Currently, the implementation of the 5G wireless service across North America is underway. This improvement delivers the speed of a wired broadband network to wireless devices. The term “5G” simply means that this is the fifth version (Generation) of the wireless transmission standard being deployed, just as 4G was the fourth generation. In fact, many major cities already have 5G coverage in place, and carriers are busy rolling it out to smaller markets.
The big selling point for 5G is speed, since 4G tops out at a theoretical 100 megabits per second (Mbps), and 5G tops out at 10 gigabits per second (GPS). Essentially 5G is a hundred times faster than the current 4G technology. 5G is typically deployed between 6GHZ and 615 MHZ spectrum.
5G will allow law enforcement officers to access every aspect of their department’s data resources on their wirelessly connected smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers.
This effectively eliminates the data access dividing line between the office and the field. Officers will no longer need to wait for information in the field; they will have the same instant access and ability to deliver and receive mission-critical information. 5G services will also make it easier for officers to prepare and submit multimedia reports from anywhere, including photos, videos, and completed documentation.
This increase in efficiency will likely be welcomed with open arms but with that comes an increase in data. Think for a moment how large video files are, especially if every officer working a 12-hour shift is wearing a body camera and that video is uploaded to a server for storage. Does your agency have the infrastructure in place to service and support the increased storage, let alone does your current wireless provider have the bandwidth to allow the increase in data?
The benefits of digital technology on the road have provided fleet management with efficiencies, visibility, and control that have bolstered safety and strengthened mission-critical communications like never before. Police officers who interact via Computer-Aided Dispatch Systems, Records Management Systems, or Fingerprint and Mugshot systems can have greater flexibility when these systems are accessed outside the vehicle on their smartphones because 5G networks will be incredibly fast, even in areas with considerable demand and high concentrations of users.
Fleet Managers can also expect networks to be up to five times more responsive, which translates to minimal network delays and much less frustration. Pulling fleet data from a large fleet of vehicles will be immediate and without delay. Bandwidth will likely allow for even more vehicle information to be pulled from the vehicles and delivered in real-time. 5G also opens the door for Over the Air (OTA) software/firmware updates that previously might have been too big for cellular to handle.
Police Fleet Managers are beginning to understand that there is a whole new digital world beyond what our 4G networks have provided, and they are preparing to embrace the technology that comes along with 5G capacity. With current technologies paving the way for artificial intelligence (AI) vehicles, smart infrastructure, and products, many in Public Safety believe that 5G networks could be the impetus for unprecedented transformation.
5G is a complete redesign of network infrastructure with antenna ranges much smaller than current 4G antennas and towers. This is accounted for by using “Microcells” mounted on buildings, telephone poles, and any other existing infrastructure. This makes the upfitting of police vehicles very important moving forward over the next few years. High-quality, well-grounded antennas will affect the future of 5G for fleets because of the need to “hit” all these microcells. Careful selection must be undertaken to ensure you have the best-tuned antenna for your data needs and as well as the wireless networks in your area.
Agencies with primarily urban responsibility require different antennas compared to rural agencies that might not have the same density of 5G microcells for coverage. Then you must consider antennas with maximum range or range doubling capability. Power loss with 5G is also something you need to be aware of, as shortening distances between antennas and modems is now more important than ever.
Having a heads-up as to what the networks in your area are moving to over the next few years will pay dividends even for your vehicles being upfitted now. Vehicles being built up today should be future-proofed with 5G capability, ensuring all possible spectrum is covered in case things change with wireless carriers in your area. Anything being installed today should also be backward compatible with 4G and 3G.
You also need to consider proper ground plane; the roof is always better than the trunk, but what other electronics are broadcasting on your vehicle’s roof? Another consideration is keeping everything in one place, drill one hole in the roof, not three or four. A good multipurpose low-profile antenna allows for everything through one hole in the roof.
The Public Safety vehicle antenna market has advanced tremendously over the past few years. The major players in the antenna business all make very good products, so you just need to pick the one that covers all your current and future 5G requirements.
Airgain offers a broad and expanding portfolio of Automotive, Fleet, Public Safety, and M2M antennas. Their high-performance, low-profile antennas are designed for many wireless standards and frequencies, including LTE and 5G cellular with MIMO, WiFi 6, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), and GPS/GNSS. Designed for all environments, their broad range of highly integrated and multi-band products support a variety of applications from kiosk and ATM connectivity to government and public safety vehicular applications. Airgain has over 26 years of experience designing mission-critical automotive fleet and mobile antenna applications. As the original inventor of the low-profile cellular antenna, they are known for their market-leading performance, quality, and long product life. Their antennas build on the best-in-class RF performance, leading design features, and extended operational life of our highly successful fleet and public safety antenna products connecting to almost any vehicular router or modem.
