Antenna Downtilt: A Practical Overview

June 13, 2019 at 8:00 AM

  

When managing cellular networks with multiple base stations, one of the toughest challenges for operators is mitigating inter-cell interference. As 5G implementation ramps up, this will become increasingly important as service providers look to strengthen networks to increase capacity.

 

To successfully densify, base stations must be able to reuse frequencies within their cellular clusters. This means that operators will need to have firm control over the radiation pattern of each antenna, as radiation sprawl will result in electromagnetic interference and poor quality communications.

 

One of the best ways to stop radiation sprawl is downtilt – a process that directs the antenna’s vertical pattern towards the ground. Downtilt can be accomplished by using these two methods:

 

Mechanical Downtilt:

This is the fastest and easiest way to control an antenna’s pattern. It involves physically adjusting the pole-mounting brackets of an antenna by using a digital level against the back of the antenna for an accurate measurement. The downside of this method is that it will create an effect called pattern blooming, which reduces the signal more at bore sight and less at angles away from bore sight.

 

Electrical Downtilt:

Another way to change an antenna’s radiation pattern is by introducing an electrical phase taper inside of a sector antenna array. Electrical downtilt allows for a uniform reduction in coverage, preventing pattern blooming from happening. There are three types of antennas electrical downtilt antennas: fixed, variable and manual. The values of fixed electrical downtilt antennas cannot be changed after design and factor in the antenna’s elevation beamwidth along with other deployment dynamics. Antennas with variable electrical downtilt can be changed remotely. Manual electrical downtilt antennas are set with a tuning knob during installation, or they can be adjusted by a second tower climb if needed. While electrical downtilt prevents pattern blooming, variable and manual electrical downtilt antennas are usually more expensive and reduce antenna gain.

 

To check out our extensive line of antennas, click here.

 

411 on 5G

November 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

For the past few years, the world of technology has been abuzz with talk about the 5th generation mobile wireless (5G), and with full-scale rollouts set to begin next year, all that buzz can be expected to become a swarm. For example, when wireless networks transitioned from 3G to 4G, there were incremental improvements in technology and performance, but the upgrade from 4G to 5G is expected to be a complete revolution of wireless and connectivity. To make sure you’re prepared to take part in the revolution, here’s the 411 to get you up to speed on 5G.

 

The goal of the 5G network is to create a platform that makes it possible to deliver global connection. This means being able to connect everyone and everything, everywhere around the globe. In addition to that, 5G systems are slated to deliver data rates that far surpass 4G in a wider coverage area, while being more power efficient and reliable, presenting lower latency, supporting faster moving equipment and the influx of communication stemming from the Internet of Things (IoT). Plus, 5G will not only support mobile wireless users, it will also include enhanced wireless connectivity technology for use in applications such as automotive, smart homes, augmented and virtual reality.

 

In order to cross into all of those markets, the specifications for 5G performance have been debated and defined. The finalized specifications were set to be released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in 2020. Though mobile operators and service providers are urging the standardization organizations to accelerate that timetable.

 

With so much uncertainty still looming over the finalization of the standard, early releases are not shaping up exactly as planned. In the meantime, the non-standalone 5G new radio (NSA 5G NR) is the interim 5G specification and will help ease the transition from 4G to 5G. The NSA 5G NR supports many aspects of 5G including the sub-6 GHz spectrum, frequency bands, carrier aggregation and MIMO. With the new 5G frequency bands, NSA 5G NR is capable of 5G-like performance while utilizing existing technologies and infrastructure. This interim specification will provide the groundwork for future trials and deployments and allow for the technology to be better understood for the full 5G rollout.

 

With the excitement of early 5G availability, there have also been new application opportunities emerging that include fixed wireless (FWS) to the home. This development would use 5G wireless technology to provide last mile data services including television, home internet and voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone calling. As the launch of early 5G gets closer, there are bound to be additional new and existing applications to arise that would benefit from 5G’s lower latency, increased data rates and enhanced reliability. Until then, we will have to wait with great anticipation for the arrival of 5G.

 

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5G – A New Frontier

February 2, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

A new frontier of wireless technology is under exploration. Though we are still in the initial phases of defining everything the fifth generation (5G) wireless network will offer, we do have a glimpse into what technological wonders await. Like the generations that came before it, 5G is shaping up to be an exciting new frontier in wireless communication. Here is a look at what is in store.

 

Of course 5G is slated to be faster than 4G, but instead of faster peak connection speeds, the goal of 5G is a higher capacity of 20 Gbps speeds and 1 millisecond (ms) latency which would allow more users per area unit and higher consumption of unlimited data. This would make it possible for more people to stream high-definition media on mobile devices for long periods of time without a Wi-Fi connection. 5G will use OFDM encoding, which is similar to the LTE coding used by 4G but with more flexibility and lower latency. 5G may also integrate Wi-Fi as part of a cellular network, or use LTE Unlicensed which transmits LTE-encoded data over Wi-Fi frequencies.

 

Rather than huge towers covering long distances, 5G networks are likely to consist of small cells, some as small as home routers. This is partly because of the characteristics of the frequencies 5G will use, but mostly it is to allow for greater network expansion capacity. Using numerous smaller cells means that 5G will also have to be much more intuitive than previous generations in order to juggle all of the cells and keep up as they change size and shape. These small cells may also have more autonomy and be able to choose how and where to route data, which can significantly lower latency. Even with smaller cells, it is expected that 5G will still be able to increase capacity by four times over 4G networks by utilizing advanced antenna technologies and wider bandwidths.

 

The first steps for 5G will mostly like be home internet applications but with a much wider availability than closely related millimeter-wave fixed wireless IPs. For some providers, 5G may replace DSL to allow the company to offer a package deal that includes 5G home internet, satellite TV, wireless phone and home phone together.

 

Driverless cars may be another application that could greatly benefit from 5G. For now, driverless cars are self-contained, but in the future there are plans for them to communicate with other cars and smart roads to improve traffic and safety. In order for cars to successfully communicate with one another and road sensors while driving, there need to be instant data exchanges with minimal latency. The 1 ms latency rate of 5G could be critical to data exchanges and safety in these driverless car scenarios.

 

Unlike 4G networks, 5G will allow the use of small, inexpensive, low-power devices. This will open up options for IoT devices by allowing many more devices and entire cities to connect to the Internet. The low latency and high-powered speeds of 5G will also allow for phones to transform into virtual and augmented reality devices. The small cell design of the network will also help in-building coverage by allowing every home router to become a mini cell tower.

 

Before you start making plans to upgrade, take a deep breath, there aren’t any 5G devices on the market yet. And while your 4G devices won’t work on the 5G network, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi aren’t going away; they will be key factors in the 5G strategy and will actually perform better with the advances that will come with 5G. Wireless carriers are starting to work on the technology and there will be some pre-5G debuts taking place in 2017, but these won’t have all of the capabilities of a true 5G network. Plans for 5G are all still in the development process and the network is estimated to roll-out between 2018 and 2020.  No matter when it officially comes to market, 5G will certainly be an exciting new frontier for wireless communication.

 

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