Bobber 500 Hardware Breakdown and Understanding Helium 5G Gateway Specifications

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Overview

What this Article Will Cover

With Helium 5G setups quickly becoming more desirable after the launch of MOBILE genesis rewards, more hotspot vendors are sure to launch a multitude of their own Helium 5G gateways.

The aim of this article is to provide easy to interpret information which will enable users without a lot of technical expertise to identify the most important hardware specifications and technical information about Helium 5G gateways. This will allow users to measure those specifications against their deployment needs and determine if any particular gateway will suit the needs of their given deployment. We will also cover the Bobber 500's specific hardware and technical specifications and how it stacks up against other vendor gateways.

At the end of this article there will be a section with high-level technical information and Bobber 500 vs other vendor comparisons for users who have a more technical background and want to closely examine the gateway's specifications and potential.

Why is a Helium 5G Gateway Important?

In order to implement a 4G and 5G solution in an open source and decentralized manner, Helium has chosen to utilize Magma Mobile Core. One of the most important parts of this implementation is the Access Gateway, or AGW. The Bobber 500 and other Helium 5G Gateways run the software needed to function as AGWs for the MOBILE network. Radios connect to AGWs and offload cellular data. AGWs also handle connections to the Orchestrator, or the main configuration point, as well as payment settlement services and more. For a technical overview of how Magma works, check out this article on Magma Mobile Core.

Due to the important role AGWs play in the MOBILE network, they need to be robust and damage resistant, long lasting, have adequate specifications to handle the requirements of offloading large amounts of 5G data from a large number of devices, and be built to last. They also need to take security measures very seriously, as AGWs are directly involved in data use settlement and billing processes and cellular carrier partners will not onboard to a system with untrustworthy gateways.

Why Aren't Gateways Integrated with Radios?

Radios contain some processing hardware along with the CBRS or 5G antennas, and adding in additional hardware to integrate an AGW would not be a suitable solution. AGW hardware requirements are much more involved than radios, and the simpler components used by radios are more suited to being deployed in a variety of conditions such as outdoors. Heat also wears down gateway components faster than radio components, which would lower the lifespans of units and cause increased maintenance and replacement costs. Initial costs of units would also increase dramatically, as each individual radio would need a full set of AGW hardware and software implemented rather than the current solution, which allows one AGW to support multiple radios with less computing requirements.

Why Aren't Gateways Hosted on the Cloud Rather Than Dedicated Hardware?

Cloud based solutions introduce other bottlenecks and concerns. Bandwidth can be limited and costs can be increased over time, and locations far from the cloud hosted gateway could experience larger network delays. In order to ensure adequate security, a cloud solution would also need to be much more centralized and controlled than individual miners running their own gateways with security measures pre-implemented.

What are the Most Important Gateway Specifications?

All components of a gateway are important, but the components with the highest requirements or long term usage rate are the processor (CPU), RAM memory, and network connections. In addition to raw requirements, gateways need to be able to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time and implement ways to keep temperatures at acceptable levels. The Bobber 500 was designed with an oversized chassis to provide superior cooling capabilities and help ensure a long usable lifespan.

All components of a gateway should be designed to withstand harsh usage conditions and long term use. We've built the Bobber 500 using industrial grade components of the highest quality. Industrial grade components have been tested as suitable for various applications such as factories, construction, transportation, military and hospital settings, and more. Using consumer grade components simply won't stand up to the requirements and usage rates gateways will be subjected to with Helium 5G offloading.

What Mining Can a Helium 5G Gateway Participate In?

All Helium 5G gateways can participate in MOBILE token mining by attaching compatible radios and providing coverage for cellular offloading. Most gateways also come equipped with the required components to participate in IOT token mining by providing LoRaWAN coverage for IoT devices. When running a Helium 5G gateway setup, you can participate in omni-mining and be rewarded in multiple tokens with the same single setup!

Hardware Components

Processor

The Processor (or CPU) is the brain of any computing device. The CPU processes all information and is a major component which is needed to handle everything the device does. CPUs are typically described by their number of cores (essentially, how many individual processor units are on the single physical CPU) and their clock speed (how many processing cycles occur on each core per second).

CPUs with the same number of cores and same clock speeds aren't necessarily always equal. Some processors are better suited to serial processing (performing calculations one after another) and some are better at parallel processing (handling multiple calculations concurrently). Additionally, some processors are more efficient and have a lower thermal design power (TDP) than equivalent speed processors, which means they consume less electricity and by proxy, produce less heat. The more heat an electronic device experiences, the faster its components wear out so a lower TDP is better as it will result in a lower electricity cost and less wear on components.

