Sector Antennas 101: Horns


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Sector antennas for WISP networks have a lot of parameters. Horns are excellent sector antennas for 5 GHz unlicensed networks, why is that? We dive into the details of horn antenna technology here.

But what makes an antenna a great sector antenna? In 5 GHz unlicensed networks, it is noise suppression capability, stable gain across whole useful spectrum, appropriate gain, wide bandwidth, stability of radiation pattern across the whole band, durability & reliability, ease of deployment and the list goes on.. But let's look at horns now.

As everything, even horns have their pros and cons. The advantages of horn antennas are:

1. Zero side lobes radiation pattern - opposed to traditional patch array sector antennas, horns can achieve high Beam efficiency values.

2. Flexible beam width - horn antenna design is very flexible. By adjusting the shape of the antenna body length and aperture shape, various antennas can be designed. For example, RF elements horns have beam widths from 30° to 90° with 10 degree steps and gain variations from 18 to 9 dBi. Wide range of horns is the ultimate antenna toolset for unlicensed 5 GHz WISP networks that let you optimize the network coverage.

3. Frequency stability - horns have stable maximum gain as well as the rest of the radiation pattern over the whole useful frequency band. This property is important for impeccable user experience - your customers will enjoy stable and reliable internet connection, if you use horn antenna sectors.

4. Coverage pattern - various shapes of horn sectors' radiation pattern let you cover all types of scenarios and landscapes. Symmetrical Horns for high customer density and all types of landscapes (especially mountainous), Asymmetrical Horns for mid- to low-density of customer locations and flat to mildly hilly landscapes, UltraHorn for point to point links or narrow sector applications.

The drawbacks of horn antenna technology can be summed up to two main points. First is the manufacturing cost - horns are typically manufactured as a custom device, which makes them expensive. Nevertheless, at RF elements we optimized the production process of horns to a degree that enables mass production and maintain high quality standard at the same time. Second, the maximum gain horn antennas can have is limited by the physics of these antennas. Also, scaling horn antennas for higher gain makes their volume grow, as opposed to patch arrays. Nevertheless, in WISP networks high gain is really not necessary. In fact, ideally, the gain of any (CPE or AP) antenna should be as small as link budget allows.

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