Luckily, the majority of people are typically relatively close to local 3G,4G or 5G base stations, which can help to provide adequate UK mobile broadband. In some cases, especially more rural areas, there is a much weaker signal, which are typically referred to as ‘Not Spots’. Think about the last time you went away on a camping trip, or a walk far away from populated towns and cities, you may recall that the signal on your mobile phone was very weak.
Sometimes, the only way to receive a stronger, and more reliable signal is to install an external antenna with a 4G Router.
4G external antennas – How do we install them?
Before installing the 4G external antenna to the outside of the building, you must consider where the nearest base station is. The reason for this is because you want your 4G external antenna to talk with the 4G base station.
If the base station and the antenna have obstructions in between, then you might need to raise the antenna until both locations have clear line of sight (LOS). Please note – it isn’t essential for clear line of sight, but this will help to improve the signal.
Note – You should install the antenna on the same side of the building that the base station is located, the antenna should be installed ideally above the roofline, if this isn’t possible, install the antenna at the highest point possible.
There are many typical antenna/aerial installers that can perform an install like this for under £120.
McGill Microwave Systems manufacture and supply unsurpassed, high performance, 4G External antennas to boost the received 4G signal, thus ensuring your 4G signal is fast and relaible. Additionally, McGill Microwave supply the Ultra Low Loss LMR Cable Assemblies, Mounting Hardware and even window pass through cables, when drilling holes is not an option!
In installations where the coaxial cables from the external 4G Antennas need to enter the building to connect to the internally located 4G Router, there may be a need to drill a hole from the outside to the inside of the building to enable the antenna coaxial cable to enter into the building.
In installations where this is a problem or is indeed not possible, McGill Microwave Systems have the ideal solution to solve this problem – an Ultra Low Loss Window Pass Through cable.
This innovative product has been designed by us to be installed through any existing window frame or skylight -simply open up the window/skylight and lay the cable inside the window frame and close the window – job done!
No need to drill holes in building walls and avoid potential water ingress into the building and avoids the need to gain the permission of the building owner in rented accommodation.
It can, however, be daunting to know exactly which Antenna and interlinking hardware to pick. Below, we begin to explain differences in detail.
4G External Antenna – Omni vs Directional
The initial consideration to make is whether or not to use a 4G external directional or 4G omni-directional antenna.
A directional antenna radiates the signal from one side of the antenna, focussing the power in the one direction. This is a very efficient antenna if the base station location is known. In this case, you would simply point the Directional antenna in the direction of the 4G base station.
An Omni Directional antenna radiates the signal 360 degrees, which means it can receive 4G signal from a full radius, however, these antennas are typically less efficient as they have lower gain -which results in lower levels of transmitting and receiving power and reduced Internet data transfer speeds.
There are also other considerations to make, if you use a directional antenna, that is pointing directly at a 4G base station, then your 4G signal is relying solely on that specific base station. Although it’s rare for a base station to be out of service, this can happen, and if so, your 4G Signal will be affected.
With an omni directional antenna, if this has good 360 degree line of sight, then it may be linking with multiple base stations. This can make the 4G signal more reliable because it’s relying on more than 1 single base station for coverage. An Omni-direction design, however, can attract more ‘noise’ from unwanted frequencies. This is when other frequencies migrate into the system and therefore cause the system to perform poorly. This can be rectified with an In Line Resonant Cavity Filter.
Do I need 1 antenna or 2?
Most MIMO configured routers come with 2 antenna connectors, such as the TP-LINKTL-MR6400 router. The standard antennas that come with 4G Routers are poor performance. This is why it’s usually required to install Outdoor 4G Antenna(s).
The Polarisation of the antenna is critical. 4G Signals radiate horizontally, and also vertically. If your antenna matches this polarisation, then your signal will be much better. The best way to therefore match this is to use a Cross Polarised 4G Outdoor antenna. The way to identify a MIMO Cross Polarised antenna, is that it will have 2 x connectors on the base of the antenna rather than 1 connector. Please also ready the description and data sheet to confirm.
Cable Length and Size – Does it Matter?
Generally, the longer the cable run, the higher the cable loss.
Also, the larger the cable diameter, the lower the signal loss (lower the attenuation).
However, height and line of sight is the number one priority. The first 3 steps to take when installing the 4G antenna are:
- Install the antenna at a high point of the building, it is important to have no obstructions in front of your antenna. If you need to use an extension pole to increase the height of your antenna, they can be found here .
- Place your 4G Router inside the building at a high point. Note – If you have power in the loft of the building, then this is an ideal place to help reduce the cable length.
- Measure the length of the cable required.
At this point, you can now work out what cable is required depending upon the length of the cable run.
The 4 most commonly used external Antenna to 4G Router interconnecting coaxial cable types that are used in these applications are as follows:
195 Series Shotgun Cable (For cable runs 5m or under)
LMR-240 (For cable runs 5-8 metres)
LMR-400 (For medium distance cable runs (8-14 metres)
LMR-600 (For cable runs 15 metres +)
If you are looking to have pre terminated cable assemblies manufactured and tested for connector retention, VSWR and insertion loss, then you can find them here, available on a next day delivery service:
Times Microwave LMR™ Ultra High-Performance Cable Assemblies.
If you want to calculate the power loss in your cable, you can use the Coaxial Cable Calculator.
What is the meaning of the ‘dBi’ specification on an antenna?
The dBi figure of an antenna is referring to the ‘gain’. The higher the dBi figure, the higher the antenna gain, and therefore the higher power output.
Without going into great amount of detail, the general rule of thumb would be that the higher the gain, the better the signal, however there is a draw back with much higher gain antennas.
The Vertical and horizonal beam width of the antenna will begin to reduce as the gain increases – similar to the sort of thing which occurs when you adjust the nozzle on your garden hose to get a finer spray – but it then goes a much greater distance.
So, if the Antenna gain was extremely high, then the antenna may have problems with linking with any 4G base stations as it has a much narrower beam.
Imagine a torch with a wide beam, this would be a low gain antenna, and a high gain antenna would be closer towards a laser beam. High power, but very directional.
Need More Information?
We’d love to help you specify in the products you require. McGill Microwave have over 30 years of RF Microwave Engineering Knowledge. We are renowned for friendly, expert advice.
LMR™ is a registered Trademark of Times Microwave Systems USA.