Last winter, I was stuck in a pretty major traffic jam, one that took me about 4 times as long as normal to get home. Eventually, we determined that it was because of a serious (in terms of vehicle damage, likely no one was injured) collision where a car rear-ended another vehicle. Amazingly, when I got close to the accident, I recognized one of the drivers as being a friend of my wife’s. A couple of weeks later, we met up with her friend and asked her what happened. She said that she simply slid on ice and was not able to stop. I was a bit curious at first, since she drove a very high-end SUV that has all kinds of systems to increase the traction/stability of the vehicle. It turns out that the culprit was that she did not have winter/snow tires on the car and was not able to get traction that she might of had if they were on the vehicle.
Why did I just make you spend your valuable time reading this story? Well, in the situation of a vehicle, all of the technology in the world on your vehicle may not prevent you from such a collision if you are using the wrong/inferior tires. In the end, the cost of not having sufficient/correct tires was loss of value on the vehicle, time spent making repairs, insurance costs, etc. The same can be said for the use of a good cellular antenna. Like the tires on your car, the antenna is the only part that actually “touches” the cellular network. Much of the performance that you see (or don’t see) is derived from the antenna choice.
But....aren’t all antennas the same? Here are some of the reasons why you want to look at using a top-notch antenna for your solution:
Better antenna can equal easier installations When you are in a very high signal environment, you can often use a lower cost antenna without any penalty. Even the lowest quality antennas used in M2M can offer superior coverage to a cell phone’s antenna and if your phone is showing “5 bars”, you should have no issue. However, most installations don’t seem to work out that way. Whether it is because of the deployment being in a low coverage environment or the area has signal issues (metal roofs, in the basement, etc), many installs require specialized expertise. Since higher quality antennas offer better reception capabilities, they often can receive signal in areas that many inferior ones cannot, making the installation easier (as one does not have to run cables or use boosters). As well, many of the better antennas use superior cable material (to allow for less signal loss in the cable between the antenna and the connection to the device). So, you can usually run a longer cable length (to push the antenna outside or to a better coverage area) without losing as much signal strength. This prevents the need to upgrade cable quality/using boosters, saving you time and money.
Cellular networks are dynamic things For many coming from the landline world, this next story will be weird. When I worked in cellular technology at a carrier many years ago, we had a major customer who was complaining about coverage issues at one of their remote sites. Whenever we would dispatch a technician, we found the site to have great coverage and could not duplicate the issue. Where was the disconnect? The customer was doing all of their testing in the evening while we were doing all of our testing in the day. It turned out that this site was in an area that had a spike in cellular usage in the evening, and very little traffic in the day, so the network contracted to support this traffic. Since the customer was in a fringe coverage area even in the day, this shrinkage in the network would prevent them from having coverage when the network was experiencing heavy usage. By using a better antenna, the customer was able to achieve much better coverage in every scenario, and even though the coverage was still weaker in the high usage periods, they were able to maintain a signal.
Your time costs money This is also the same argument that I have used in the past when customers look to save money by using a lower cost modem. While many of these modems perform very well, there is often a performance difference when compared to a higher priced modem. So, when the modem goes down, what does it cost you (in lost time to visit the site and in lost revenue)? When you factor in this costs, the “true cost” of a higher end modem is often less than a lower cost one over the period of a few years. The same is absolutely true for a lower cost antenna. Whether it is because of performance issues, failures of components or the inability to handle environmental conditions (such as wind or cold/heat), lower cost antennas will usually mean more issues for you do to deal with and often require more frequent replacement than a superior quality antenna. So, what is your time worth and which will cost you more over the life of your solution?
As always, let Novotech know how we can assist you with any of your M2M needs, especially antennas! Check us out at www.novotech.com and follow us on Twitter @NovotechM2M. You can also follow me on Twitter @LBNovotechM2M.