With 4G/LTE services becoming very fast, it is now an option for people to use it as their primary internet connection. But in some cases download speeds are lower than expected (or advertised), due to poor signal from the cellular tower. By installing a fixed wireless solution (4G router and outdoor antenna), you can improve your download speed dramatically. With this article we are looking at the 4 major considerations when selecting an outdoor LTE antenna for a fixed wireless installation:
The antenna must be wide band.
Cellular networks operate on different frequency bands including the 450 MHz band, 700 MHz band, 800 MHz band, 900 MHz band, 1800 MHz band, 2100 MHz band, and 2600 MHz band. Below is a map with a global overview of mobile frequency band assignments listed by region:
One operator in a country can be transmitting LTE data on more than one band. Therefore, it is a good idea to check the antenna specifications to make sure that it covers a wide band. This will ensure that
- you won’t need to change your antenna if the operator changes frequency,
- you will be able to change your sim card (or operator) without changing your antenna,
- when new technology emerges, you will be able to change to it, without changing your antenna.
This video gives an overview of the frequency bands for LTE: https://youtu.be/Fy5D0WZ2iZ0
Directionality (Must it be an omni-directional or directional antenna)
Most people think the highest gain antenna is always the best antenna, but different antennas are designed for different situations. Below are some scenarios where you will need a directional vs omni-directional antenna.
- If you need to “see” more than one base station (e.g. when you have a router with more than one sim card), you need to buy an omni-directional antenna.
- When you are in a built up area, where there is a lot of signal reflection and you have access to more than one tower with LTE.
- When you are on the outskirts of the coverage area with very bad signal.
- If you want to “hook” onto a certain tower. E.g. the tower closest to you is congested and you want to communicate with one that is further away with less users.
More about the antenna pattern (directional or omni-directional), in this video: https://youtu.be/VsUrJ5nzmXQ
LTE is a multi-stream radio, MiMo (multiple in/multiple out) service. The majority of LTE dongles and routers currently being supplied by the providers have 2 antenna ports. Check if your router has two antenna ports and make sure that you buy a MiMo antenna (2 antennas in one enclosure that are cross polarised) or 2 separate antennas.
We explain MiMo in this video here: https://youtu.be/WB1VMMeTJq0
Quality cables and connectors
The most important (and costly!) part of a decent antenna is the cable and connector. Signal is lost through both cable and connectors. The cable type, length and quality has a huge impact on the losses that the antenna experience. Therefore, it is very important to select antennas that has quality cable and connectors. Every cable and connector that we manufacture gets tested before being used. We also prefer to use integrated cables with our antennas as users sometimes want to save money on the cable, which makes the antenna appear to perform badly.
Have a look at this video that explains why quality cable and connectors are so important. https://youtu.be/WQLpT1m4ZK8
Andre Fourie is the Chairman at Poynting Group