With so many different types of antennas out on the market, it can be hard to determine which one is best for you, particularly if you’ve never shopped for indoor antennas and compared those to outdoor antennas before.
To choose the best antenna for your needs, you must first ask yourself if you need an indoor or outdoor antenna. After that, you'll need to consider factors such as device compatibility, gain, frequency, and environmental conditions to narrow down your choices.
In this article, we’ll explain the most common uses of indoor antennas versus outdoor antennas. We’ll also discuss what features you need to consider in order to choose a suitable antenna for your purposes. In addition, we’ll provide our antenna recommendations for some specific applications, such as mobile antennas, rugged outdoor antennas, and fixed indoor antennas.
What are Indoor Antennas?
When you're looking into buying an antenna, you first need to decide whether an indoor or outdoor antenna is more appropriate for your needs.
Indoor antennas, as you can tell by their name, are made for indoor use. They broadcast signals throughout the interior of a building. For example, antennas used inside an office building are indoor antennas.
Many industries used fixed indoor antennas, including:
- Enterprises, to facilitate in-building communication, often with mobile phones, and for signal-based technology such as televisions
- Vending machines and kiosks for magnetic card readers so people can pay with credit cards
- Smart cities to power smart lighting and other smart applications that can be fixed to metal. An example is the Robusta antenna.
What are Outdoor Antennas?
In contrast to indoor antennas, outdoor antennas are built to withstand the elements installed outside buildings.
They are typically used in industries such as:
- Public safety
- Transportation, especially on trains, in the subway, etc.
- Oil and gas
- Many other notable industries in the Internet of Things (IoT) space
What to Consider When Choosing an Antenna
After figuring out whether you need an indoor or outdoor antenna, you need to consider the following in order to pick out the best antenna for you:
One of the essential considerations is device compatibility. Will your antenna work with all your devices? That is, is your antenna compatible with 5G, Bluetooth, GPS, and/or WiFi?
You also need to ask yourself what connectors your antenna of choice needs. Depending on what model you have, you will need different connectors.
Some older antennas, for instance, still use SubMiniature version A (SMA) and Reverse Polarity SMA (RP-SMA). SMA was developed in the 1960s with a pin on the male connector and a socket on the female connector. RP-SMA reverses the location of the socket and pin.
Finally, ask yourself what cable length you need. While there are many lengths to choose from, note that there will be an optimal length for your particular antenna model. The general rule of thumb is that longer cables have poorer performance. To find out your antenna’s optimal cable length, consult a Novotech sales representative.
Antenna gain is another factor you need to consider.
An antenna’s gain is related to its directivity and describes how much power can be transmitted in a specific direction. Gain for antennas is calculated by comparing the power the antenna can transmit in or receive from a specific direction to the power transmitted or received by a hypothetical ideal antenna.
If your antenna has a high gain, its signal is concentrated over a smaller beamwidth. This means your antenna may best suit linear applications, such as those needed to isolate specific signals. On the other hand, you may need a wider beam if you need many receiving units to stay connected, which is the case for taxi or police dispatchers.
Not all antennas are created equal, particularly when it comes to frequency. As such, specific antenna designs perform better at some frequencies than others. If you are working with very high or very low frequencies, you may need to take special considerations regarding antenna designs.
For instance, it’s difficult to make directional low-frequency antennas because low-frequency signals travel around and through objects in non-directional ways. Conversely, creating omnidirectional antennas that are high-frequency is challenging because high-frequency signals tend to be very directional and don’t go through or around objects.
You also need to consider frequency when looking at design factors such as bandwidth. It's often harder to construct a high-frequency antenna with a wide bandwidth since high frequencies need precise length elements, though some antennas manage to do this.
If you’ve determined that you need an outdoor antenna, you’ll need to consider your antenna’s environmental specifications. For example, what will your antenna be used for? Will it have to withstand unique weather or climate conditions? Will it be used in industrial and heavy-duty applications?
One of the specifications you should consider is your antenna’s voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR). This is the ratio of maximum power to minimum power in the electric wave travelling through your antenna. Ideally, you should have a VSWR of 1.5:1, but 2:1 is marginally acceptable in low-power applications like outdoor cameras. A high VSWR of 6:1 may still be acceptable if you have the right equipment and environmental conditions.
To make the most of your antenna, you need to ensure it’s placed in the most optimal location and position. This means you need to consider height, distance between other antennas, line-of-sight, and the curvature of the earth.
Make sure to:
- Mount your antennas as high as possible to respect the line-of-sight range restrictions with VHF (very high frequency) signals
- Match your antennas’ orientation (i.e., horizontal-to-horizontal and vertical-to-vertical)
Feel free to change your mounting style and use brackets and cable runs as needed.
Finally, you need to consider your antenna’s form factor. This is an important factor to consider before buying your ideal antenna, since an antenna’s form factor—which includes its size, shape, and other physical specifications—has a great effect on how it works in certain applications and scenarios.
Dipole antennas are the simplest and most common type of antenna. Consisting of two conductors of equal length that are in line with one another but facing opposite directions, dipole antennas can be used alone as low-gain antennas, or as driven elements in complex antenna designs.
These antennas consist of a straight flexible rod or wire, with the bottom of the rod or wire connected to the transmitter or radio receiver.