Airgain believes the adoption of 5G will ramp up significantly on a global basis, including in Public Safety networks in the United States. According to ABI Research, 25 percent of network traffic will be 5G by 2023. 5G antenna systems are more complex and highly integrated since they need to support complex active architectures for new configurations, and new frequency block allocations. This shift in antenna complexity and integration enables Airgain to leverage their expertise and antenna performance, including integration between the antenna and the RF front end, to enhance the performance of their 5G antenna solutions.
In 2020, Airgain launched CENTURION™ Next, the first of the 5G family with WiFi 6 support, as part of the 5G refresh of their Antenna Plus fleet antenna product lines. For international markets, Airgain obtained their first European compliance qualification in 2020, opening the door to the distribution of their 5G-capable fleet and M2M antenna products.
At the start of this year in January 2021, Airgain announced the release of MULTIMAX® Next 5G antennas for the fleet vehicle market. This product is designed with both 6-in-1 and 5-in-1 configurations to deliver the best-in-class performance supporting dual MIMO LTE and 5G bands (includes Band 14, CBRS, and Band 71), 2×2 MIMO WiFi 6E, multi-constellation GNSS, and external whip connector for applications including LMR and Tetra, all in a sleek and compact enclosure.
This antenna checks all the boxes for public safety organizations wanting to invest in a 5G antenna designed to address the next generation of cellular and WiFi technology. These antennas come in either black or white and are available in custom configurations and with optional accessories, supporting North American and international market applications.
Also in January of 2021, Airgain released AirgainConnect® AC-HPUE for FirstNet® and the public safety market. This flagship platform is a game-changer for public safety fleets and plays a pivotal role in Airgain’s automotive offering for next-generation WiFi 6 and 5G. The first product from the AirgainConnect platform is the FirstNet Ready™ HPUE antenna-modem, targeting vehicles used by first responders like Police, Fire, EMS, and Public Safety support vehicles.
The AirgainConnect AC-HPUE antenna-modem includes an integrated high-power LTE modem supporting the 3GPP band, 14 High Power User Equipment output power functionality. This compact vehicle antenna-modem solution tightly couples essential LTE radio components with the antenna system to provide improved connectivity for public safety and fleet vehicles certified for use on FirstNet, built with AT&T. The Airgain Connect AC-HPUE more than doubles the range of existing solutions, a result of its ability to transmit 10 times the power of existing solutions today. The incremental power improves the ability to communicate reliably in challenging environments including dense urban areas, underground garages and tunnels, and it provides a significant advantage for first responders in poor signal coverage areas like rural areas or mountain ranges.
This high-power device bundles the modem and antennas into a compact housing that is placed on the roof of Public Safety vehicles. The patented design eliminates the coax cables between the modem in the vehicle and the antenna on the roof that is typical of a conventional configuration. This elimination of power loss, plus the added power of HPUE, results in the greatest coverage possible for First Responders. The natural evolution for this product is to add 5G capability in 2021.
Panorama Antennas Ltd., a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance RF antennas, is located in London, UK. Founded in 1947 and a family business now in its third generation. Based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Panorama Antennas Inc. has been the United States subsidiary to Panorama Antennas since 2010.
Panorama Antennas offer a comprehensive range of high-performance antenna solutions designed with First Responders in mind that support all cellular bands including 600MHz LTE Band 71 and FirstNet LTE Band 14.
In 2020, Panorama Antennas unveiled two brand-new 600-6000MHz wideband antenna series: Great White® 5G and Mako® 5G.
The Great White® 5G and MAKO® 5G are designed to provide 2×2 MiMo 4G/5G LTE performance from 617-960/1710-6000MHz in a robust low-profile package, the Great White®5G offers increased reliability, throughput, and capability. The MAKO® 5G range has been designed to provide 4×4 MiMo 4G/5G LTE performance from 617-960/1710-6000MHz in a new distinctive designed, robust, low-profile housing.
The flexible platform of both antenna series allows the main cellular elements to be combined with a number of other functions including GPS/GNSS and up to 6×6 MiMo WiFi 2.4/5.8/7.1GHz. The GPS module, which also supports Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou with 26dB LNA gain and advanced filtering for LTE B13/14 designed to minimize potential in-band interference, making it an ideal solution for today’s high-tech Public Safety and Fleet environments.
