In this article we will try to help you make the correct LTE antenna choices whilst keeping the terminology as simple as possible and try minimise the use of technical language and acronyms.
What is 4G or LTE?
In brief, although technically different, the terms 4G and LTE are used interchangeably by many to describe licenced cellular network services that offer both voice and high speed data. Worldwide, local operators have a licence from a national government to run a wireless network based on 4G and LTE technology and offer access to this network to users. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to these services as LTE services from now on.
Why would you use a LTE antenna?
The reason to use a LTE antenna is that without an antenna a LTE enabled device will not connect to a network. Many devices such as mobile phones already have LTE antennas integrated and do not require an external antenna. However many routers, modems, access points and LTE enabled systems simply have one or two LTE antenna connectors on the device and rely on the user or installer to select the correct antenna. In some cases, the antenna(s) supplied with the router or device are inadequate for the application so a better and higher performance antenna is required.
Can I just use any old antenna?
We don’t want to start drawing tenuous analogies, but in simple terms the quality of the antenna is as crucial to the success of a LTE wireless system as quality tyres are critical to the road handling of a car. Ergo if the true specification of the LTE antenna is sub-standard, then this will severely impact wireless performance and reduce download speeds. Using the correct type of antenna from a reliable manufacturer is an effective way to help preserve wireless performance.
My router, modem or device has two LTE connectors. What do I need?
With LTE services, many new routers and access devices have two LTE antenna connectors on the back. By using two antenna ports simultaneously, the download speeds to the user can be increased. In very simple terms, this is using two antennas at the same time, a technology called MIMO (multiple in multiple out). The LTE antenna choices for MIMO are either use one separate antenna for each port or use a MIMO antenna which has two antenna ports. Using a MIMO antenna means that the installer does not have to install two antennas, one MIMO antenna with two antennas ports does the job. If your router or device has two antenna ports available, then it is recommended that you use (connect up) both ports with an antenna to maximise wireless performance.
If your modem, router or device has one single LTE antenna connector, then connecting a single port LTE antenna is the way to go. Then the best idea is to purchase a LTE with a single antenna connector such as the HGO-4G-LTE or the SMP-4G-LTE antenna.
Do I need an omni-directional or a directional antenna?
Firstly, let’s clarify the difference between an omni-directional and directional antenna. An omni antenna radiates in every direction (imagine a ceiling mounted light bulb in your lounge for example). A directional antenna radiates in one direction (imagine a beam from a torch that illuminates in one direction only). The omni antenna can pick up signals from LTE masts in every direction. The directional antenna, however, has to be pointed at a LTE mast to be able to pick up a signal (think of the traditional TV antenna on your roof). Typically, directional antennas offer higher performance as typically they have higher gain, but they need to be installed correctly, i.e. pointing at the local mast, otherwise they will not work. Omni antennas typically have lower gain, but installation is very easy and often they can “see” more than one local LTE mast so thereby offer some redundancy if one LTE mast is offline.
If you are on the very edge of the network coverage and you absolutely know where your local LTE mast is, then a directional LTE antenna could be a good choice for you. Otherwise it is probably worth going with an omni antenna for ease of installation and due to the fact that it could see more than one local mast.
An example from our portfolio of a LTE MIMO omni antenna is the LMO7270 antenna.
It can be purchased online via the Connex webshop.
An example from our portfolio of a LTE MIMO directional antenna is the SMP-4G-MIMO antenna which can be purchased from the Connex webshop.
Does my antenna have the correct frequency for my LTE installation?
LTE frequencies do vary from country to country. In most countries in Europe LTE operates between 790-2690 MHz and many LTE antennas support these bands. Our advertised LTE antennas all support these frequencies. Some countries in Europe also offer 450 MHz LTE – there are some specific antennas that address the 450 MHz band such as the VLP4, the LMO4547 or the UWB45727 antenna, but most LTE antennas do not support 450 MHz. For North America you will also need the 690-790 MHz band, many antennas support these frequencies, but you will need to check the formal specification to be sure.
For our industrial installation, we need a covert or low profile antenna. What do we need to know?
