Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

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swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:55 pm

Below is a detailed review and comparison of a bunch of antennas.

A little back story: During my adventures into 4G/LTE, and learning about the technology, I found it really really fascinating to test different antennas and configurations, and many of them in different locations. These types of experiments provided a lot of learning for me. Jim was kind enough to send me a variety of antennas to do some comparisons on, just because I love it so much :lol:

Anyways, onto the interesting details. Feel free to ask me any questions, or if I can clarify something please let me know.

Test Hardware Setup:

Raspberry PI 3 running GoldenOrb
Sierra MC7455 Modem in a external mini-pci USB enclosure
Laptop directly connected via ethernet to the PI 3 (to eliminate any possible slowness/issues connecting to the PI via wireless)

Service: AT&T (Only band 12 and band 2 are available in my area, and with the MC7455 modem)

Location: My home, in the North East GA Mountains For reference, below is a screenshot of the terrain i'm working against to talk to the closest tower, which for reference, is 5 miles away, no line of sight. (Cell tower on left, my house on the right):
Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 8.40.00 PM.png

Disclaimer:
These results are very specific to my location, day, weather, etc. Please do not expect to get this kind of performance, just because I did with one specific antenna (it's possible you might get better, there's just too many variables!) What's important to pay attention to is the difference in performance between the antennas, and then finally take into consideration your setup, requirements, goals, etc, when picking an antenna.

Please note that I did this comprehensive test across two different days. I attempted to use the 3dbi omni antennas I have as my "control" for the test, to keep it as scientific as possible. Both days however the weather was great, and the tests were in the exact same location. However, RF conditions can change drastically from day to day. I attempted to keep as many variables the same as I could control. I cannot, and could not control how busy my cell tower was at the time of the tests (although I don't think its very busy at all based on my data rates) or how busy the upstream network(s) are. OK, now thats all out of the way, let's get to the data.

Day 1 Test:

3dbi Omnis (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/700-27 ... -sma-male/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.36.17 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.37.38 PM.png
9dbi Radome Yagis (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/1700-2 ... l-antenna/)

I locked them to the band they are specifically made for, and band 2 is the only available one in my area these are designed to work on.
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.52.55 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.53.55 PM.png
A pic of me testing them (sorry no idea why this is sideways, but if you click on it, you can see it correctly):
2019-02-02 15.48.56.jpg

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:00 pm

9-11dbi Radome Yagi (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/698-27 ... l-antenna/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.12.26 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 3.13.54 PM.png
Day 2 Testing

Unknown Gain Tiny Omnis (These came with this mini-pci USB enclosure: https://ltefix.com/shop/pcie-m-2/usb-to ... enclosure/)
2019-02-16 12.53.47.jpg
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 12.52.00 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 12.53.55 PM.png

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:07 pm

3dbi gain omnis again - for our control between days (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/700-27 ... -sma-male/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 12.58.14 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 12.59.32 PM.png
5-7dbi directional flat panels (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/700-27 ... -n-female/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.03.56 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.05.13 PM.png
A pic of me testing them (again sideways, not sure why, click to see it correctly):
2019-02-16 13.01.44.jpg

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:15 pm

9-11dbi radome yagis again for an extra control (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/698-27 ... l-antenna/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.31.39 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.35.36 PM.png
15dbi flat panel (https://ltefix.com/shop/antennas/700-27 ... l-antenna/)
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.14.49 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.16.20 PM.png
Pic of me testing them (still not sure why these are sideways, click the pic to view normally):
2019-02-16 13.13.00.jpg

Conclusion:

Honestly, this is about what I expected to see. The results are interesting, and I got the fastest download speed I've ever seen on 4G at my house, with the 15dbi flat panels. You can tell the higher gain antenna that is selected, the better the download speed, and also the better the upload speed. This is mainly due to SINR improving, and RSRP improving. It's clear that because the omni-directional antennas are not directional, and low gain, they suffer the most on upload speed, over directional antennas. I personally think that selecting an antenna highly depends upon your requirements (indoor or outdoor, for example) and a lot of other factors.