The Great White® 5G and The MAKO® 5G are available in black or white housings, which meet IK10 for vandal resistance and IP69K for ingress protection. Delivering reliable and robust performance with enhanced aesthetics, both series allow for single hole mounting and reduce vehicle damage, installation time, and cost.
Supplied with integrated flame-retardant cables (compliant to UNECE 118.01 and EN45545-2) and a halogen-free flame-retardant housing, the Great White® 5G and MAKO® 5G are versatile products suitable for many environments and applications.
Panorama also announced that they will be releasing their brand-new MiMo Sharkee® 5G in Q1 2021, the latest generation of Panorama’s highly popular SharkFin automotive-style combination antenna range.
The MiMo Sharkee® 5G offers 2x ultra-wideband 617-960 / 1710-6000MHz cellular antenna elements thus covering all 4G/5G LTE spectrum frequencies worldwide, including LTE Bands 42 and 71. Alongside this, the MiMo Sharkee® 5G adopts up to 4x dual-band WiFi covering 2.4GHz and 5.0-7.1GHz bands and the latest in GPS/GNSS technology with advanced band noise filtering. Similar to The Great White® 5G and MAKO ®5G, The MiMo Sharkee®5G enables all the communication functions to be performed by a single product installation with a single hole mount on the vehicle roof. The MiMo Sharkee® 5G is designed to fit within the roof rib lines on certain major vehicle manufacturers or can be swapped out on most vehicles with the existing roof antenna. Within the product family is a version that allows for an external whip too – therefore accommodating VHF or UHF voice radio to be used through the single antenna or AM/FM radio function.
The MiMo Sharkee® 5G housing accommodates a boot mount gasket for better sealing, uses heavy-duty plastic for resilient use, conductive pads on the underside of the antenna for a better grounding, and it also holds the stringent test certificate of IP66. The wideband cellular antenna elements are highly efficient with >12dB isolation and offer between 5-9dBi peak gain, the GPS / GNSS module has advanced filtering for LTE Band 13/14 operations while allowing for connectivity to GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, and Galileo satellite systems. The WiFi elements are also WiFi 6 ready for the latest technology. The MiMoSharkee® 5G also features UN118 compliant cable assemblies, which are demanded by the automotive vehicle sector.
One of the main complexities and costs for Fleet Managers in catering for additional or new frequencies is not the purchase but the initial installation of antennas and equipment required. In addition, the time out of service for the vehicle in question is an expense. With this in mind, Laird Connectivity has developed a wide range of multi-port antenna products designed to reduce the complexity and time required at the installation stage.
The Gar and Barracuda family of antennas has excellent symmetrical omnidirectional patterns for optimum ‘Around-the-Car’ coverage from an extremely low-profile and aerodynamic antenna. These antennas are configured for Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) operations but are also capable of up to six Single-In-Single-Out (SISO) configurations or a combination of both MIMO and SISO operations. This makes them a very versatile tool for reducing the overall number of antennas required on a fleet vehicle.
Gar antennas are available in 5, 4, 3, and 2 port configurations with a variety of port types to support the specific needs of customers. The models include:
• The Gar 5-port with 2 cellular ports, 2 WiFi ports, and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFP69383x22JN)
• The Gar 4-port with 2 cellular ports, 1 WiFi port, and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFQ69383x21JN)
• The Gar 3-port with 2 cellular port and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFT69383x2NJN)
• The Gar 3-port with 1 cellular port, 1 WiFi port, and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFT69383x11JN)
• The Gar 2-port with 1 cellular port and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFD69383x1NJN)
The Barracuda family has the same form factor as the Gar but adds a Whip, antenna enabling either a third port for WiFi (operating over the low-/high-frequency WiFi bands) or UHF. Barracuda models are available in 6 and 4 port configurations:
• The Barracuda 6-port with 2 cellular ports, 3 WiFi ports, and 1 GNSS port (Model #VFH69383B23JW)
• The Barracuda 6-port with 1 UHF port, 2 cellular ports, 2 WiFi ports, and 1 GNSS port (Model #VFH69383x22JU)
• The Barracuda 4-port with 1 UHF port, 2 cellular ports, and 1 GNSS port (Model # VFQ69383x2NJU-518S)
This multi-port approach means that a single low-profile antenna, requiring a single thru-hole for installation, can cater up to six channels on the vehicle’s router, allowing for both communication and tracking/location of a vehicle.