The Bobber 500 is equipped with an Intel Atom x6413E embedded processor with 4 cores and a clock speed of 1.5 gigahertz. Its TDP is 9 watts.

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For Magma Mobile Core (the gateway software a Helium 5G gateway runs) the recommended specifications for CPU are 1.5 gigahertz or faster with 2 or more cores. The lower TDP rating the processor has while maintaining sufficient performance, the better.

RAM Memory

RAM memory is the short term memory of a computing device. It is high speed and quickly accessible and is used for data which is frequently accessed or will be needed quickly to feed to the CPU. RAM is described by its generation (DDR through DDR4, each subsequent generation is much improved), capacity, and clock speed. There are also two form factors of RAM, DIMMs which are the full size RAM chips typically seen in desktop computers and SO-DIMMs (or Small Outline DIMMs) which are smaller chips typically seen in laptops and other small computers.

The Bobber 500 is equipped with 4GB of DDR4 SO-DIMM RAM at 3200 megahertz with 1.2 volts of power consumption. The Bobber 500 is also future proof with the ability for RAM upgrades in the event the requirements for running Helium 5G are increased in the future of the network. This means rather than needing to purchase a new gateway unit with increased specifications, you will be able to perform a simple RAM upgrade for a fraction of the cost, extending the usable lifespan of your Bobber 500.

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For Magma Mobile Core the recommended specifications for RAM are 2GB of DDR3 or higher RAM. The more capacity and higher speed RAM, the better the gateway will be able to handle cellular traffic routed through its radios.

Storage Memory

Storage memory is the long term memory of a computing device. Unlike with RAM, data stored on the storage device persists through power losses and will stick around even if the device is unplugged from power - think of this like the hard drive in your PC. Storage memory is described by its capacity or the amount of data it can hold, its physical device type, and its data transfer interface. These days capacity is often measured in gigabytes or terabytes (1GB is approximately 1000MB and 1TB is approximately 1000GB).

There are two main physical device types, hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). HDDs are made up of moving parts and spinning platters and are much slower and prone to hardware problems than SSDs however they typically offer much higher storage capacities for lower prices. SSDs are the most common storage device for new computers and especially laptops, as they are much less prone to hardware problems and unlike HDDs simply jostling around an SSD doesn't risk causing damage. SSDs can be compared to Flash Drives, there are no moving parts and the data is stored on chips rather than magnetic spinning platters. SSDs generally come in a few form factors: 2.5" drives, mSATA and M.2. SSDs.

SSDs use a variety of interfaces which are ways to transfer data to and from the drive. 2.5" drive SSDs use the SATA interface which is the same transfer interface used by HDDs and are typically installed in desktop PCs or laptops with 2.5" drive slots. SATA III is the current standard and supports up to 600 megabytes per second data transfer rate. mSATA SSDs are physically much smaller than 2.5" drives but also use the same SATA interface and can achieve the same transfer rates. M.2 SSDs are quite small and resemble a stick of chewing gum, however they are typically the fastest. M.2 SSDs can use the SATA interface, however they also take advantage of SATAe (SATA Express) technology to take advantage of two PCIe lanes to exceed the 600MBps transfer rate of SATA. Some M.2 SSDs use NVMe technology which allows data transfer to take place entirely over PCIe (PCI Express) lanes. PCIe is typically used for add-on devices such as graphics cards but can be utilized by M.2 NVMe SSDs to achieve up to 3.5 gigabytes per second of transfer speed.

The Bobber 500 is equipped with a 64GB M.2 SATA III SSD. This is more than enough storage for all required software for both Helium 5G and LoRa mining especially due to recent Helium network changes to remove blockchain syncing from miners, meaning the need for larger amounts of storage has been reduced.

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Networking

Networking of devices occurs using physical Ethernet ports or wirelessly via WiFi. Ethernet ports are rated on their transfer speed and are typically 10/100 ports (up to 100 megabit per second throughput) or 1000 or gigabit ports (up to 1000 megabit per second, or 1 gigabit per second throughput). Cellular devices offloading their traffic through Helium 5G gateways require stable connections and the ability to transfer large amounts of data, therefore Helium 5G gateways typically will not support networking via WiFi as it can be unreliable and generally much slower than hard wired communication.

Another form of network communication most Helium 5G gateways take part in is LoRaWAN. Many gateways are also able to perform as IOT Helium miners and provide LoRaWAN coverage. To do so, they take advantage of a LoRa radio card or concentrator, and an RP-SMA female port which attaches to a LoRa antenna.