Please feel free to ask any questions in here, happy to help where I can, and I hope others find this information useful.

tonydobbs
Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2019 12:57 pm

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by tonydobbs » Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:43 pm

Excellent review! This is the kind of information that helps all of us out. I'm hoping that they get more of those 15dbi flat panel antennas in stock now that I've figured out my aiming issue.

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:41 am

tonydobbs wrote:
Sun Feb 24, 2019 3:43 pm
Excellent review! This is the kind of information that helps all of us out. I'm hoping that they get more of those 15dbi flat panel antennas in stock now that I've figured out my aiming issue.
Keep in mind that although those antennas performed best in my test, you might not experience the same results. That being said, I still think the flat panel 15dbi antennas are pretty good performing antennas.

One factor to consider with antenna selection is wind loading and weight. Depending on how you mount your antennas (pole mount, etc, how well is it mounted to the roof?), you might want to consider weight of the antennas. The 15dbis are really heavy compared to, for example the 9-11dbi radome yagis (actually, I lied, these aren't really yagis, but log-periodic antennas, although they look like yagis). If you put that weight all the way at the top of a high pole, its going to act like a lever on your mount, so take placement and other factors into consideration. If you live in a windy area, I'd consider a guy wire system too. I ended up with a wire system, even though wind usually isn't a problem around here (although 2 days ago we saw 45+ mph winds and I was happy I set this up). I mainly did the guy wire system, so I can use this mast for additional antennas for ham, SDR, etc. The yagis and the nanostation are super light.

Here's a picture of my guy wire system (theres actually 3 wires on it, you just can't see the back left one due to the lighting/angle):
2019-01-10 13.09.21.jpg

ingenium
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:54 pm

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by ingenium » Wed May 15, 2019 7:33 pm

Did you figure out an optimal distance to separate the 15dbi flat panels for MIMO on AT&T (B2+12)? I see in your pictures that they aren't as close as possible, but are separated a bit. How far do you separate them?

Also, in my testing, I get a better signal and throughput with the back of the antennas facing the tower instead of the front, which surprised me. It's not a significant difference, but is consistent (~3-5 dBm improvement, and ~5 Mbps improvement on download). Have you tested this? Or have any theories as to why?

xdavidx
Posts: 246
Joined: Tue May 28, 2019 4:04 pm

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by xdavidx » Thu May 30, 2019 4:56 pm

ingenium wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 7:33 pm
Also, in my testing, I get a better signal and throughput with the back of the antennas facing the tower instead of the front, which surprised me. It's not a significant difference, but is consistent (~3-5 dBm improvement, and ~5 Mbps improvement on download). Have you tested this? Or have any theories as to why?
I just got my 15 dBi flat panel antennas today and did some initial testing with them. I observed a similar behavior. There were 2 main towers that I was connecting to and I know for a fact that one is E/SE of here and one is NW of here. So almost opposite directions. I know which tower is which, because I have tested my router when sitting right next to them and know the IDs. If I pointed the front of the antennas NW, I would either get a weaker connection to the tower NW of here or it would switch to the tower ESE of here. If I turned them 180 degrees, so they were facing SE, I would get a much stronger connection to the NW tower or a weaker connection to the ESE tower. Speed tests supported this as well.

This was on my deck, with the house to the west of me and another hunk of the house sticking out to the NW of me, where I was often aiming at the vaulted roof on that part of the house. There is a hill ESE of here that should be in my line of sight to the ESE tower. So either the antennas are set up such that they are reaching out through the back of the cases or it was a scenario of signals bouncing around in a perfect way that caused the behavior I saw. I remembered your post, so I wasn't too confused, considering you were seeing similar behavior, but it still seems odd.

Additionally, even though the ESE tower is about 2 miles away and the one NW is 4 miles away, I was getting a much stronger signal from the one 4 miles away. I'm pretty sure that hill is the reason. I'll have the antennas another 20 to 30 feet in the air, in theory, when they are finally installed and that will get me over local obstacles.

I have mine positioned/mounted exactly like swwifty does in his separate review of the 15 dBi panel antennas, where they are mounted on white PVC. There was too much variability in testing to know for sure, but I started with them 3 inches apart (measured between the parallel sides closest to each other, on the front (the cases slope inward from front to back, so distance is different if measured from the front or back)) and then did some tests with them 6 inches apart. It did seem like my SNR improved. However, the primary antenna on top was now sitting higher, so it is possible that was part of it, not just the spacing.