They are designed to be flexible and are often made for portable radios, Wi-Fi-enabled devices, and radios for wheeled vehicles and aircraft. They can also be mounted on balconies, roofs, and radio masts for amateur radio broadcasting or for taxi, ambulance, police, and fire dispatch.
Paddle antennas are shaped like paddles and can consist of two antenna types. For instance, a paddle antenna could have a vertically polarized LPDA and a horizontally polarized dipole with the same electrical center point. By combining two different antenna types, paddle antennas can send signals from waves of different polarizations to conquer multi-path nulls. This can greatly improve audio reception.
A dome antenna transmits a signal 360 degrees around it horizontally. Shaped like a ball cut in half, dome antennas emit very few signals at the top. This makes for easier installation if you’re using an indoor dome antenna and outdoor antennas. However, if your dome antenna gives off too many signals at the top, you can install a barrier such as a piece of metal to avoid distracting your outdoor antennas.
Dome antennas are particularly great for commercial applications and large areas, since they give off signals in all directions.
Covert antennas are antennas that are hidden from public view. Used in surveillance and law enforcement applications, covert antennas can cover various frequencies, from UHF to Cellular/LTE.
Yagi antennas, also known as Yagi-Uda or patch antennas, are directional antennas that consist of a driven element, such as a dipole, and additional elements such as a director or reflector. Yagi antennas radiate in one direction and are usually used in point-to-point communications.
You can use a Yagi antenna for two-point communications across distances of three to five miles. You can also use them as bridge antennas to connect to an access point.
While a Yagi antenna is easy to aim and gives you increased gain and good range, it may be too large and bulky for specific applications.
Our Recommended Antennas
Now that you have a clearer idea of what features to look at when choosing an antenna,let’s take a look at some of our favorite antennas for some specific applications.
For Mobile Applications
For mobile antennas, we recommend Mobile LTE Antennas such as the Belgian Shepherd by Parsecfavourite and the Airgain MULTIMAX FV 6-in-1. Compact and one-size-fits-all, these antennas are solutions for GPS, MiMo WiFi, and MiMo Cellular applications. They are perfect for fixed wireless and mobile applications and come in a variety of shapes, from panel to shark-fin. Parsec's Belgian Shepherd, in particular, comes with IP67-rated antennas.
If you decide to go for a mobile LTE Antenna that’s shark-fin-shaped, such as the GPSD Sharkee MiMo Antenna, you will enjoy multiple antenna functions. These antennas are also great for transport and industrial applications. They are cost-effective, robust, and efficient. They’re also easy to install, as they generally only require a single hole mounting.
For Rugged Outdoor Applications
The DMM-7-38 can give you a strong 4G or 3.6GHz 5G connection, as well as quick transfer speeds for your router or modem. Powerful and compact, it’s great if you’re in the failover, retail and commerce, or travel industries.
Like the DMM-7-38, the RM-WB1 is incredibly easy to mount. It covers the entire 5G cellular frequency band from 600 to 6000 MHz and is ideal for mobile communication from a moving vehicle and data transfer. It’s also a perfect solution for the public safety industry.
For Fixed Indoor Antenna Applications
Both are cost-effective, high-performance antennas that give excellent WiFi coverage and can be useful in multiple industries. In particular, the VenU Dual Band MiMo holds three, four, or six antennas in the same MIMO and comes with plenum-rated coaxial cables. The Panorama also comes packed with great features, offering excellent performance across a wide bandwidth and an N female connector that allows long custom cable runs.
Fixed LTE for Outdoor Antenna Applications
Powerful and easy to mount, these antennas are cost-effective and built to last. They are suitable for mast, desk, and wall mounting and are made strong to withstand the elements wherever they are placed.
The OPTOMX comes with customizable colours, cable lengths, and other variations if you’re looking for flexibility.
The weatherproof WWMG gives you a wide beam pattern, which is great for urban areas.
Finally, Mobile Mark's DOD-3-700 has a 5G antenna, a gain of 2-3 d if you’re looking for flexibilityTheBi and is on the 1700-2700 MHz and 694-960 MHz frequencies for LTE coverage.
Best 5G Options
If you’re looking for 5G options, we recommend the Taoglas Olympian II - G45, Airgain OMNIMAX Indoor Dipole Next, and the Parsec Husky 5G. These formidable antennas are robust and work on vehicles and other outdoor assets. They can also be used for digital signage, transportation, routers, and gateways.
The Olympian II - G45 can be mounted on plastic or metal, but you should mount it on a metal ground plane if you need the lower frequency bands. Customized connectors and cable lengths are available upon request.
The AP-Dipole-Next and Husky are both high-performance antennas that are perfect for wireless and mobile applications. The AP-Dipole-Next is great for indoor cellular modems, gateways, and modules, while the Husky works great for public safety, enterprise, and pole mount use.
To Wrap It Up
All in all, you need to consider several factors before deciding on the best antenna for you. After determining whether you need an indoor or outdoor antenna, you need to make sure the antenna you choose is compatible with all your devices, has suitable gain and frequency, and can stand up to the environmental conditions it will be placed in.
We hope our article has helped you pick out the antenna that fits your needs. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns about our antennas. We have mobile antennas, single-purpose antennas, and more.