What Does MIMO Mean?

August 7, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Multiple-in/Multiple-out Antennas (MIMO) Explained

 

MIMO Panel Antenna Showing Multiple Coaxial Lines

Most antennas have worked very simply: a frequency transmitted from one antenna could be picked up by a antenna tuned to receive it a distance away without the need of cables between them. While this basic description of a wireless system works, today we have many ways to improve upon the basic concept to increase things like redundancy and coverage. One of those methods is MIMO, which stands for multiple-in multiple-out.

 

MIMO antennas are actually several antennas all within a single physical item or radome. They co-exist either by working in different bands (as the IEEE standard 802.11n works, in both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) or different polarities, or both. By breaking the data into separate signals and broadcasting them over multiple antennas, MIMO systems can pick from the strongest signal no matter what the environmental conditions.

 

If you have a radio, access point, router or other wireless device that uses MIMO transmission, you will usually see separate jacks for the different signals. Likewise, a MIMO antenna will have multiple jacks or cables to hook up. Once they are plugged in, the antenna takes advantage of a phenomenon called "multipath", which refers to the way multiple signals bounce off of objects and arrive at the receiver at slightly different times.

 

Quick note: L-com's HyperLink® MIMO antenna product center includes options for many popular bands and antenna types.

How to Install Grid Antennas

July 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM


Grid Antenna Mounted on a Mast or Pole with Downward Angle

To make installation for your application easier, here’s a rundown of what to look for. First though, let’s decipher this: why use a Grid Antenna?

 

For point-to-point communications, a grid antenna has a lot of advantages that may make it the best choice for your application. First- since they are directional, they can provide better gain by focusing the beam in a particular direction. Second, though they are typically larger than other antenna types, they usually break down easily to fit in a box for easy transport to the installation site, or for storage while not being used.

 

Once assembled, the grid provides better wind loading than dish antennas. They are very also very easy to mount in either vertical or horizontal polarization and easy to tilt for precise aiming.

 

 

Assembly

 

We suggest double-checking the quality of the antenna before you purchase, especially if the installation is outdoors. The grid should have a UV protective coating and all of the hardware should be stainless steel.

 

When you order a grid antenna, it usually comes disassembled. Different manufacturers make grid antennas with slightly different installation instructions. When putting the grid antenna together, take all normal safety precautions to avoid coming into contact with dangerous electrical lines, etc., then go over the parts list. All grid antennas need the grid itself (often broken into two halves to reduce shipping costs), mounting "L" bracket, mast clamps, hardware such as screws, nuts and washers, and the feed horn. The feed horn is the long, protruding piece in the center of the grid that sends the actual signal. The below video (or this tutorial) demonstrates step by step assembly of the grid antenna. 

 

 

Where can you find a reliable antenna? L-com's HyperLink® line of grid antennas features tons of options for 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands, along with specialty versions for the 900 MHz, 1.9 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 4.9 GHz. Many options are available in convenient 5-packs that save you time and money. There are also hardware packages for replacing or maintaining components of a grid antenna.
 

Tutorial on Wireless Networking

June 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

Wireless network antenna and devices

Entire cities and even countries are looking into ways to expand communications access for their residents as the Internet has shifted from a luxury to an imperative. The most promising solution: wireless networking.

 

Why? Wireless networking allows a non-physical (well, at least non-cabled) connection to a wireless LAN (WLAN) and onto the World Wide Web for users. So what are you waiting for? Cut the cord!

 

Be mindful of this though- issues such as network and band congestion, security, signal range and propagation, power demands, and more make WLANs tricky to implement for all but the most informed network engineers and IT professionals. Yet there's no stopping this technology in its rapid advance, with solutions such as distributed antenna systems (DAS) and MESH networks beginning to show promise. For you to get started, here's a basic wireless tutorial on terminology and concepts.

 


Wireless Standards

 

Radio frequency signals can take a lot of different forms, so in order for devices made by different manufacturers to communicate, the IEEE has provided several standards including the mainstay for wireless Ethernet: 802.11.

 

The 802.11 standard specifies the band and IP protocol used to transmit data, and provides guidelines to maximize the speed of transmission. 802.11a, for instance, uses the 5Ghz band and can typically transmit at speeds up to 54 Mbps in shorter ranges. 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and the new 802.11ac all use various methods to increase the speed and range. The latest IEEE wireless standard, 802.11ac boasts transmission speeds of up to 1 Gbps!