For low profile installations, there are a number of LTE antenna choices in the market. Most however, due to the nature of low profile technology, need to mounted onto a metal surface (known as a groundplane) to radiate effectively. Low profile LTE antennas can be magnetic, tape or through-hole mount. Solutions such as the SmartDisc or AllDisc antennas are through mount and typically require a groundplane whilst magnetic mount antennas (check out the LTE-HIGAIN-MAG) by definition a designed to mount onto a metal surface. There are antennas available that can mount on non-metal surfaces, but they are typically not as low profile as the others. Please contact us if you feel you need specific advice on this.
I have seen a LTE antenna with 35 dBi gain. Is this the best choice?
There are a number of suppliers at the low end of the market who are advertising antenna products with spurious specification claims. Even with a big multi element directional antenna (in the style of a traditional TV antenna) called a Yagi, it would be unusual to see gain figures for LTE at more than 12 dBi and many users do not want a huge yagi antenna in their installation. If you stick with reputable manufacturers who warrant their specifications then you know what you are getting. For an external omni antenna if the gain is somewhere between 3 and 6 dBi then this is realistic. For a directional panel type antenna if the gain is between 5 and 10 dBi this is also realistic. Unfortunately there are sensationalist claims about antenna performance in the market so it makes sense to stick with known antenna brands. Our suppliers such as Sirio, Laird, EAD, PCTEL, Smarteq and SCAN are reputable brands you can rely on.
What RF cables do I need?
Some external LTE antennas are bundled with coaxial cable as standard. In some ways this can make life simple, however in many cases the standard cable length might not be appropriate for the installation. For example, an antenna might be bundled with 5M integrated cable when the installation requires 15M. The choice of cable should really depend on the length needed. For up to 10M BWL195 cable may be more than adequate. Beyond that to 15M, a thicker 6mm diameter cable such as RF240 is required. For 20 or 25M, a 10mm diameter cable such as RF400 would be more appropriate. For any cable length above 5M for your installation, if you unsure please contact us for advise and we’ll recommend the correct cable for you. We can pre-terminate these with the correct connectors to save you from purchasing crimp tools and saving you time.
I need a LTE terminal antenna for my device. What do you suggest?
Firstly, you have to determine what LTE antenna connector is on your device. Often it is a connector called SMA and is the female version. If you are not sure, check out this blog post that has a connector guide on the 10 most common RF connectors for wireless. Apart from the connector, you will need to know the orientation for the antenna. Does it need to be exiting vertical from the device or horizontally. Useful in this instance is a multi-position antenna such as the WTR7270 antenna which can lock in the horizontal or vertical position depending on the application.
My LTE antenna choices are quite wide. What should I focus on?
To select your antenna, you need to consider the signal strength at the location of installation. If the signal strength is OK, then probably an omni antenna will be OK, if it is weak then maybe a directional antenna might be more suited. Also consider where you will have “line of sight” to the mast, high up on a roof or a pole will often give you best chance of the antenna “seeing the mast”. Try to avoid installing the antenna where it has to radiate through a thick wall, insulated roof or if there is another building or wall very close by!!
You will also need to think about how you will mount the antenna – wall, pole, surface-mount (and whether your desired antenna supports that mounting method), the shortest cable run available to you to avoid signal losses across the coaxial cable. Also focus on an antenna solution from a reputable manufacturer so you can rely on build quality and performance.
Thank you for taking the time to read some our considerations regarding your LTE antenna choices. We hope they will assist you selecting the correct antenna. If you require further assistance, please feel free to contact us.
The SMP LTE directional MIMO antenna from Sirio is a compact, outdoor antenna with two 4G/LTE antenna elements ideally suited to 4G access applications to connect to a 4G router with two antenna ports.
Housed in a robust UV-resistant ABS enclosure, the SMP-MIMO antenna is fed by two SMA-Male pigtails as standard and can be coupled with customised low-loss jumper cables to provide a tailor-made solution. This antenna can be wall or pole mounted and is supplied with brackets to accommodate both mounting methods.
For customers in Europe, the SMP-MIMO antenna can be ordered via the Connex webshop. Alternatively for a single port LTE directional antenna, the SMP-4G-LTE is an excellent solution. Once again this can be purchased via the Connex webshop. For customers outside Europe or for volume pricing, please contact us.