The Bobber 500 is equipped with a single gigabit WAN port (connection to the internet) and a single gigabit eNB port (connection to eNodeBs or radios for 5G offloading). Multiple radios can be connected to the single eNB port by using an unmanaged network switch. Multiple radios connected to the port via a switch will share the gigabit of port bandwidth however this is not a simple division of bandwidth such as 4 radios each having 250 megabits of bandwidth. In reality, a radio only utilizes bandwidth while it is transmitting data to and from the gateway so the amount of bandwidth used will depend on the load the radio is under at any given time. Although gateways can handle a large number of radios, generally it is recommended not to exceed 4 radios per gateway and this is true for the Bobber 500 as well.

Note: If connecting multiple radios with a network switch, it is important to verify all ports on the switch are gigabit speed ports. Many switches have a single gigabit port for uplink and the remaining ports are 10/100 speed ports. Switches used to connect multiple radios need to have gigabit ports for best radio performance.

The Bobber 500 is also equipped with a LoRa concentrator and RP-SMA female port and comes with an RP-SMA male 4dBi LoRa antenna with attached cable.

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Security

When performing Helium 5G gateway functions, there are many services that need to be handled with trust, such as payment settlement and data billing. In order to trust gateways to handle these functions in the proper way, security measures must be in place to ensure nefarious actors cannot modify gateway code and introduce bugs or malicious actions. There are several technologies which help secure gateway systems and ensure they are unable to be tampered with by bad actors.

Secure Boot is a technology which allows a device to examine its current operating system bootloader and compare its signature to a known good signature. If there have been any changes to the bootloader, the signature of the current and known good bootloader will not match and the device will not boot. If the bootloader checks out, Secure Boot will then perform the same type of check on the operating system itself and programs that start on boot and if any tampering is detected, the device will not boot. This helps to ensure no unofficial changes can be made to the operating system and programs.

TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is another technology used to secure devices. A TPM is a specific hardware component (usually a chip) inside the device which stores a cryptographic key for your system. The entire storage device of the system is encrypted using this key which means if the storage is removed from the system and put into another system without the TPM, that system will not know the decryption key and the data on the storage device will simply look like garbage data. This helps ensure the storage cannot be moved to a different device where tampering can take place and then be put back into the gateway at a later time.

The Bobber 500 is equipped with both Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 (the newest version of TPM). This allows for the highest levels of hardware security and allows the BIOS, bootloader, operating system, and applications to be verified to be genuine and tamper resistant. The Bobber 500 is also powered by FreedomFi 5G Gateway firmware created by FreedomFi (now part of Nova Labs) who are the pioneers and leaders of the Helium 5G movement. This ensures the Bobber 500 will always be up-to-date with current recommended updates to Helium 5G gateway software components.

Thermals

Devices are typically cooled down by two methods of cooling, passive cooling and active cooling. Passive cooling keeps components cool by allowing natural airflow over components either by exposing parts to open air or via ventilation holes. Particularly hot components are typically equipped with a heatsink, or a metal structure connected to the component through thermal compound which wicks heat away from the component and dissipates it into the air. Active cooling typically employs the same measures as passive cooling while also including powered fans to force airflow over components and heatsinks.

The Bobber 500 utilizes passive cooling with a large chassis design and large heatsink design with quality thermal compound pad. The backplate of the chassis is designed in such a way as to dissipate the heat expelled from the CPU heatsink into the air without the need for extra ventilation slots which can introduce dust inside the chassis, helping to eliminate future hardware issues.

Please note the thermal pad is not edible and we do not recommend consuming it!

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Component Grades

Hardware components are typically referred to in grades. Consumer grade hardware is generally designed for home or everyday use. Things like work or gaming PCs, game consoles, phones, and other daily use electronics are typically consumer grade. Enterprise grade hardware is typically of higher quality and is made to withstand heavy use and is used in applications such as servers and other enterprise (business) use cases. Industrial grade hardware is generally designed to withstand extreme operating environments and heavy use. Industrial grade components must be able to withstand a wide range of temperatures and humidity, vibration and other shocks, and must pass burn-in tests, or testing of long periods of intense use without failures.

The Bobber 500 is composed of industrial grade hardware which is suitable to operate in a variety of temperature and humidity settings, has been tested to be more shock, fall, and vibration tolerant, and has expandability built in. Higher quality components are used in the construction of the Bobber 500 allowing them to be run at lower clock frequencies which results in less power consumption and heat generation. The chassis is designed to allow for improved heat dissipation while reducing dust accumulation. The Bobber 500 is assembled by a leading Taiwanese manufacturer with years of reputable industry experience of the highest quality, and all system boards are subjected to a minimum of 8 hours of burn-in testing. Industrial grade components help ensure low maintenance costs and long device lifespans which results in lower cost of ownership and better return on investment.

