In order to comply with local North American and European regulations, we added an undocumented update to PoC to correct the spreading factor used by PoC packets.
This change was deployed along with a recent maintenance update, but was not communicated. We're sorry about the late communication, but given the importance of complying with regulations we wanted to deploy this as quickly as possible.
Why was this change made?
Thanks to testing and verification of members of the community, we realized that PoC packets were being sent with the longest range possible in all cases. Instead, we needed to set the spreading factor based on the size of the packet (which is directly correlated with the number of Hotspots in the challenge path).
What is spreading factor and why does it matter?
There are resources online to learn more about data rate and spreading factor if you want to dive into the specifics of how LoRa works, but here's a high level overview.
LoRa uses what is known as a “chirp” protocol and spreading factors are the duration of the "chirp". Typically you're looking at a range of SF7 to SF12 where the 7 is the shortest time on air. Each step up doubles the time on air to transmit the same amount of data and increases the range. Due to local restrictions, we are limited by max payload sizes to certain spreading factors, usually SF8 and SF9 for most packets.
How does this affect currently issued PoCs?
Because we are now dynamically adjusting spreading factor based on packet size, PoC paths with a larger number of Hotspots and over longer distances may not complete. There are a variety of things that we could have considered including forcing all witness lists to reset over a shorter interval temporarily but we decided not to do that since it would create other disruptions.
Does this impact my earnings?
Possibly. This change can impact earnings for some Hotspots if the newer spreading factors result in existing witnesses being out of range. If the Hotspot isn't able to complete a PoC challenge with a witness that it was able to reach earlier, the failed challenge will not earn HNT.
Why do my earnings fluctuate?
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration here given that the system that generates PoC based rewards is not static. Hotspots come online and go offline and anything that could temporarily (or permanently) affect RF and/or the internet connectivity of the Hotspot can affect the success of a PoC challenge.
This is why we typically advise looking at PoC over a longer period of time (weekly or longer) with respect to HNT rewards. Rewards over short periods, like days or hours, can fluctuate 100s of percentage points due to the inherently random nature of the system and RF performance.
What can I change to fix my witness list now?
You shouldn't have to change anything proactively. Witness lists update automatically (on average, every two weeks). You should be able to verify this using the API. You can certainly trigger an update to this manually if you want via re-asserting your location, but this may incur a Data Credit cost.