LoRa LPWAN IoT Antennas are a hot topic right now and building out a reliable network based on 868 MHz or 915 MHz requires the deployment of quality antennas and accessories. Here we look at four robust antenna types to facilitate consistent and dependable installation.
High gain outdoor omni-directional antenna
On the edges of the network where signal strength cannot always be depended on, a quality outdoor antenna is often a go to solution. Common requirements for such antennna are be robust with the antenna and bracket built from quality components, offer high gain (5 dBi+) to provide a stable signal, be compact enough to be discreet and offer flexible mounting options. Combining these factors will deliver consistent performance whatever the climate conditions. A fine example of such an antenna is the WMO86916.
Wall-mount omni-directional antenna
Some external LoRA LPWAN IoT antennas are required because the antenna cannot, for one reason or another, be mounted directly onto the radio. For reasons of signal coverage, location of radio/terminal below ground or in a shielded area, willful damage or simply practicality, wall-mounted omni-directional antennas are often used. For most applications they need to be compact, discreet and cost-effective while offering robust RF performance. They also need to be easy to install in order to keep installation costs/time to minimum. Two excellent choices of such antennas are the Wall-Blade and the WCO-868-WMB. Both are very compact, easy to install and offer accomplished RF performance.
Low profile permanent mount puck antenna
Antennas are often required to mount directly onto a terminal or enclosure. Mostly permanently mounted by a threaded boss through which the cable is fed, they offer a secure and effective way to facilitate 868 MHz and 915 MHz communications. Such antennas need to be very compact with a durable radome, be of a material to withstand inclement weather, possess a durable mounting stud and offer reliable RF performance. Many of the small pucks, smaller means that they less likely to draw attention to themselves, are groundplane dependent i.e. they have to be mounted onto a metal surface. One such antenna is the Button 868 915 MHz antenna. This antenna is compact as it gets without compromising on RF performance.
Terminal/Radio-mounted dipole antenna
In cases where the antenna does not need to be mounted away from the radio or terminal, a dipole antenna can offer reliable RF performance when directly connected via a coaxial connector. This type of antenna is not the smallest, you can find small 1/4 wave antennas that are much more discreet, but they typically offer robust RF capabilities. Especially where no groundplane is available, for example if the terminal has a non-metal enclosure, the dipole style antenna can offer RF advantages over rival terminal antennas. In addition, do verify the build quality of such antenna so that you can be assured that it is built to last as inferior antennas can be very easily damaged thereby demanding costly engineer revisits. A good example of a quality dipole antenna is the BKR915 and the BKR868.
Aside from the antennas, it is wise to make sure that if you are running coaxial extension cables you use quality cables to minimise cable losses. At 868 MHz and 915 MHz for cable runs up to 10M, you could typically use RF195 type cable. From 10-20M it would be worth considering RF240. And for longer RF400 cable installations. Using inferior coaxial cable will negate the benefits of use quality antennas as signal losses across the inferior cables will be experienced.
Some of the antennas mentioned can be purchased via the Connex webshop.
EAD in partnership with leading world-class vendors of antenna products has constructed its SAS (Specialist Antenna Solutions) range, an outstanding antenna portfolio of over 6000 antenna and RF accessory solutions for a range of markets from 130 MHz to 6 GHz. This covers VHF, UHF, LTE, Cellular, GNSS, WiFi, 5G frequencies and beyond.
With market-leading innovative suppliers such as Sirio, Laird, PCTEL, Smarteq and Scan, EAD’s offering is unrivalled in terms of quality and RF performance.
Some recent portfolio highlights include:
Coach II – a unique high accuracy global GNSS including GPS L1, L2 and L5, LTE and WiFi Multiband low profile roof mount antenna
FlexMIMO – MIMO 2.4/5 GHz internal flexible PCB antenna
LTE Phantom MIMO – LTE MIMO roof mount low profile antenna
UHF5G – 4G/5G multiband marine omni-directional antenna
SMP-4G-MIMO – 4G/LTE MIMO Directional panel antenna
AllDisc – High Gain LTE low profile dome antenna
HGO-4G-LTE – High Gain 4G LTE Omni-directional outdoor antenna
All this alongside a broad range of antenna products including
VHF/UHF Helical and Whip Antennas
Fibreglass omni antennas from 150 to 6 GHz
VHF/UHF yagi antennas
Magnetic mount antennas – various frequencies including LTE and UHF i.e. 450 MHz
Marine antennas – including 4G, WiFi and UHF variants
Specialist GNSS antennas – including magnetic, timing and synchronisation variants for GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou
Surge Protection – contact us for our surge protection offering
Power Dividers – a range of 2-way, 4-way and 8-way splitters mostly for 4G and LTE frequency bands
RF Low Loss Cables
With the widest porfolio of antennas available across the UK and European markets, we are best placed to be able supply your project with the exact antenna that fits the technical specification. Coupled with custom RF coaxial cable terminations in-house, we can provide a comprehensive service based around quality, customisation and innovation.
