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Installer Insights 05: Dome vs. Panel Antennas

Installer Insights 05: Dome vs. Panel Antennas

installer insights 5

Installer Insights is a bi-weekly article series provided by industry experts & professionals of residential and commercial cellular DAS and WiFi installations and integrations. This week features the returning Josh Milsop, who remains a retired marine and star chef. He makes a mean soufflé.
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Hi again everyone, today we are going to cover the eternal question faced when installing cell phone signal boosters: dome, or panel antenna?

What is a Dome or Panel Antenna?

These are terms used to differentiate indoor antennas, based on the shape of the antenna. However, it would be more accurate to call a dome antenna an indoor omnidirectional antenna, and a panel an indoor directional antenna. As you know if you’ve been following this series, a signal booster works by snatching outdoor signal, amplifying it, then rebroadcasting it within a confined space. These antennas make up the third crucial component of that process.

That’s Nice, But What’s the Difference for Me?

If you buy a signal booster, you’ll be buying an indoor antenna - the only difference is which you buy. Several manufacturers kit their boosters with panel antennas only, but often a dome can actually be the better option. There are several considerations to take into account when choosing between a dome and a panel antenna.

Installers look at several factors when determining what kind of indoor antenna to use. First, what is the shape of the room you’re looking to cover? If it’s long and narrow, a panel antenna could be your best choice. If it’s a typical office space, dome antennas are likely your best option.

Second, there are cable runs to consider. How easy is it to run cable to the spot you’re looking to place an antenna? Is it a drop tile ceiling, or a crawlspace? Does the cable route require long and difficult pathways in order to mount a dome antenna when it might be easier to mount a panel antenna along a wall? Knowing these before buying can save you money and increase signal strength.

Third, how high is your ceiling? If it’s above 25 feet, a dome antenna starts to lose a lot of its benefits. That’s because dome antennas radiate signal outwards and becomes weaker the farther away they are, so with very high ceilings we tend to prefer panel.

dome low profile dome antennas

Fourth, aesthetics can be a concern. Your basic dome antenna (the teardrop) is a little bit of an eyesore, and while there’s an upgraded “low profile” version, that does come with a slightly higher price tag than your average panel antenna.

Finally, panel antennas are directional, so they project their signal in a pretty confined range. Earlier I mentioned panels being better for a hallway - that’s because they don’t radiate the signal they provide outwards, rather, they project it forward in a line. Dome antennas are almost always a better option in wide open spaces, because there are no dead zones that way.

What Else Should I Know?

One more thing to know is the gain each type of antenna provides. Gain is an important factor if you have weak outside signal. Any designer worth their salt will plan to optimize the outside signal to the best of their ability using antennas with stronger gain if the scenario allows it. This is also known as a “Link Budget” which we will cover in coming weeks.

panel antenna wilson

That said, panel antennas (being directional) give higher gain than dome antennas, clocking at around +9 dBm of gain. Dome antennas, being omnidirectional, have less gain (roughly +5 dBm for a normal dome, +7 dBm for a low profile).

Which Should I Get?

The reality is, it’s impossible for anyone to give a hard and fast answer to that question. Depending on your circumstances, one is usually better than the other. You can also mix and match dome and panel antennas to fit your specific situation.

For a free floor plan analysis (up to 75,000 sq. ft), click here.

That’s it! Hopefully you have somewhat of a better understanding of what antennas we might recommend for you. Thanks for reading.

Josh Milsop
12th Dec 2018

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