Do you know that it is possible to combine two or more antennas to provide a desired function? Perhaps, this is your first time of hearing it and you are wondering how possible it is. Well, it is possible because of the term called combination antenna.
This article is a guide to understanding what it takes to combining two antennas – or even more. You will also discover some of the different possible combinations you could make.
What is Combination Antenna all About?
Also called antenna combiners, the concept refers to the integration of antennas with different operating frequencies in one housing. This process became process for a couple of reasons, which would be explained further in this article.
Frequency Amplification – The Need for Combined Antennas
Have you played the video game, “Need for Speed?” If you have, you must have realized that it is so-called because of the need to speed-up the cars to win the race.
In a similar perspective, there is a need for antenna signal combiners – the need to scale the rate at which frequencies are distributed. These combined antennas are capable of amplifying multiple frequencies almost at the same time.
Types of Bands Amplified
The two-antenna combiner can amplify the frequencies of different bands and frequencies. Examples of these are:
- Cellular and;
The Design and Construction of Combination Antennas
Also called multi-antennas, the combined antennas have a sturdy presentation. Here are some of the things you need to know about the design and construction:
1. One Housing
The different antennas and the components are housed in the same place called the radome. These are some of the radome’s specifications:
- It can be made from rigid plastics, such as ABS.
- A polyurethane foam is used to protect the radome’s radiating elements from physical impacts.
These cables serve as the cable and antenna combiner, whereby they are used to tag the different antenna elements. This way, it is possible to make an individualized identification of the different elements when the lines are being routed during installation.
You will also find individual feedlines for each of the antenna’s elements. These elements work as separate antennas and leverage the feedlines for striking a connection to the downstream circuits and radio devices.
4. Combo Antenna Elements
The elements making up the combination antenna also play a role in the performance. Depending on the application, you could have up to 11 elements connected in one radome.
Before we dissect some of these elements, let us have a few points about them:
- The elements could operate as separate or individual antennas. In this case, the elements rely on the feedline for connecting the radio devices and circuits.
- The number of the elements vary based on the technologies served. If you are connecting the core technologies, it is possible to use up to 11 combined antenna elements.
- It is also possible to use supplementary combined antenna elements. Such is the case when connecting either the multiple bands or 2×2 MIMO networking.
Here are the different types of elements or components you can find in combined antennas:
These elements are added into the antenna design as a way of providing a metal sheet at the antenna’s base.
These are responsible for transferring the electrical signals between the transmission line and the antenna element.
These are the combined antenna elements that guide the Radio Frequency (RF) energy by acting as the transducers.
Low Noise Amplifier
The Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) enhances the signals coming from the GPS.
These are used to make an electrical grounding of the combined antenna’s elements.
These are used for facilitating the anchoring or guiding of the different elements within the radome.
This is the ceramic housing for the combined antennas. The primary function of the radome is to provide excellent thermal protection anytime the ceramic antenna elements are in use.
Multi-Antenna Installation via Through-Hole Mounting
The installation process for combined antennas is a bit technical, which is why you must be careful how you go about it.
The through-hole mounting process is often preferred for this purpose, because of the streamlined process.
Here is a breakdown of all that goes into the through-hole mounting process for combined antennas:
- Hole-Making: the first step is to drill a hole on the surface where the antenna is to be mounted. It is common to make these holes on reachable surfaces.
- Secure the Antenna: you can then secure the antenna by using any of the following: gasket seals, a washer, a threaded hollow bolt or any other material that can hold the hole securely.
- Pass the Cables: remember that combined antennas also use cables. Now, you have to pass the low-loss Radio Frequency (RF) cables, one from each of the antenna’s elements.
- Cable Connection: once the cables are passed, proceed to pass them through the bolt. Once that is completed, you can then connect the cables to the wireless equipment.
Alternatives to Combination Antenna Installation
It is possible that the traditional mounting process of the antenna doesn’t interest you. Other options exist and we are going to talk about them in this section.
Puck Combo Antennas
This is named after the radome’s “hockey puck shape.” The puck combo antennas can also combine with the through-hole mounting process.
Here are some of the processes involved:
- Hole-Drilling: the first step is to drill a hole, where the puck antenna will be mounted.
- Puck Antenna Placement: step two is to place the puck antenna over the drilled hole.
- Component Placement: the rest of the components, including the antenna cables can then be run through the pre-drilled hole.
- Puck Security: make a screw-mounting on the antenna to secure the puck antenna inside.
Puck Combo Antenna Features
Here are some of the attributes of the puck-shaped multi-antennas:
- Waterproof Skirting: this is an additional measure meant to protect the antenna from moisture ingress.
- Direction Considerations: puck-shaped multi-antennas can have different directions, such as omni-directional (getting signals from different directions) and directional (getting signals from one direction).
Magnetic Mount Combination Antennas
Consider using the magnetic mount process to combine two antennas (or more). It is an excellent option to the through-hole mounting process, which is a bit rigid.