Technical Breakdown and Comparisons

Processor

  Bobber 500 Gateway
Intel Atom x6413E @ 1.5GHz
Socket Type: FCBGA1493
CPU Class: Mobile/Embedded
Clock Speed: 1.5GHz
Turbo Speed: Up to 3.0GHz
Number of Physical Cores: 4 (Threads: 4)
Max TDP: 9W
Estimated Yearly Running Cost: $1.64
First Introduced: Q4 2021
Single Thread Rating: 1614
CPU Mark Rating: 4080

 

CPUMark Benchmark Results:

  Bobber 500 Gateway
Intel Atom x6413E @ 1.5GHz
Integer Math: 13,004 MOps/Sec
Floating Point Math: 8,350 MOps/Sec
Find Prime Numbers: 11 Million Primes/Sec
Random String Sorting: 8,000 Strings/Sec
Data Encryption: 3,263 MBytes/Sec
Data Compression: 55.4 MBytes/Sec
Physics: 256 Frames/Sec
Extended Instructions: 1,537 Million Matrices/Sec
Single Thread: 1,614 MOps/Sec

 

While the Bobber 500's processor has a nominally lower clock speed than some other gateways' processors, it heavily outperforms on computational tests due to its newer design, has the capability to attain higher clock rates in turbo mode, and also operates at a lower TDP.

RAM Memory

  Bobber 500 Gateway
DDR4-3200 SO-DIMM
Standard: DDR4
I/O Bus Clock (MHz): 3200MHz
Capacity: 4GB
Data Rate (MT/s): 3200
Peak Transfer Rate (MB/s): 25600

 

The Bobber 500 comes with similar capacity memory to other gateways but utilizes more modern standards of RAM with double the clock rate which results in much higher data rates and transfer speeds. Memory is also upgradeable to higher capacity in the event of future network growth which requires more resources.

Storage Memory

  Bobber 500 Gateway
64GB M.2 SATA III SSD
Form Factor: M.2
Capacity: 64GB
Read/Write Speed: 3500MB/s Read, 2500MB/s Write

 

The Bobber 500 utilizes the newer M.2 form factor SSD which takes up less space and is capable of much higher read/write speeds. The storage device of the Bobber 500 is not end-user upgradeable at this time due to Secure Boot and TPM implementation for security.

Networking

  Bobber 500 Gateway
WAN Interfaces: 1x Gigabit Ethernet
eNB Interfaces: 1x Gigabit Ethernet
LoRa Concentrator Built-In? Yes, New Proprietary Bobcat Developed Card
LoRa Antenna Included: 4dBi Indoor/Outdoor Antenna with RP-SMA Male Connection via 1 Meter Cable

 

While the Bobber 500 has less physical eNB ports, it is more than capable of handling multiple radio setups with a network switch due to high quality and fast components. In addition, the Bobber 500 comes with a LoRa concentrator built in to allow for LoRaWAN/IOT mining and comes with a 4dBi indoor/outdoor antenna which can be placed optimally away from the unit as it comes with a length of cable. The LoRa RP-SMA Female port is also compatible with aftermarket cabling and antennas for maximum IOT mining setup efficiency.

Security

  Bobber 500 Gateway
Secure Boot: Yes
TPM: TPM 2.0
Tamper Evidence: Yes, Chassis Seal

 

To ensure the highest standards of security for Helium 5G service, the Bobber 500 implements Secure Boot to lock down the BIOS, Operating System, and programs to detect any changes and prevent tampering. The Bobber 500 also utilizes the latest version of TPM, 2.0 for full disk encryption and includes a physical tamper evident seal to detect if the chassis has been opened or otherwise tampered with.

Thermals

  Bobber 500 Gateway
Cooling Mode: Passive
Ventilation Holes: No
Heatsink Size: Large
Chassis Size: Large

 

The Bobber utilizes passive cooling with no ventilation holes so as to reduce accumulation of dust which can reduce component lifespan or even cause damage if the dust contains conductive materials. A large CPU heatsink with highly heat conductive thermal compound is used to provide a path for heat from the CPU and other components to the oversized backplate of the chassis, thereby allowing for better heat dissipation into the surrounding environment. The Bobber 500 has been shown to run at lower temperatures than comparable gateways while still maintaining higher performance, resulting in less wear and tear and reduced cost of ownership.

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