 

Each standard typically requires wireless routers, access points, and other transmission equipment to match its designation, though there are many that can operate in multiple standards (such as routers that are 802.11b/g/n compliant).

 


Wireless Bands

 

In attempt to maintain order within the entire radio frequency spectrum that is available to us, the FCC and other global communications standardization organizations have designated or set aside specific ranges of frequencies for specific uses. We call these "ISM bands". ISM stands for industrial, scientific and medical to denote where these frequencies are used.  ISM bands (specifically the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies) are also used in commercial wireless networks. 

 

Typically access points, antennas, and amplifiers all use either the 2.4 GHz band, 5.8 GHz band, or both for WiFi. Other ISM bands have been set aside for things like cell phone use, RFID chips, emergency/municipal use, and military use.

 


Wireless Security

 

As mentioned previously, one of the big emerging issues with wireless networking is security. Without a physical cable that can be plugged and unplugged, the only method to control who can do what on a network is to build it into the software and protocol. That means it is critical to set up a wireless network with appropriate security measures and to be aware of the security status of any network you connect to.

 

For most small networks, methods such as WPA, WPA2, or WPA-PSK allow the safe identification of nodes that should be allowed on a network with passwords and other controls. Wireless routers can also use access passwords to allow administrators to adjust or update security features as required.

 
If you have questions about a wireless project or application, contact L-com's technical support line for a live response and expert advice!
 

Picking the Right Antenna for Your Application

May 29, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

How-To 

 

A log periodic antenna mounted on a pole or mast

If you are new to wireless technology, the multitude of antenna shapes, sizes, styles and gains can be bewildering at first. Will you need a dish antenna, a grid, a Yagi or just a rubber duck?

 

Fortunately, by following a few rules of thumb, you can get a hang of the different styles and the applications they fill. It starts with a complete survey of the area where you need coverage: its shape, size and obstructions found within it. With these details on hand, you'll need to consider the following factors:


 

Beam Width


One of the key differences between antenna styles is the "beam width" and direction. In general, the narrower the beam width the more powerful the signal is in a particular direction. That's not to say Omni directional antennas are weak, but merely that the signal strength is spread in a different way (which may or may not be appropriate for your application).

 

Read this article for more information on signal gain patterns and wireless network design.

 

Vertical and horizontal beam patterns
Beam Pattern of a Log Periodic Antenna

 

 

Antenna Polarity

 

Another aspect of antennas to keep in mind is the polarity. While wireless signals travel, they move as a wave. Just like ripples on the surface of water, waves that move in the same direction cancel each other out. Waves in different directions do not. In a similar way, too many antennas set up in a vertical polarization in an area can cancel each other out, resulting in extremely poor signals.

 

In the case where a lot of wireless signals in the same band may be required, setting up antennas with different polarities can improve the performance of each signal. In some instances, you may want to set up "dual polarized" antennas, which include both vertical and horizontal polarities. These and other types of polarities (such as "cross polarized" and "circular polarized") can improve the strength and distance of signals in multiple ways.

 

This article offers some great information on antenna polarization.

 

Antenna Polarization Diagrams
WiFi Antenna Polarization Schemes

 

 

Antenna Gain

 

The final consideration for choosing your antenna is antenna gain. Measured in decibels (dB), it is commonly written as a number followed by "dBi" (the "i" at the end is for "Isotropic", and indicates that the number is relative to an imaginary, "perfect" dipole radiation). In general, the higher the dBi the stronger the signal in whatever direction it is going.

 

While it may seem tempting to simply buy the antenna with the highest gain for your beam width and polarization, it may not be relevant for your application. You should seek a dBi relative to the size of the space that the signal needs to cover. In many cases, a high gain will provide poor coverage closer to the antenna and better coverage further away.

 

For instance, setting up an Omni directional antenna in the center of a small cafe would require a smaller gain. If you use an antenna with too large a gain, people using devices in the street outside of the cafe would have better signal than those in the cafe itself because the total signal would be stretched.

 

This article explains why too much gain is a bad thing.

 

Small gain antenna used in 300-foot courtyardLarge gain antenna used in 1000-foot courtyard
An 8 dBi Omni directional antenna is more appropriate for a 300' space in a cafe courtyard than a 14 dBi antenna.
 

Quick note: L-com's technical resources section has tons of helpful information for the WiFi newbie or established expert alike. Also, for help selecting an antenna, try the Antenna Product Wizard.

 

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