Antenna Buying Guide from Algarve Connect - improve your existing mobile internet connection
Updated January 2016 - due to Popular demand here are our wideband (3G and 4G) external antenna recommendations:
If you want a more straightforward - "which antenna should I buy" - then check out our antenna selector page by clicking below:
3G or 4G Aerial/Antenna?
You will notice some antennas specify supporting one or both mobile internet technologies. The easiest way to explain this is that 3G and 4G signals operate in different signals bands - every aerial that Algarve Connect supply is capable of supporting all 3G AND 4G bands, we feel this is important in future-proofing your purchase. You may only currently be able to get a 3G signal however, in the future when 4G equipment is installed into your nearest cell tower, if you buy the right aerials now then you wont have to reinvest in the future.
It is important to note that to achieve a full 4G signal you either need 2 aerials OR an aerial that contains 2 elements - see MiMO information below.
Stands for "Multiple In, Multiple Out". The simplest way to think about this is, by using multiple antennas you are able to achieve a higher data throughput, in English this equals faster internet. This MiMo concept (and a few other techie network changes) form the concept for the fast internet speeds achievable on the 4G network.
What does this mean to you? Users with a 4G router will notice you have 2 external antenna connectors so, to achieve a full 4G signal, you will either need 2 antennas OR an antenna with 2 elements inside a single housing (like XPOL-A0001 and XPOL-A0002):
The same applies to users with a 4G USB dongle - it SHOULD have 2 plugs for connecting 2 external aerials - if your dongle doesnt have any external connectors you may need to consider one of our adapters (click here for more info):
These terms relate to the way the antenna picks up the surrounding mobile internet signal. Directional aerials will focus there operation in a narrow range whereas Onmi-Directional 3G and 4G aerials will pick up signal from all around.
You will notice that directional antennas often have a higher "gain" value - basically they amplify the signal in a stronger way however, if not facing the correction direction or have numerous obstructions, they can often give you LESS signal. You will only see the true value of a directional antenna where you have a clear line of sight to the nearest cell base station. Luckily due to the topology of the Algarve, many of us are able to clearly see our nearest mobile phone masts. If this is your situation then you could consider a directional antenna as long as it is mounted directly facing the cell base station.
OnmiDirectional antennas will provide an excellent improvement in signal for anyone living in a more built up town or village where buildings, trees, telephone poles etc will interfere with the mobile internet signal. These antennas will gather all the signal possible from all directions and you will be amazed at the difference in your 3G/4G internet speeds. Omnidirectional aerials also provide the best margin for error when it comes to DIY antenna installation - if in doubt, get an Omni (or 2!). Omni aerials are also to be considered in non-permanent installations (ie users with a USB dongle attached to a laptop etc) or where an aerial is going to be installed inside a building.
The only exception to the above is where you are a VERY long way from the nearest cell base station and your only option is to use the highest gain directional antenna to try to amplify the signal as much as possible to get useable mobile internet reception. Also where you need a VERY long cable from antenna to the router - you will lose signal in the cable so your antenna must start out with the strongest signal possible. These are more complicated situations so please contact us for more information.
Full Function Router or USB Dongle?
Here the consideration comes down to useability. Users who have the USB dongle/Card connected to a laptop might find a smaller puck or blade antenna more suitable as it is more portable than a larger antenna and can be carried around and positioned with the laptop as necessary.
Users who have a "full size" 3G/4G router (either built-in SIM or connecting a USB dongle) installed in a permanent location will be able to consider a larger, higher performance aerial that can be installed in the best position in the property and the low signal loss cables connected into the router.
In an ideal world everyone would have their antenna attached on the top of their buildings. This gives the best possible line of sight to the cell base station with less interference from other buildings, trees, etc.
Mounting an antenna on the roof is not always possible. The second best option would be to mount the antenna externally on a wall - this maybe more convenient as a good size step ladder can be used rather than having to work on top of a 3-storey Portuguese townhouse. If mounting the antenna on an external wall then select the wall that faces your mobile phone cell base station (you can find the rough direction using a smartphone app called OpenSignal read more here).
For the simplest installation you could also select a 3G/4G antenna that is capable of being mounted on a window (like the XPOL-A0001). The window glass presents far less an obstacle for the mobile signal so, if you select a window facing the cell base station, it will be a similar effect to mounting on an external wall.
If a less intrusive solution is desired or you are looking to increase the signal from a 3G/4G dongle or card then using a smaller form antenna like a puck or a blade antenna inside will still produce a nice increase in reception versus the USB dongle built-in antenna
A large amount of signal can potentially be lost from the antenna in the cable. For this reason all our 3G and 4G antennas from Algarve Connect come with high quality low-loss cable. If you need an adapter into a USB Dongle or Card then keep the pigtail as short as possible to avoid signal loss.