl-dev build-essential cmake clang
[~] sudo curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSf https://sh.rustup.rs | sh
[~] git clone https://github.com/helium/helium-wallet-rs
[~] cd helium-wallet-rs
[~] git checkout <last released tag>
[~/helium-wallet-rs] source $HOME/.cargo/env
[~/helium-wallet-rs] cargo build --release
[~/helium-wallet-rs] cd target/release

Now we can create the wallet as the mobile application wallet where your other hotspots has been created.

[~/.../release] ./helium-wallet create basic --seed mobile
...
[~/.../release] ./helium-wallet info
+--------------------+--------
| Key                | Value   
+--------------------+--------
| Address            | <WALLET_ID>
+--------------------+--------
| Network            | mainnet 
+--------------------+---------
| Type               | ...  
+--------------------+---------
| Sharded            | false   
+--------------------+----------
| PwHash             | ... 
+--------------------+-----------
| Balance            | 20.93802746   
+--------------------+-----------
| DC Balance         | 0       
+--------------------+-----------
| Securities Balance | 0.00000000 
+--------------------+------------

Make sure your balance is positive.

Now we can generate a transaction on the Hotspot

[root@RAK7240:~#] helium_gateway add --owner <WALLET_ID> --payer <WALLET_ID>
{
  "address": "<GATEWAY_ADRESSS_ID>",
  "fee": 65000,
  "mode": "dataonly",
  "owner": "<WALLET_ID>",
  "payer": "<WALLET_ID>",
  "staking fee": 1000000,
  "txn": "<TRANSCATION_ID>"
}

Backup your gateway_key file

[~] scp root@<ip of your hotspot>:/etc/helium_gateway/gateway_key.bin .

Then, save that file preciously

Now, we can create the registration transaction from the wallet. This will automatically burn some of your HNT into DC to execute the transaction. The assertion costs $0.65 plus $10. The Localization transaction cost is $0.55 plus $5. So globally adding a data only hotspot on the network have a cost of $16.20 (to be compared to full having a cost of $60 payed by the hardware provider as part of the product cost).

[~/.../release] ./helium-wallet hotspots add <TRANSCATION_ID> --commit
[~/.../release] ./helium-wallet hotspots assert --gateway <GATEWAY_ADRESSS_ID> --lat XX.XXXX --lon Y.YYYY -mode dataonly --commit

At this point you will be able to see these transactions “pending” in your wallet.

DataOnly Hotspot assertion and position update

I don’t know yet what is going the impact on reward scale when adding a such hotspot. I’ll let you know once I’ll get the answer of this. After a couple of minutes, you will see the hotspot added on explorer:

Hotspot deployment

Power consumption

The average power consumption on PoE is from 4.5W to 5W, LTE activated. It means, it should be powered correctly with a 200W solar panel installation in center of France. I made that measure using a PoE tester NF-488.

Data transfer

Compared to a classical LoRaWAN gateway, a Helium Data Only Hotspot is having much more communications. Currently (as I don’t know if these numbers are stable over time) the communications are about 1.6MB / h, This is about 40MB/day equivalent to 1.2GB / month.

As a consequence, you need to have a SIM Card subscription for that volume if you plan to use it with a LTE connectivity.

Remote access

The hotspot have different ways to manage remote access link IPSEC tunneling. You can also rely on your telecom operator service. I’m using Soracom.io services including a remote access capability named Napter allowing to expose SSH port on demand. That ways it is possible to access the device remotely. As currently the gateway_rs software is alpha version. Upgrades will be required and remote access is a must have. Once configured it has a cost of $3 per month and allows you to access ssh but also the web UI the following way:

# ssh -p <soracom_given_port> -L 80443:localhots:443 root@<soracom_given_name>

Once connected you can access the web UI on https://localhost:80443

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