Here are some attributes that make the magnetic mount combo antenna design unique:
- Multi-antennas only need to be set in the right positions, instead of making holes.
- The flexibility of making changes to the sitting position of the antenna or even removing the antenna is there.
Magnetic Mount Connection Process for Multi-Antennas
Multiple antennas can be connected at the same time, thanks to magnetic mount’s set-up process. The procedure includes the use of a metal surface to secure the combination antenna to the base.
The process also uses a brass terminal insert for connecting the multiple antennas. Depending on where you want to place the antenna, it is possible to use length of coax cable to extend the height. Note that the coax cable’s length often terminates or stops at the FME.
The Leading Wireless Technologies Powered by Combination Antennas
Multiple antennas can be used to boost the performances of a wide range of wireless technologies. The list of these technologies ranges from Wi-Fi, Cellular, 3G, 4G, 5G and GPS. Even GNSS is also supported.
We will now look at some of the combinations that can be made out of these wireless technologies.
GPS + 4G + Wi-Fi Antenna
This is the combination of the Global Positioning System (GPS), with the fourth generation of wireless technology (4G) and the Wi-Fi network.
It is a 3-in-1 type of combination antenna. Among many other features, this combination supports 4G LTE, up to 2.4GHz for Wi-Fi and has a frequency with the GPS.
Getting the three in the same radome comes with a lot of perks, such as:
- Finding a suitable use case in objects or devices that find it hard to transmit signals due to the content of their base materials.
- This 3-in-1 multi-antenna makes a good option for the track and trace systems especially for generators and vehicles.
GPS + Wi-Fi Antenna
This is another combination antenna variant you can find. It only supports the interconnection of the Global Positioning System (GPS) antenna and the Wi-Fi antenna.
The GPS antenna works by receiving and amplifying the radio signals that are distributed/transmitted on specific frequencies. These signals are received from a GNSS satellite and are then converted to an electronic signal for the GPS receiver’s usage.
On the other hand, the Wi-Fi antenna works by converting the Electromagnetic Waves (EM) into electric signals. It can also convert the electric signals into Electromagnetic Waves (EM).
Differences between GPS Antenna and Wi-Fi Antenna
The first point to note is that these antennas ordinarily provide different connections. On the one hand, the GPS antenna converts radio signals into electronic signals, while the Wi-Fi antenna converts the Electromagnetic Waves (EM) into electric signals.
The second difference between the two is that the GPS uses satellites that orbit around the earth for real-time triangulation of a user’s location. On the other hand, the Wi-Fi’s locating technology gathers relative network signal strength from different network access points.
The third difference is based on the individual lengths of the antennas. To put it into perspective, this has to do with the frequency bands. For example, the antenna length and tuning for GPS receives frequencies at different bands, such as:
- 1227.6 and;
- 1176.45 MHz
The length and tuning of the Wi-Fi antenna are usually optimized for the ISM bands that support Wi-Fi at either the 2.4 or 5 GHz.
4G + Wi-Fi Antenna
It is also possible to combine the Wi-Fi antenna with the fourth-generation wireless technology (4G)’s antenna. For the best signal receipt and transmission performances, you want to cross-check the frequency of the 4G antenna with that of the Wi-Fi antenna.
Considering that Wi-Fi antennas are tuned to either the 2.4 or 5 GHz bands, you want to make sure that the 4G antennas are closer to that. Therefore, a 4G antenna that has up to 1.9 GHz frequency band might suffice for the interconnection of the two antennas.
How to Choose the Right Combination Antennas
You can combine two antennas for better reception and this helps your device get better signals. If you must choose one, here are certain criteria to consider:
1. Select the Right Connector Type
The type of cable or connector used for the combination is very important. The cable refers to the Radio Frequency (RF) cable that serves a transmission line for the RF signals that connect to the receivers and transmitters. On the other hand, the connector enables the mechanical connection between the Radio Frequency (RF) system and the antenna.
2. How Many Combinations are Needed?
You have the option of choosing from a vast selection of multi-antenna combinations. Your choice can be anywhere between the 2-in-1 and 11-in-1 combinations. The number of multiband combinations is directly proportional to the number of antennas you want to connect and the range of the purposes they are meant to serve.
Final Words: Combination Antennas Lead the Way
Combining multiple antennas in a single housing (radome) has become one of the trends shaping the means of communication in the modern world. From our homes, offices and vehicles – we can install combined antennas to improve the wireless signals into our devices.
With the possibilities of combining 4G, Wi-Fi, GNSS, GPS and other wireless technologies; the opportunities are just endless. Depending on the configurations (from the 2-in-1 antennas up to the 11-in-1 antennas), you can extend the coverage of the signals and connect more devices.
Choosing the right combination antenna is a must, as it helps you get high-speed data transmission, real-time signal reception and quality network coverage. With this in place, you can then deploy your multi-antennas for use in different applications and industries, such as in and around your vehicle, at home, in the office, for vehicle tracking purposes and fleet management.