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Cellular Antennas: The Foundation of Wireless Communication

In the complex world of wireless communication, cellular antennas play a crucial role. Despite being overlooked in favour of more attention-grabbing tech, these advanced devices underpin our everyday communications. They guarantee that every call, text, and data packet can effortlessly navigate the intricate labyrinth of networks.

What is a Cellular Antenna?

A cellular antenna is a specialised device created to send and receive radio-frequency (RF) signals. Acting as a means for our mobile devices to connect with the extensive cellular network infrastructure, these antennas transform electrical signals from our gadgets into electromagnetic waves that travel through the air and back again, serving as a two-way vessel. Spanning from the tiny antennas nestled inside our smartphones to the towering structures on our horizons, their primary goal remains unchanged: to strengthen our devices with a reliable and powerful connection to the cellular network, and enabling uninterrupted communication.

Types of Cellular Antennas

1. Embedded Antennas:

  • On-PCB Antennas: Directly soldered onto the device’s PCB. They are typically monopoles, requiring a sufficiently large PCB ground plane for optimal performance.
    Example: PA.710.A, commonly used in compact devices.
  • Off-PCB Antennas: Separated from the PCB, attached to the device’s enclosure. They offer flexibility in design and can be integrated even after the PCB design is finalized.
    Example: FXUB63 Embedded Flex antennas, often paired with Sierra Wireless mangOH Red.

2. External Antennas:

  • Terminal Mount Antennas: Directly attached to a connector on the device’s housing. They can be monopoles or dipoles.
    Example: TG.30 Dipole LTE Antennas, ideal for routers.
  • Cabled Antennas: Attach to a device remotely via an external cable, offering flexibility in mounting styles.
    Example: G30 Olympian Cable LTE Antenna, known for its robust performance.

Applications of Cellular Antennas

  • In mobile phones: Ensuring seamless communication and transfer of data.
  • In IoT devices: From smart thermostats to connected fridges, cellular antennas in IoT devices ensure they stay connected to the network.
  • Vehicle Tracking Systems: Utilize cellular antennas for live tracking of vehicles, enabling safe and optimal fleet management.
  • Rural Internet Connectivity: Cellular antennas offer internet access in regions lacking broadband infrastructure.
  • Emergency Response Systems: Cellular antennas guarantee the availability of emergency response systems, particularly in the event of other communication channels’ failures.

Carrier Antenna Requirements

  • Frequency Band Support: Antennas must be capable of supporting multiple frequency bands, which can range from 600MHz to 3.5 GHz. This ensures compatibility with various cellular networks and services.
  • Number of Antennas: Depending on the LTE category and the device’s intended use, carriers may stipulate the need for multiple antennas. This can enhance data throughput and signal reliability.
  • TRP (Total Radiated Power): This metric measures all the power that radiates from an antenna over a specific band. It’s crucial for determining the strength and efficiency of the antenna’s transmission capabilities.
  • TIS (Total Isotropic Sensitivity): TIS evaluates the performance of the LTE receiver. A higher TIS indicates that the device can detect and process weaker signals, ensuring better connectivity even in areas with poor reception.
  • MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) Consideration: MVNOs don’t own their own radio infrastructure. Instead, they purchase services from primary carriers. Devices intended for MVNOs must meet the antenna requirements of these primary carriers to ensure seamless service.

Mechanical considerations

The design and materials of a piece of equipment play a significant role in determining the efficiency and performance of an antenna. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Housing materials: Materials such as ABS and polycarbonate are RF-friendly, allowing signals to pass through with minimal interference. In contrast, metals can reflect or absorb RF signals, which can degrade antenna performance.
  • Enclosure materials: The choice of enclosure materials can dramatically affect antenna performance. For example, while plastic enclosures are generally RF friendly, metal enclosures can present challenges and may require specialised antennas.
  • Pigments & Coatings: Not all colours are created equal in the RF world. Some pigments, such as carbon black, can absorb RF and reduce antenna efficiency. Similarly, certain coatings can interfere with signal transmission.
  • Fillers: Fillers added to plastics for strength or other properties can sometimes interfere with RF signals. It’s important to choose fillers that don’t interfere with antenna performance.
  • Housing topology & mounting surfaces: The shape and design of the device and where the antenna is mounted can affect how the antenna radiates signals. Proper design will ensure that the antenna’s radiation pattern remains optimal for communication.

Our Cellular Antennas

FAQs

Cellular antennas guarantee the continuous network connection of IoT devices, facilitating real-time data transfer and remote control.

The design and functionality of devices can be significantly impacted by the carriers’ requirements, such as the number of antennas and support for various frequency bands.

Cellular antennas link devices to mobile networks and function in frequency bands ranging from 600MHz to 3.5 GHz. Conversely, Wi-Fi antennas connect devices to wireless networks.

Yes, but ensure the antenna supports the frequency bands used by carriers in all intended regions of deployment.

Factors like temperature, humidity, and physical obstructions can influence the efficiency and range of cellular antennas.

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