Is it alright that my Helium Hotspot is taking forever to sync?

So, you’ve got your Helium hotspot set up and it has started to sync, then you find that it is taking days to weeks to sync. You’ll likely question if it is normal to take this long?

Short answer is, likely ok. But let’s not assume and figure out how to be certain about it.

Why sync? What is it syncing?

If you are not interested in the inner workings, you can skip to the next section.

When Helium started, the network is primarily made up of hotspots. Each device will participate in the blockchain, and so needs to have its own local copy of the blockchain. That sync, is basically what the hotspot is doing, downloading the blockchain and then start to keep up with the progress of the blockchain.

At the point of writing this post, hotspots have transitioned to light hotspots. However we are still in the transition period and all hotspots are still syncing the blockchain. It is the plan to eventually remove the blockchain from all hotspots.

As a result of this time of transition, there are hotspots which are being shipped from manufacturers and are with the firmware that is unaware of the light hotspot operations. So, initial set up will still need the blockchain sync to happen, until it catches up to block 1,350,664. That block is when the variable was set to flick hotspots to light hotspots.

Eventually, when the blockchain is removed from the light hotspots, they will no longer need to sync, and their daily data consumption will also reduce significantly.

The true source of truth on sync status

Almost all of us rely on the Helium Explorer, and rightfully so. However, it was notoriously terrible in being up to date about a hotspot’s status. For example, a hotspot may be in “syncing” state for many weeks, even though it could have completed within a few hours of coming online. This leads to many unnecessary questions on how to speed up the sync, when it is not required.

Having personal experience of setting up and observing several hotspots, I can be certain to say that even when a hotspot is “syncing”, it will already start to participate in PoC and getting some rewards. So, being fully “sync” isn’t a critical factor. Furthermore, with light hotspots, being in sync is no longer a requirement, so much so that even the Explorer is no longer showing sync status.

Now, you are here, perhaps you are new owner and is doing some due diligence to make sure things are healthy. I have experience with Kerlink and Nebra models, and they have something in common. Both have status/diagnostic pages to look up, so you can at least get some fundamental details about the status of each and every hotspot.

Kerlink has it on their onboarding page, which is exactly the same place where you initially set up the miner.

Nebra has it on the device itself.

Below is a screenshot from my Nebra hotspot. The part that is essential for you to look at is the Height Status. Both Kerlink and Nebra represents them differently, and I’m sure the other makers have their own uniqueness too. However, the same key metrics are there, the current height your miner has sync up to, and the actual height the entire blockchain is at. You won’t always see the numbers to be the same, and more oftehn the current height is typically trailing behind by a few blocks.

Since we are not in light hotspot mode, the only number you’ll really want to pay attention to is that the miner’s height to be equal or bigger than 1,350,664. Beyond that number, the miner should be operating as light hotspot, and blockchain on the hotspot becomes irrelevant.

Wrapping up….

thank you for reading this far, and if you have recently started your journey on Helium, welcome to the community!

I will wrap up this post with one little tidbit. With my experience with Kerlink and Nebra, the nice thing is that you’ll should never really need to do any firmware updates yourself. The hotspot makers will be pushing the firmware over-the-air to your devices. If there is anything you want to keep watch on, is just the Firmware version. You’ll normally see new versions announced on the Helium discord, and in typical fashion, within a few days to a week, your hotspot will be running on the newer version.

With this, I with you good luck, lots of witnessing and HNT to the moon!

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