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Solution Series: Alpha Wireless Discusses CBRS Antennas

Welcome back to the Solution Series, hosted by Jeff Holdenrid. Today we are speaking with Alpha Wireless and special guest Sam Hall. Alpha wireless is an antenna manufacturer that specializes in your CBRS antennas, concealment antennas, and multi-band antennas. Today we are going to speak about what is to be considered the “flagship” product, AW3161.



It is a 4-port CBRS high gain antenna. What is unique about this product is the variable tilt. There is a knob that allows you to adjust the electrical tilt of the antenna. We also have one that has remote electrical tilt, but the AW3161 is the highest performing antenna in this space. For standard 65° deployment this would be the antenna that we see the vast majority of people deploying. It’s a very common, high-performing antenna, and DoubleRadius has a ton of stock. It is available for you to ship today. It is the very popular antenna that we’ve seen flying off the shelves lately to various WISPs around the country. 


You have mentioned this is a 65-degree coverage. There has always been a debate between 65 vs 90, what is your take on it?


Interestingly enough, 65 and 90 have to do with where your energy is mostly focused. A 90° antenna is going to have less gain than a 65° antenna. When you look at the overall signal and where it covers, you can compare the two. There’s very little difference between a 65 and the 90, the biggest difference is that your gain at the far end it’s gonna be less than the 90. Our recommendation, and the recommendation of pretty much all the major carriers in the US, is that 65 is the standard. There are places where 90 makes good sense, but I would say generally 65 is what we see and what we recommend.


In saying that, do you still want to deploy 4 of these to cover your 360 degrees?


The standard is 3. It’s kind of surprising but, because that signature pattern is so wide, 65 is where the focus is. It’s about 120° wide so you can fully cover with 3. You will see a little bit of a drop-off, but generally, if you’re deploying a 3-sector environment you’re going to deploy others in the area and they provide coverage over the top. 65 x 3 is your standard deployment.


There are still no issues with installing 4 though, right?


Absolutely not. 4 works, 2 works. It depends on the environment that you’re trying to cover, and where your cellular signature needs to be.  The omni is something we know can make a signal cover broader and wider the signal strength of your power goes down (DBIs, etc).


Where does an omni fit? Where do you see omnis fitting in this world?


It depends on a couple of things. What assets do you have access to; an omni is going to provide you a very nice wide coverage (360°), but generally if you go up high with an omni you don’t get has good coverage on the ground. If you’ve had a suburban or urban environment we see omnis used regularly, where they’re just trying to get a footprint of coverage and are not worried about penetration so much. It’s more about overall coverage across an area where they don’t have high assets. Clearly, if you’re going up on a tower a panel antenna makes the most sense. You have more energy than your radiating and you can direct it. omni is pretty much just a blank coverage. That’s where I would use it; in a lower a street light type asset, maybe a rooftop like an asset where you’re in the area with a lot of people where you don’t need to penetrate quite so far. We also call that micro-cell coverage where you only have a handful of customers or a less dense area and you just need to sign up a few close customers is a great place for an omni set up. 


Alpha also creates dual-band antennas. You have a lot of different ones, but what we are mainly seeing is your 3GB and 5GB so could you tell me a little bit about you know what y’all are doing there?


That product is called the AW3697. It is an 8 port antenna so it gives you 4 ports of CBRS and 4 ports of 5Ghz, each of those is at 17 DBI gain, which is at 65° panel sitting about 4 feet tall. It’s a perfect solution if you have CBRS & 5Ghz and you’re trying to deploy. This allows you to do both with one antenna. If your leasing towers specifically the less you put up the better your savings, or the less your pay. Putting up 1 antenna that can support 2 is the absolute right solution. Again, that’s a product that DoubleRadius has in stock. It is a great solution to be able to deploy, and there may be areas where are you already have 5Ghz assets deployed but now you want to add CBRS rather than add a second antenna. Simply replace the one you have with this, and then add the CBRS radio to it.


That’s a great aspect if you think about CBRS today, its primary deployment plan is for near or non-line of sight covering out to X amount of areas. If you have a 5Ghz you get a line of sight coverage, it gives you the ability to sign up more customers in a given sector and doing it with one antenna you’re saving time and money, you’re saving time on the install, they’re not billing you as much on the tower so could be a good price-saving for that. 


We all know if there are a lot of antenna manufacturers, what do you think sets Alpha apart from other competitors?


There are a couple of things; the first being we are Irish .. which means we are really good guys to work with! Our headquarters are located in Ireland. In all seriousness, Alpha Wireless has been doing carrier-grade solutions from the very get-go, so when we build a product it is built to go sit outside for 15 years with no reduction. That’s what it is designed. We have customers that have had an antenna in the weather for 15 years, they’ve replaced the radio three or four times.


They just use the same exact antenna. They started with WiMAX, now they’re doing LTE. They just really unplug one radio, plug it back in, and say “we don’t have to do anything, that antenna still performs like the day we opened it up!”, so that’s part of what sets us apart. It’s a quality of the solution that we have. We also do a lot with optimization of signal reducing interference sector to sector. Those are some of the other things that set us apart, but I would say quality. .. and the fact that we are Irish.


You were part of our #SolutionSeries Roadshow at DoubleRadius, and we appreciate you taking the time to come in. What were your thoughts, and what is some of the feedback that you got from some of the clients that were here? 


I thought it was great. At the end of the day, this is just one part of the overall solution that needs to be deployed. Bringing in all of the parts of the solution together in one place and being able to talk about it, bounce ideas off each other, cooperate and collaborate, that kind of environment is just so helpful. I think the idea of people's needs and helping each other is great and I saw that happening. The guys from Carolina West were here talking to the guys from Open Broadband and they were discussing how they could help each other. It was a lot of collaboration. We are all in this together and we’re trying to lift the water level for everybody and it was great to see that happening. 


We appreciate you being a part of that. Please keep an eye on our website as we will be hosting roadshows more throughout the year, and we’re taking them on the road. We wanted to start one here in our office and now we’re going to bring them closer to you. Be sure to check out those events as we launch them and we hope we can see you there. 


The last thing, let’s talk about the multi-band small cell. Can you explain a little bit what that is?


We have a contract with a couple of different carriers, one of the larger North East carriers in the US have their spectrum in multiple bands. 600 PCS, AWS, they are deploying CBRS, and they also have some 5Ghz stuff they are wanting to do. They came to us asking for 1 antenna that can handle all of that. We asked what they would want it to do, omni, back-to-back, 120° two-sector? And they said, “yea, actually we want all of that.”. So, we said all right. That is what we did, and now we have a very rich portfolio of small cell antennas for 2 feet tall by 14.5 inches in diameter and you can get an omni back-to-back 120° sector, and single sector, that all look exactly the same.


The goal for them is anywhere they go it always looks the same, but it might have different insides. They are deploying 600 CBRS, PCS, AWS, or whatever they want. It’s up to them what they want to connect to. It’s a great solution we’d love to talk more about. I know in the WISP space there aren’t always multiple different bands but in partnership with others, there are ways to make those multi-band solutions beneficial for you.


Thank you for being here today. To our audience please check out Alpha's website, please check out our website, and reach out to your sales rep at DoubleRadius. They’ll be able to help make sure we get the right antenna for the products and solutions that you need. Thank you again for following the Solution Series and have a wonderful day.


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