I had a front row seat on the development of a very unique MIMO 2G/3G/4G/LTE/XLTE antenna for fixed-point cellular connectivity. What has been created, and is currently in pre-production is a slim line MIMO antenna assembly that has been designed to easily fit on the top of a NEMA utility cabinet, or other type of enclosure, requiring that only one hole be drilled, not two. As I have blogged about previously, in order to optimize the speeds of an LTE antenna, there needs to be two antenna fixtures attached to the LTE router/gateway/modem. That is because LTE is a true “multiple-in-multiple out” technology and requires two fixtures to be in use simultaneously for an optimized performance. In the past, with 3G cellular network devices, I really did not advocate for the diversity antenna for every installation. In the 3G world, the addition of the diversity antenna meant a very incremental change in connectivity that was not always noticeable in real-world performance for the router or gateway. However, having seen extensive bench tests showing the differences in speeds and feeds for LTE routers using one antenna versus two antennas, the clear answer is that two antennas make very noticeable difference in performance. Below see pictures of the new antenna and how it has been carefully designed to take up very little real estate when mounted. The narrow, oblong shape of this LTE antenna allows for this antenna to mount to the top of most standard NEMA enclosures or environmental cabinets used by utility companies and other energy companies. This single device can replace the current status quo, which is mounting two “stubby” or “salt and pepper shaker” form factor antennas. This is an early look at this device, which will be made available by Mobile Mark. Once the costing has been formalized and a part number has been assigned, the antenna will be made available. For now an engineering sample can be ordered using the part number EDN324. If interested, make an inquiry here referencing that part.
Although the new Sierra Wireless AirLink GX450 was known to be in the works for some time, the Sierra Wireless product team packed in some surprises when they released it. For instance, a month in advance, It was common knowledge that the new unit would support AWS/XLTE. It was also a well known fact that the GX450 would support, come Q3 2015, carrier delineation by software (when the ALEOS upgrade that will make it possible is released). What a boon to all! One GX450, in a few months, will be able to be either VZW, Sprint or AT&T. Telecom managers everywhere are rejoicing at this prospect! However, no one knew about the big surprise: the fact that Sierra Wireless was releasing the GX450 device with a 3 year warranty instead of a 5 year warranty. The option to buy a full 5 year uplift exists, but the standard warranty term is now 3 years.
“Wait a minute! Doesn’t Sierra Wireless AirLink stand behind their product any more?” some readers may be asking. Well that was my first impulse as well, until I looked carefully at the price-points. The price for the GX450 WITH the full 5 year warranty is the same as the GX440 with the 5 year warranty. The price for the GX450 with the 3 year warranty is $100 less than the GX440. Now this makes sense. While many critical infrastructure clients expect a 5-7 year lifecycle out of their cellular gateways, some clientele in the M2M space who are more attuned to “speeds and feeds” than the SCADA crowd, cycle their units in 2-3 years. So Sierra Wireless AirLink is making a play for that demographic. That only makes sense as IOT and a whole new world of applications for cellular gateways emerges on the horizon.
Check out the specifications for the new, Verizon Wireless LTE/XLTE Sierra Wireless GX450 (part number 1102326) here.
I have heard, from the engineers that I work with, XLTE disparaged as a “marketing term.” However, for the record, I find it is aptly named–as it is, indeed, extra LTE spectrum that Verizon wireless is building out to enhance their current 4G network. In markets where standard LTE performance is hindered as the network hits “critical mass,” Verizon in adding AWS to its bag of tricks so that the overall user experience will be better across the board. Does XLTE matter to ever user, everywhere? No. Does XLTE add more bandwidth in markets that risk saturation? Yes. All, in all, good for VZW for rolling out XLTE. But now on to the practical nuts-and-bolts matters involved in wireless solution building. As more companies begin to evaluate whether to start testing modems, cellular gateways and cellular routers that incorporate the AWS XLTE spectrum it is good to know a source for antennas that cover the 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and XLTE (AWS) bands. XLTE rubber duck dipole antennas, mini rubber ducks dipole antennas, and two high-gain mast antennas that support XLTE can be procured here. At our test bench in a very small city, we were surprised to discover, when testing these AWS band antennas, that XLTE had already reached us.