Does outdoor antenna increase the speed of LTE?

Wireless Internet access via cellular networks is an increasingly popular service. The growing popularity of this service among subscribers is the result of mobility, higher throughputs and lower prices. The absolute highlight is LTE technology that enables the achievement of data rates similar to those in landline /cable or WiFi networks.
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a mobile network technology that can enable theoretical download speed (in radio layer) of 150 Mbps with a channel width of 20 MHz.
LTE technology is flexible both in the terms of the frequency range and bandwidth of the transmission channel. LTE networks can operate in frequency bands from 700 MHz (non-urbanized areas - longer range) to 2.6 GHz (metropolitan areas - higher capacity). An important element of LTE is MIMO technology (Multiple Input Multiple Output) increasing transmission efficiency by employing multiple antennas on both ends of the transmission links.

LTE Advanced
LTE Advanced is a further extension of the LTE standard. Owners of devices compatible with LTE-A can theoretically reach transfers up to 300 Mbps, which is possible by aggregation of several frequency bands.
The download speed up to 300 Mbps and upload speed up to 50 Mbps is enabled by the connection of two bands in different frequency ranges, for example in the 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz frequency ranges. LTE Advanced uses 20 MHz wide bands in the LTE FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) standard, with division of the bands between the download and upload channels.

Outdoor antenna
In many cases where the mobile device is at a longer distance from the base station or is shadowed by various obstacles there are problems with adequate signal strength. Usually the problems can be solved by connecting the modem to a suitable external/outdoor antenna. Sometimes such an antenna can also be used for the improvement of the communication with a concrete base station offering e.g. the advantages of LTE-A standard. In each case it is important to buy broadband antennas that can operate in the "old" and "new" LTE bands and can provide the advantages of band aggregation.
ATK-LOG ALP LTE MIMO 2x2 800-3000MHz A7054_5
ATK-LOG LTE MIMO 800-2170MHz A7056_5
TRANS-DATA LTE KPZ 6/8 MIMO 806-2700 MHz A741022
The most popular broadband antennas for improving connectivity in LTE bands
Before choosing an external antenna, the user should check out parameters of the signal received by the LTE modem. Usually it can be done by running a network diagnostic panel offered by the software of the router or modem. The parameters should be compared with the values shown below.
  • RSRP (dBm) - (Reference Signal Receive Power) - measure of the signal strength.
    • more than -79 dBm - very good signal strength,
    • from -80 dBm to -90 dBm - good signal strength,
    • from -91 dBm to -100 dBm - poor signal strength. Need for an outdoor antenna or finding a better location of the modem
    • less than -100 dBm - very poor signal strength. It is necessary to use an outdoor antenna
  • RSRQ (dB) - (Reference Signal Received Quality) - measure of the signal quality.
    • more than -9 dB - very good,
    • from -10 dB to -15 dB - good,
    • from -16 dB to -20 dB - bad. Need for an outdoor antenna or finding a better location of the modem
    • less than -20 dB - very bad It is necessary to use an outdoor antenna
  • SINR (dB) - (Signal to Interference plus Noise Ratio) - measure of signal quality with respect to interference.
    • more than 21 dB - very good,
    • from 13 dB to 20 dB - good,
    • from 0 dB to 12 dB - bad. It is necessary to use an outdoor antenna
    • less than 0 dB - very bad.It is necessary to use an outdoor antenna
  • RSSI - Received Signal Strength Indicator
    • more than -73 dBm - very good,
    • from -75 dBm to -85 dBm - good,
    • from -87 dBm to -93 dBm - bad. Need for an outdoor antenna or finding a better location of the modem
    • less than -95 dBm - very bad. It is necessary to use an outdoor antenna
When a modem does not offer such software, the signal strength can often be estimated on the basis of the LED/LCD indicator of the device.
Signal strength
Unit Range/level idication
-105...-100 dBm 0
-100...-95 dBm 1
-95...-90 dBm 2
-90...-85 dBm 3
<-85 dBm 4
The role of an outdoor antenna for the LTE speed
It often happens that, despite very good LTE signal level, the transmission speed is unsatisfactory. In this case, one should use an external antenna, and direct it to another base station (often poor rates are associated with a large number of users connected to a single base station).
Another way to increase the speed is to check whether the service provider offers LTE-Advanced service in the area. Of course, the user has to be equipped with a modem supporting this standard.
Sometimes there are problems with the LTE-A service associated with the communication of the modem with an improper base station. Simply, the modem communicates with the "strongest" base station that does not operate in LTE-A standard. To solve this problem, the user should learn (from the operator) where there is the nearest base station working in the LTE-A technology with band aggregation (preferably located in the opposite direction to the nearest/strongest base station that does not support LTE-A).
In the case study the user had been equipped with LTE-A modem but the highest download speed was at the level of 10 Mbps and upload speed reached only 1Mbps. The reason was that the modem communicated with base station not supporting LTE-A standard. The situation is presented in the map below.
A situational map - the arrangement of base stations relative to the user's location
The modem of the user connected to the base station located in the west, which did not support LTE-A and the data rates were unsatisfactory. The speed increased dramatically after the application of an external antenna, which was directed to the base station in the south-east. The station of the same operator works in LTE-A standard with band aggregation.
View of the outdoor A741022 LTE antenna that solved the problem
The increase of the data rates is shown in the screenshot below. The test has been made with the use of the website.
Speed tests after the installation of the LTE A741022 antenna