RF101 - Antennas - Back to Basics
With the rollout of fiber-fed antennas, RETs, and DAS systems seemingly making RF systems more complex, one simple item remains. RF is transmitted out of an antenna. It may be a large antenna with 18 sectors built into it or a small 100cm square antenna, but each antenna holds to the physics of antenna design. Understanding the basic antenna principles allows engineers to have that ingrained sanity check for system design and optimization. Basic antenna principles aid in the engineering thought process by providing improved assumptions, quicker site design turn-around, and finally improved network performance. If only a 40cm antenna is allowed for design, should an engineer expect to get the same coverage as a 120cm antenna? Most would say no, but shouldn't you also have a general expectation to know how much coverage is going to be lost by this change?
Will a omni antenna work? Do I need Mechanical or Electrical Downtilt? How far from the stealth material does the antenna need to be? What is the vertical beam-width? Is null fill required? Knowledge of the elements of antenna design and what can be done will help engineering teams develop quality networks while minimizing unnecessary CAPEX and OPEX costs on unnecessary antenna swap-outs and over design on network expansions. Antenna manufacturers are continually improving their products and touting new features, make sure engineering staffs are understanding what these changes improve and how necessary they are for your network.
Take an hour and refresh your understanding of antenna principles and build a foundation for future discussions on antennas. As the amount of technologies, spectrum bands, and RF is squeezed into antenna systems, make sure there is a complete understanding of the trade-offs.
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