Notwithstanding the above, we have our own range of EAD antennas that augment our offering so there are fewer voids in our portfolio than other suppliers.
We only show highlights of our outstanding antenna portfolio on our website. You can visit the manufacturers’ websites for full antenna catalogues or call us for further direction.
To discuss your specific antenna requirement, please feel free to contact us.
A range of market-leading quality antennas from a world-leading antenna manufacturers are available via EAD’s sister companies, Specialist Antennas and Connex Technologies Ltd.
Specialist Antenna Solutions is a trading division of EAD which works with quality RF manufacturers including PCTEL, SIRIO, SMARTEQ, LAIRD, SCAN and others.
Connex Technologies Ltd is a dedicated webshop for European customers to purchase antennas and RF cables from these manufacturers.
The most popular PCTEL antennas is the BMLPVMB/LTE which is also sold with a magnetic mount as a bundle called the LTE-RUGGED-HIGAIN-MAG. In addition, the GPS and GNSS Timing antennas – GPS-TMG-40NMS are also very popular.
The Laird TRA6927M3 antennas are also very popular solutions. Again bundled with a magnetic mount and called the LTE-HIGAIN-MAG, they are a robust and effective 4G LTE magnetic mount antenna. Alternatively a permanent mount version the TRA6927M3PW-001 is available for purchase where a through-hole mount antenna is required.
From Sirio Antenna based in Italy, there are a number of excellent 4G external antennas available including the SMP-4G-MIMO panel antenna, the HGO-4G-LTE High gain omni and the SMP-4G-LTE.
The AllDisc and SmartDisc from Smarteq offer excellent RF performance for low profile dome and puck antennas respectively. The 710211 antenna from Smarteq is particularly popular.
In addition to the above market leading quality antennas, the most popular EAD LTE antennas can be ordered in small quantities via Connex including the LMO and CMO MIMO antennas as well as RF400 cables.
169 MHz frequency band
The advent of the EU harmonized ISM band at 169 MHz offers utility businesses a viable alternative to using higher frequencies for wireless metering by using 169 MHz ISM band antennas. Using the 169 MHz VHF frequency band, wireless technology can be deployed for longer range applications at relatively low power due to the low frequency of operation. This has many advantages for operations and billing departments.
The challenge however comes with specifying 169 MHz ISM band antennas to go with the wireless meters. There are already a number of ISM-band 169 MHz module and terminal vendors on the market and I am sure there are more in development. An interesting example of a terminal/gateway supplier is Meterlinq. From a RF perspective the module/terminal is relatively straightforward, but to supply compact, discreet antennas is not as easy.
A wavelength at 169 MHz is approximately 1.8M in length and therein lies the problem, for even a 1/4 wave monopole would be half a metre in length once the antenna has been housed in a protective sheath and connectorized.
For metering applications in domestic environments, discreet, tamper-proof antennas that cannot be easily damaged are desirable, but not only is making a very low profile 169 MHz hard to achieve, it would also need a large groundplane to function correctly. This is not straightforward on a small-sized utility meter with little metal real estate. The viable options really are to use a 1/4 wave 169 MHz helical antenna either bulkhead mounted with a RF connector or a through-hole mounted antenna (the link shows a through-hole mounted antenna on a bracket) so the antenna cannot be unscrewed from the meter. Both options would be approximately 120mm in overall length and would ideally need a minimum groundplane size of 85mm x 85mm. This size of groundplane could be possible on most meters, but a larger groundplane required by lower profile antennas are more than likely not going to be possible.
For concentrator applications (where a number of remote meters communicate with a hub using VHF communications), a wall-mount 169 MHz antenna might come in useful. Designed for outdoor use, ideally these will be of fibreglass construcion to withstand the elements.
It is also important to be wary of very small 169 MHz antennas as invariably some parameter will be compromised, for example small 169 MHz PCB antennas with a gain of -17.6 dB. It is useful to remember that the laws of physics are not going to change and that the wavelength is always going to be 1.8M. Very small antennas are going to massively compromise RF performance, defeating the very object of the exercise.
169 MHz ISM band antennas – a summary
In conclusion, the 169 MHz band is a real opportunity for wireless metering and related applications, however the selection of 169 MHz ISM band antennas and design-in for the meter must be considered early and with the appropriate level of planning to ensure that a suitable antenna design can be accommodated by the meter in terms of available groundplane etc. without comprising performance or aesthetics.
EAD’s SRW169 antenna
EAD’s H169-SMA antenna
Design your own antenna with our Antenna Configurator
Please note: This article was first published on the Specialist Antennas blog and we have updated and enhanced for this issue.