For larger vehicles or purely for tracking, Laird Connectivity has developed a range of GNSS antennas including 3, 4, and 5 multiport puck antennas. The low profile and rugged range of antennas can be used for SISO or multi-port MIMO applications and are available with a range of port and connector options:
• GNS1559MPF – 1 Port: GNSS
• VHP69273x22J – 5 Port: 3G/4G LTE x 2, WiFi x 2, GNSS x 1
• VLQ69273x21J – 4 Port: 3G/4G LTE x 2, WiFi x 1, GNSS x 1
• VLT69273x2NJ – 3 Port: 3G/4G LTE x 2, GNSS x 1
• VMJ24493x – 3 Port: WiFi x 2, GNSS x 1
• VLT69273x11J – 3 Port: 3G/4G LTE x 1, WiFi x 1, GNSS x 1
All of the antennas listed above are IP67 rated, low-profile, high-performance, and designed for a single-hole mount. Along with Laird Connectivity’s unique 5-year product warranty, they offer reliable performance in the harshest of environments.
As well as reducing installation time and expense the multi-port antenna approach also reduces the ‘real estate’ required on a vehicle’s roof or trunk. With a single antenna replacing up to six individual antennas the likelihood of damage to multiple antennas and therefore future maintenance or repair work is vastly reduced. This offers Fleet Operators’ significant advantages for both retrofit of the existing fleet and in the initial fit-out of new fleet vehicles.
This large range of multi-port antennas complements the comprehensive portfolio of industry-leading, rugged, and reliable two-way radio antennas for critical public safety applications including:
• Patented low-profile Phantom™ Series Solutions
• Full-spectrum VHF, UHF, 700/800/900 MHz, and multiband vehicular antennas
• High-performance omnidirectional whip antennas
• Permanent, magnetic, and shock-absorbing mounting options
One of the final and most important considerations when upgrading or replacing your antennas and routers is to engage with your suppliers. The placement or siting of an antenna on a vehicle, for example, can drastically affect performance for the better or worse. Laird Connectivity has decades of experience and dedicated support teams who will be able to advise Fleet Operators on the correct placement of antennas for a particular vehicle. Even small differences such as the thickness of the metal to which the antenna is being fixed can affect antenna performance, both inside the car and outside for body-worn or portable communication devices that depend on the vehicle as a communications hub.
Laird Connectivity simplifies wireless connectivity with market-leading modules, antennas, IoT devices, and customer-specific wireless solutions. Laird is the Antenna Authority, whose products are trusted by companies around the world for their performance and reliability. With best-in-class support and comprehensive product development services, Laird can reduce your risk and improve your time-to-market. When you need unmatched wireless performance to connect your applications with security and confidence, Laird Connectivity delivers.
PCTEL 5G READY ANTENNA SOLUTIONS
5G is here to transform industries. PCTEL offers high-performance antenna solutions that provide you with the reliable connectivity needed in the 5G transformation of multiple cellular carriers and WiFi networks. We offer a variety of antennas that feature two 5G elements compatible with the world’s leading cellular routers supporting 600 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies. Our 5G-ready combination antennas help you increase efficiency and coverage.
PCTEL’s purpose-designed footprint antenna platform allows seamless installation on leading public-safety sports utility vehicles with narrow ridged rooftops, supporting the high-speed requirements of complex RF communication systems used for critical communications in FirstNet® public safety and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).
The BMLPV5000 low-profile vertical antenna supports the high-speed requirements of complex RF communication systems used for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), and IIoT applications. This antenna supports the world’s leading 5G NR devices supporting frequencies from 600 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies. It features an attractive, compact housing that makes the antenna ideal for indoor or outdoor applications requiring minimum visibility to the antenna. PCTEL’s high-efficiency permanent mount is recommended for the most efficient performance.
PCTEL’s cabinet mount combination antenna offers optimal cellular, WiFi, and GNSS coverage. It is a multi-band, multi-port combination antenna in a single impact-resistant housing. Its design includes proprietary high-rejection GNSS technology for optimal performance and support of multi-carrier voice and data networks.
Coach™ II Platform
The Coach™ II advanced 5G FRI antenna platform supports the high-speed requirements of RF communication systems used for ITS and Industrial IoT. The platform incorporates WiFi MIMO, four dual-band WiFi elements, and proprietary high-rejection multi-GNSS technology.
Solving Complex Wireless Challenges
PCTEL is a leading global provider of wireless technology, including purpose-built Industrial IoT devices, antenna systems, and test and measurement solutions. Trusted by customers for over 25 years, they solve complex wireless challenges to help organizations stay connected, transform, and grow.
Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 30-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He was an eight-year member of the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at email@example.com.