Kathrein unveils multi-band, 8-port LTE antenna, aims to help carriers save time money in deployments

Kathrein is rolling out a new 8-port LTE antenna that it hopes will future-proof networks and save wireless carriers time and money by combining multiple future-looking spectrum bands into one antenna solution. The new antenna will also support the spectrum bands that will be used in the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), the interoperable public-safety broadband network.

According to data from ABI Research, Kathrein is the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of LTE antennas, and the company aims to get ahead of the curve in the U.S. LTE deployments with the antenna. The 8-port antenna solution will be available in the early part of 2016.

Kathrein's antenna supports 700 MHz LTE bands including FirstNet public safety Band 14 frequencies, 850 MHz, unpaired AWS-3 spectrum (1695-1710 MHz), AWS-4 (2180-2200) MHz, the 2.3 GHz WCS band (2300-2360 MHz) and the BRS band (2496-2690 MHz). The gear also supports continuously adjustable remote electrical tiling capabilities, with independent e-tilt adjustment for each band, including 700 MHz and 850 MHz.

In an interview with FierceInstaller, Jim Nevelle, president and CEO of Kathrein USA, said that this is the first time the company has embraced an 8-port antenna but will soon be rolling out a 12-port product. He also noted that such antennas are ideal for North American deployments, where carriers are using a range of different frequency bands, especially low-band and mid-band spectrum, for their LTE deployments. "These are the type of deployments that the North American carriers are looking for," Nevelle said.

Nevelle noted that "all of the carriers realize that their frequency allocations are going to change" as they acquire new spectrum like the AWS-3 band or move to new bands for LTE, as AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) intends to do with the 2.3 GHz WCS band. The new antennas also support Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) AWS-4 spectrum and the AWS-3 airwaves its partners won at auction, though Dish has not announced any concrete deployment plans.

As the number of spectrum bands that carriers support grows, he noted that carriers are asking "Where am I going to get the most bang for my buck? Can I use an antenna that covers all of the spectrum I might need, and that helps me look out a little farther?"

"The single-band antenna just doesn't work anymore," Nevelle added.  

Since it often takes six to nine months on average to settle on an antenna location and design, plan the deployment and secure the necessary permitting, Nevelle said carriers and their turf vendors and other deployment partners are increasingly thinking about which bands to include. Including numerous bands in a single antenna can lower capital expenditures, reduce antenna counts on towers and lets cell sites with lots of legacy antenna be upgraded to LTE. It also potentially could let tower owners add more antennas to existing sites and get additional site amendment revenue.   

Nevelle also said the 8-port antenna will be beneficial for public safety agencies that want to use FirstNet, since they can take advantage of not only their designated band but multiple other spectrum bands and existing infrastructure. FirstNet expects to have a final RFP for the network out by the end of this year or more likely by early next year. Nevelle said that over the next year or so it will become much clearer how the network will be deployed.

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