Specialist Antennas is your source for quality LTE antennas from leading antenna manufacturers. With a range of LTE 4G antennas covering panel antennas, low profile, high gain omnis as well as blade, flexible internal and magnetic solutions, SAS works with brands such as Sirio, Smarteq, PCTEL, Laird and EAD to offer a comprehensive portfolio to meet each and every antenna requirement.
Outdoor antennas include the SMP 4G and 4G MIMO panel antennas as well as the HGO-4G-LTE high gain omni. Combined with the EAD LMO7270 MIMO omni antenna, the solutions can be customised with customer-specific cable lengths and jumper cables to suit.
The SmartDisc and AllDisc are low profile and dome antennas for 4G applications and the CMO antenna is a LTE MIMO puck antenna. The CMG is a LTE MIMO puck antenna with GNSS capability. The LTE-HIGAIN-MAG is a roubst magnetic mounted LTE antenna supplied with a high pull strength magnetic mount for durability.
For mobile antennas we can offer the IP67 SmartBlade antenna or the L-Mag magnetic mobile antenna. For indoor DAS and ceiling mount applications the PIM-160-ICM antenna from PCTEL is an interesting solution.
These are just highlights of our antenna offering demonstrating that SAS is your source for quality LTE antennas.
The new VLP4 low profile UHF antenna from EAD is an innovative and attractive solution for combining UHF and LTE frequency bands. The antenna is supplied under a robust ABS radome and the first model covers the 450-470 MHz UHF and 700-2700 4G/LTE frequencies. Offering 2 dBi gain at 450-470 MHz and 2/4 dBi on 4G/LTE bands, the VLP4 facilities mobile UHF/LTE connectivity for transit applications.
Fed by a cable underneath, the VLP4 is primarily designed for metal vehicle roofs and flat metal surfaces as it needs a groundplane to operate effectively.
The antenna can be configured to address other frequency combinations. Please contact Specialist Antennas for more details or use the antenna configurator on the EAD website.
We focus here on 4 outdoor antennas for 4G LTE access offering robust performance and build quality.
For 4G/LTE access applications, users typically need two things from an antenna. Reliable RF performance and long-lasting build quality. The four antennas that we present today meet these two requirements. We have suggested two SISO (single antenna port) antennas and two MIMO (two antenna element) antennas. The type you require will depend on your router, terminal, modem or access point and whether it has one or two LTE antenna ports/connectors.
Starting with the SISO (single antenna port) antennas, we have two excellent options. For an omni-directional antenna, we would recommend the HGO-4G-LTE antenna and for the directional antenna we would suggest the SMP-4G-LTE antenna. Both antennas are high gain antennas in their class. The HGO-4G-LTE offers 5-6 dBi gain across the bands in a blade style form factor and is omni-directional which means it radiates all directionals. The SMP-4G-LTE is directional and radiates in one direction and offers higher gain of 7-9 dBi gain in a very compact form factor. Both antennas are manufactured by Sirio and stock by Specialist Antennas in the UK. Both these antennas can be purchased via the Connex webshop.
We have two options for the MIMO (dual antenna port) antennas. The LMO7270 from EAD is a dual polarised outdoor omni-directional antenna offer a combination of a compact footprint with robust performance. It can be wall or pole (or indeed non-metal enclosure mounted) and is suitable for both outdoor and leisure marine applications. The SMP-MIMO from Sirio is a directional antenna similar to the SISO version, but this one has two antenna elements. With a gain of 5-8 dBi, the SMP-MIMO offers great functionality in a compact package. The LMO7270 and the SMP-MIMO can be purchased via the Connex webshop.
For more information on these 4 outdoor antennas for 4G LTE access, feel free to download the product specifications from our website or contact us for any further requests.
Specialist Antennas is now stocking a new WiFi low profile permanent mount antenna from Laird. The TRAB2400/49003 is a black, robust, low profile dual band (2.4 and 5 GHz) WLAN antenna designed for mounting onto a metal surface such as a vehicle roof, cabinet or enclosure.
It mounts via a N-Female connector underneath and is held in place by a locking nut. We are stocking the version with the black radome. Please contact us if you require the white version.
Customers in Europe can purchase this antenna via our Connex webshop.
For a covert 2.4 GHz antenna, take a look at the HUSH antenna.
