Service Providers have the task of delivering reliable wireless internet over their networks. A key success factor that sometimes doesn't get the attention it deserves is the selection of sector antennas. Quality APs and CPEs will only result in good network performance if combined with quality antennas, and sectors are often a key part of the equation.
A poorly designed antenna can cause countless interference issues and provide irregular coverage. Self interference, interference from other networks and irregular coverage patterns will cause your customer’s throughput to suffer or to be non-existent. To help protect your network ROI there are a few key factors you will want to consider when choosing sector antennas for your network:
Look for Gain Consistency
Any antenna worth lugging up a tower should have an evenly distributed gain across the entire frequency range. If an antenna has inconsistent coverage across the frequencies it will result in spotty coverage. This will lead to customer complaints, service calls and possibly shrinking the number of customers you will have access to.
Pay Attention to the Front-to-Back Ratio
The front-to-back Ratio is the ratio of noise between the front and the rear of a directional antenna and is important if you want to take advantage of frequency reuse. A higher front-to-back ratio indicates that less power will be radiated out of the back of the antenna, reducing interference on opposing APs. An optimal Front-to-Back ratio for a sector antenna is between 30 and 35 dBi. You will also want to make sure it has a wide angle to prevent interference from leaking out and impacting the rest of your network. Recently, many manufacturers are are adding reinforced steel backing to reduce the amount of signal leakage.
Avoid the NULLS!
Sector antennas often generate weak signals at various intervals which are called “nulls.” Nulls are often found closer to the antenna and prevent operators from connecting customers closest to the tower. It is recommend when choosing an antenna with the first null filled above 20 dB to gain the best performance.
With all the antennas on the market today, it can be a daunting task to find one that optimizes your network’s performance instead of hindering it. By looking for gain consistency, paying attention to the Front-to-Back ratio and avoid antennas with large nulls, you will add value to your network with your antenna selection...and your customers will be glad you did!
Want to learn how KP Performance's new ProLine series of antennas have been designed with 3 Key Factors in mind?