Quick guide to external 5G mobile broadband antennas

23 April 2020

AF9E 5G antennae

5G home broadband is now freely available in the UK, offering a genuine alternative to fixed broadband packages. Connectivity can still be an issue, however, which is a where an external 5G mobile broadband antenna can come in useful. Here’s the lowdown on what to look out for.

5G home broadband services can offer a genuine alternative to traditional fixed line broadband, with the same or better speeds and none of the logistical headaches. But sometimes your 5G router could benefit from a little extra help.

Attaching an external 5G mobile broadband antenna to your 5G router can dramatically boost your internet performance if you’re struggling to get a clean signal.

Here’s a brief primer on external 5G mobile broadband antennas, and a few tips to keep in mind when shopping for one.

5G Coverage Checker

Find out which networks have launched 5G in your area, or when it is coming to your area.

What is an external 5G mobile broadband antenna?

An external 5G mobile broadband antenna is a small antenna that plugs directly into your 5G router. As the name suggests, it then tends to be mounted to the outside of your property - preferably nice and high up - where it will serve to boost the mobile signal to your home.

Why might this be necessary?

Opting for a high speed mobile network connection for your home broadband can be a viable alternative to fixed broadband. And with 5G home broadband now a possibility, you don’t even need to make any compromises when it comes to speed or latency.

There are potential pitfalls with a mobile broadband solution, however. Your property might not get a strong signal due to proximity, while interference from other signals and physical obstructions like buildings (a particular issue with 5G) can also hamper your home broadband performance.

5G networks are designed to overcome these limitations by employing lots of small signal relays rather than a single large emitter. But signal disruptions will still occur - especially this early on in the 5G revolution where the infrastructure is still being built out.

In such cases where you’re struggling with a poor connection for your 5G home broadband package, an external antenna can be the best solution.

Before you buy

Before you commit to the idea of buying an external 5G mobile broadband antenna, it’s worth running a couple of practical tests. First, eliminate the possibility that it’s the connection between your device(s) and your 5G router that’s actually at fault.

Do this by closing the gap between the two. If this fixes your connection problem, then you know you need to boost your Wi-Fi signal rather than your 5G signal, and that an external antenna is not the answer.

Also, take a look at the positioning of your 5G router. Is it possible to move this at all, preferably higher and closer to a window? If so, you might find that this will positively impact the strength of your 5G signal without the need to invest in an external antenna.

Check your port selection

If you’ve confirmed that you need an external 5G mobile broadband antenna, check with the manufacturer of your 5G router that the model actually supports such an extension. Most do, but not all.

Suitable routers will typically utilise 2×2 MIMO, which will mean that they feature two external antenna ports. You can either buy two separate antennas or a dual antenna system that will plug into both of these.

Also make sure that the antenna uses the same connection type (typically TS–9 or SMA). You can buy a simple and cheap set of adaptors to bridge the gap if you do find yourself with a mismatch, however.

What’s the frequency?

When buying your 5G mobile broadband antenna, note which frequencies it supports. These need to match up with those employed by your 5G network provider in your area. Here in the UK, at the time of writing, 5G connectivity currently operates exclusively around the 3.4GHz frequency for all four major network operators.

Directional or omni-directional?

There are two basic types of external antenna: directional and omni-directional. The difference is pretty self-explanatory - a directional antenna will receive signals strongly (also know as higher gain) in a single direction, while an omni-directional antenna will receive moderately well from all directions.

As you might assume, omni-directional is the safest bet for most people, as you’ll be more likely to get a signal, and won’t be overly reliant on a single source. However, those in rural locations who aren’t necessarily blessed with an abundance of strong signal sources might be better served going directional.

External 5G mobile broadband antenna quick pick

As long as you follow the above guidelines, you shouldn’t go wrong picking out an external 5G mobile broadband antenna. If we were to offer a single safe and easy pick, then the Huawei 5G AF9E Antenna is a 5G antenna that will work well for the vast majority of UK 5G broadband users.

That’s because it has been designed to operate closely with the Huawei 5G CPE Pro. The name probably won’t be familiar to you, but it’s the 5G router that’s supplied by EE, Three and Vodafone as part of their respective 5G broadband packages.

Jon Mundy
About Jon Mundy

Technical Writer at 5G.co.uk

Jon has nine years experience of writing and editing copy for leading publications, as well as attending technology shows and events and conducting interviews. Currently working with 5G.co.uk, TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, T3, Digital Spy, What Mobile, Pocket Gamer, and The Gadget Show.

View more posts by Jon Mundy >
MediaTek and Intel announce new 5G laptop partnership
11 August

MediaTek and Intel announce new 5G laptop partnership

A collaboration between MediaTek and Intel promises...

Vodafone commissioned to build 5G private network for gas plant
05 August

Vodafone commissioned to build 5G private network for gas plant

Centrica and Vodafone team up to make the first 5G...

Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 5G confirmed by Google
04 August

Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 5G confirmed by Google

Google has announced that the Pixel 4a 5G will land...

As seen on:
Washington Post logo
Financial Times logo
Guardian logo
BBC logo
Telegraph logo
Forbes logo