For a puck style antenna, take a look at the EAD CPW antenna.
The HGO-4G-LTE from Sirio Antenne in Italy is a 4G High Gain Omni Antenna intended for outdoor installations typically for wireless access applications. This antenna is encapsulated in UV-stabilised thermoplastic and comes with mounting clamps making it ideal for long-term outdoor deployments.
With a true gain of 5-6 dBi across the bands, the HGO-4G-LTE works well in delivering reception in areas of fringe signal coverage. As standard, we supply the antenna with either 0.5M or 5M of cable and a SMA-Male connector. Other cable length and connector configurations are possible. Through the use of a small pigtail cable, the antenna can also be presented with TS9 and CRC9 connectors which are very common in 4G LTE modems, USB sticks and dongles.
Our antennas from the Sirio range include the SMP-4G-LTE; a directional antenna with higher gain covering 4G and LTE bands. Or alternatively for radios requiring MIMO (multiple In multiple Out) functionality, SAS stocks the MIMO version of the SMP, the SMP-4G-MIMO.
All three antennas can be purchased via the Connex Webshop along with low loss jumper cables such as BWL195 or RF400.
A true 4G high gain omni antenna such as the HGO-4G-LTE is a key component when specifying 4G and LTE access installations. Be sure to verify the specification and the performance of the antenna you select as not all antennas are (or advertised specifications) always what they appear to be.
PCTEL has introduced a new bi directional WLAN train antenna, the PCT-RSABD-DP. This new antenna is a train roof mounted solution for 4.9 to 5.9 GHz. It is groundplane independent as a result it can be mounted on either metal or non-metal roofs or surfaces. This new antenna is built to survive high vibration environments therefore suitable for rail use.
This antenna has a stud underneath for mounting however we supply custom cabling separately.
Bi directional WLAN train antenna
The PCT-RSABD-DP features high port-to-port isolation and dual feed, dual slant ± 45°, linear polarization with symmetrical patterns, maintaining the same pattern performance over each polarization
Link to product information
The datasheet and product information can be found on the PCT-RSABD-DP product page.
SAS receives a fair number of calls and e-mails about the correct RF cable to use so we thought we would do a blog entry on RF coaxial cables compared. Such cables are used for VHF, UHF, Cellular (3G, 4G, and LTE), GNSS and WLAN applications. The connector choices are also varied.
In the image above you can see 5 RF coaxial cables compared. From left to right they are as follows:
RG174 – 2.8mm overall diameter
BWL195 – 4.9mm overall diameter
RG58 – 4.9mm overall diameter
RF240 – 6.2mm overall diameter
RF400 – 10.3mm overall diameter
In simple terms, the thicker (or larger diameter) the cable, the better RF properties the cable has and less attenuation per metre meaning less loss across the cable run.
Looking at the cables above, RG174 is quite thin and flexible, but it is quite lossy. Typically with losses at around 98 dB/100m at 1000 MHz, you wouldn’t want to use RG174 for long cable runs.
BWL195 is a good cable with better electrical properties than its neighbour RG58 due to its solid copper core. RG58 is the same diameter as BWL195, but has a stranded core which affects attenuation per metre.
If you can work with BWL195, then maybe you should consider RF240. At just over 1mm larger in diameter, the RF240 coaxial cable has excellent RF properties and is still thin enough to be flexible and for cellular applications can typically be used in cable runs up to 15-20M. At 1000 MHz, the loss of RF240 is 26 dB/100M.
If RF240 is not sufficient and you want an even lower loss RF cable, the RF400 might be for you. At 10.3mm overall diameter it is not as flexible as BWL195 or RF240, but attenuation is even better making it suitable for longer cable runs.
For any of the above cables, Specialist Antennas’ sister company EAD builds custom cables to order with length and connector terminations configurable. In most cases, lead time for custom cables are 2-3 days unless uncommon connectors are specified. For more information and quotes, please contact us.
SAS is pleased to introduce a website revamp for Specialist Antennas to showcase its full range of world-class antenna products. The new platform has easier to navigate categories and with improved information on products from our suppliers including Sirio, Laird, PCTEL, Smarteq and Scan.
The products on our site represent only a fraction of our portfolio of over 6000 products, so please contact us if you can’t see what you are looking for.