I'll need to test the spacing once I reduce other variables. I might take them to a tower to see what is optimal up close, with less interference from other signals, but I'm not sure if that translates into the best distance when they are used miles away from the towers.

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Thu May 30, 2019 6:55 pm

ingenium wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 7:33 pm
Did you figure out an optimal distance to separate the 15dbi flat panels for MIMO on AT&T (B2+12)? I see in your pictures that they aren't as close as possible, but are separated a bit. How far do you separate them?

Also, in my testing, I get a better signal and throughput with the back of the antennas facing the tower instead of the front, which surprised me. It's not a significant difference, but is consistent (~3-5 dBm improvement, and ~5 Mbps improvement on download). Have you tested this? Or have any theories as to why?
Sorry I'm just getting around to responding to this.

I separated the antennas based on the wavelength they are operating at. Since B12 is the longest wave length in LTE around 700mhz I tried to separate them at least one wave length which is about 17 inches.

That is really odd that you saw better performance with the antennas facing backwards. Are you sure the antenna was actually not backwards before you turned it around? I mean rather, are you sure you know where the tower is? Antennas have a concept called front to back ratio (look it up on Google) which should mean that you should have much worse signal if the antenna was actually backwards.

swwifty
Posts: 380
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:21 pm
Location: NE GA Mountains

Re: Antenna Comparison Review (Lots of antennas inside)

Post by swwifty » Thu May 30, 2019 7:01 pm

xdavidx wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 4:56 pm
I just got my 15 dBi flat panel antennas today and did some initial testing with them. I observed a similar behavior. There were 2 main towers that I was connecting to and I know for a fact that one is E/SE of here and one is NW of here. So almost opposite directions. I know which tower is which, because I have tested my router when sitting right next to them and know the IDs. If I pointed the front of the antennas NW, I would either get a weaker connection to the tower NW of here or it would switch to the tower ESE of here. If I turned them 180 degrees, so they were facing SE, I would get a much stronger connection to the NW tower or a weaker connection to the ESE tower. Speed tests supported this as well.

This was on my deck, with the house to the west of me and another hunk of the house sticking out to the NW of me, where I was often aiming at the vaulted roof on that part of the house. There is a hill ESE of here that should be in my line of sight to the ESE tower. So either the antennas are set up such that they are reaching out through the back of the cases or it was a scenario of signals bouncing around in a perfect way that caused the behavior I saw. I remembered your post, so I wasn't too confused, considering you were seeing similar behavior, but it still seems odd.

Additionally, even though the ESE tower is about 2 miles away and the one NW is 4 miles away, I was getting a much stronger signal from the one 4 miles away. I'm pretty sure that hill is the reason. I'll have the antennas another 20 to 30 feet in the air, in theory, when they are finally installed and that will get me over local obstacles.

I have mine positioned/mounted exactly like swwifty does in his separate review of the 15 dBi panel antennas, where they are mounted on white PVC. There was too much variability in testing to know for sure, but I started with them 3 inches apart (measured between the parallel sides closest to each other, on the front (the cases slope inward from front to back, so distance is different if measured from the front or back)) and then did some tests with them 6 inches apart. It did seem like my SNR improved. However, the primary antenna on top was now sitting higher, so it is possible that was part of it, not just the spacing.

I'll need to test the spacing once I reduce other variables. I might take them to a tower to see what is optimal up close, with less interference from other signals, but I'm not sure if that translates into the best distance when they are used miles away from the towers.
That is really interesting. It is important to keep in mind though that the tower you connect to is not necessarily the one with the strongest signal. Handoff between towers is not simply controlled by the client. The tower itself can hand off a UE to a different base station if needed, due to a variety of factors. This could explain why when you were aiming one way you saw weaker signals and such.

That being said. If you don't have clear LOS, then more than likely you have a lot of multipath going on, which can cause all kinds of strange behavior in signal strengths and reliability.

I regularly see signal strengths in RSSI bounce from -65 to -80 on B12 and on band 2 from -80 to -90. The leaves coming out after this past winter made a huge difference in signal strength, and performance. I was getting over 100mbps down in winter, and now can only muster about 75.

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