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.
 

How to Install Wireless Amplifiers

July 10, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 Setting up a WiFi Booster for an Indoor Wireless System

 

An Assortment of WiFi Amplifiers

If you do not work with wireless components every day, the prospect of adding a new component to boost the power of your signal may seem daunting. While we always recommend you have a professional install communications equipment to ensure it is done correctly, this brief tutorial will give you the basic steps to set up a simple WiFi booster. If it helps, you can also take a look at the video in this post or visit our complete tutorial here.

 

 

 

If you have a WLAN setup that requires a stronger signal, a simple WiFi booster may do the trick. Due to FCC regulations, if you are doing this installation in the United States, you need FCC approval to buy the amplifier. If you don't need an amplifier with power over 1 Watt, you can purchase an FCC certified amplifier kit which requires no special operator's license. Either way, most setups follow this simple procedure.

 

Diagram of an RF amplifier setup

On the amplifier, you will typically see two coaxial cable jacks, one labeled "Antenna" and the other labeled "Radio". There should also be a power jack (usually a DC jack requiring an external power adapter), which is where the amplifier gets the power to repeat the signal.

 

Using low-loss coaxial cable, simply connect the antenna to the antenna jack on the amplifier, and the radio (or access point or router, etc) to the radio jack. Then, after the two sides are hooked up, attach the power adapter and plug it in. Most amplifiers have LED lights to indicate activity, which helps you to see if it is working.

 

It's that easy!

 

Quick note: L-com has a huge selection of top-quality wireless RF amplifiers for the 2.4 GHz WiFi band and 5.8 GHz WiFi band, as well as 900 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 4.9 GHz frequencies. These ampifiers feature HyperLink's® Active Power Control (APC), which automatically maintains a constant output power regardless of the length of the attached cables. Aside from the indoor wireless amplifiers, L-com also carries HyperLink® brand outdoor wireless amplifiers for all-weather operation.
 

Low Loss Coaxial Cable for Wireless Applications

June 26, 2013 at 10:00 AM

 

Closeup of Low Loss Coaxial Cable Stripped to Show Components

Even in a wireless network, cables and wires are still used to connect components together (access points to amplifiers, amplifiers to antennas, etc). Each component needs cabling to interact.

 

If you are a wireless engineer and need to interconnect components, chances are you are using low loss coaxial cabling. While 50 Ohm RG-style coax is sometimes used, the attenuation is usually too much for any length over just a few feet. This is where low loss coaxial cable comes in.

 

 

Coaxial Cable and RG-Style Coax

 

All coaxial cable works the same way: the signal is run over two "axes" (thus the name). Coaxial technology is one of the oldest signal cabling types, and is still used today for a specific reason: it is robust and can carry a signal very well over a long distance. In general, the thicker the cable, the less "loss" or attenuation of signal there is over the length of the cable.

 

The original standards for coaxial cable were set forth by the US military. These cables used the term "RG" (for "Radio Guide" or "Radio Government") followed by a number to designate the standard. This worked well at the time, but as technology became more and more utilized in commercial and non-military applications, the restrictions of the standard became less rigid (to the point where RG316, for instance, may have very different properties today depending on who manufactures it).

 

 

Times Microwave LMR® Cables

 

No matter who makes the RG-style cables, they have one fundamental problem: the signal degrades over the length of the cable until it is no longer useable. For shorter use in labs or machine-to-machine applications, this is not a problem. But in wireless applications, the signal integrity up until it is broadcast through the antenna is critical.

 

For that reason, Times Microwave Systems developed a low loss version of coax that it branded as its LMR® series coax. The newly-engineered solution offered far lower loss and better RF shielding, making them a much better choice for wireless systems than the RG styles.

 

Outside of Times Microwave Systems' product (the term LMR® refers specifically to Times Microwave Systems product and is trademarked for their use), several other companies now offer low-loss coaxial cables. These generally follow a similar naming convention as what Times Microwave Systems uses: a three-digit "series" number that refers to both the thickness of the cable and the low loss properties.

 

For instance, 100-series low loss coax is thinner and has greater loss than 200-series, which is thinner and has greater loss than 400-series, etc.

Diagram of most common low-loss coaxial cables

Note that with thicker cable factors such as cable weight and flexibility must be considered. However, there are now ultra-flex versions of thicker series like the 400-series that offer similar loss characteristics but are far more flexible.

 

Quick note: L-com has been manufacturing high-quality coaxial cables and components for over thirty years.
 

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!
 
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