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Request for an NB-IoT PCB antenna

LoRa Tag
LoRa Tag without an enclosure

Another request for a custom PCB antenna for NB-IoT. Since we invested in NB-IoT early on, we can bring a lot of experience. Simply taking over a layout of an antenna for an unlicensed band like LoRaWAN (868 / 915 MHz) usually does not work. It may be sufficient for first tests but if the antenna bandwidth of the NB-IoT antenna does not fit, this usually leads to harmonics and a negative result for the radio certification.

Request for NB-IoT antenna via LinkedIn:

Hi Harald, Thanks for the industry knowledge you share on here. Lots of useful information. We’re in the process of deploying our NB-IoT solution in the UK but are waiting for coverage to catch up. I have already designed a PCB, with an OTS antenna and integrated PCB antenna (similar to TI’s helical design) I must consult with you before our next PCB redesign as we’re looking to reduce the overall cost of the system. Regards

Answer to the NB-IoT customer:

Thanks for the kind words.

My recommendation is always to first build a prototype with an empty PCB in the original case. If you don’t have the empty case yet, you can cut it out of plastic plates of the same material and glue it together. 3D Printing is only possible to a limited extent because not all plastics can be printed. If you print ABS, you have to print it fully (no combs in print) because the epsilon R of the plastic and the thickness of the plastic influences the antenna. For more information see the IoT/M2M Cookbook.

Since we work with various manufacturers of external antennas we can also offer you the manufacture of the injection tool up to the production of the whole device. If your device is mounted on a street lamp, then you need a UV-resistant plastic. Antennas for roof mounting on cars are UV-resistant. We are thus well prepared for the practical use of your design.

The PCB antenna from TI will probably not provide the necessary frequency bandwidth for band 8 and band 20 in the EU. In the USA the lowest frequency goes down to 620 MHz. In Australia up to approx. 690 MHz. We can cover more about this in a Kick-Off meeting via Skype with a presentation of a few slides.

The typical engagement with the arkorIoT team is as follows:

  • Purchase of the IoT M2M Cookbook, read the book and learn the basics.
  • Telco/Skype to kick off the project (approx. 4 hours working time with preparation and follow-up)
  • Prepare an empty board with an antenna in the original case. Often also with the radio module and USB cable for live testing.
  • Measurement of the Radiation Pattern in 3 axes (recommended option)
  • Delivery of the documentation incl. Gerber Files
  • “Copy” of our design by your team with all components
  • Design review by our akorIoT team or accompaniment of the development by phone, Skype or e-mail
  • Production of prototypes and matching of the antenna by our team
  • Mostly then up to 10 further versions up to the serial board required
  • Measurement of the serial PCB and re-matching of the antenna
  • Pre-tests for radio certification in our laboratory and in the test laboratory
  • Possible adjustment of the matching network and Worst-Case modification of the PCB (very rare)
  • Radio certification of the device and accompaniment by the akorIoT team. We are always in the room during the measurements and check whether the measurements are correct in the test laboratory. Measurement errors lead to a negative test report.

If required, we can develop the series PCB on the basis of the customer’s prototype (pre-production) and take care of the radio certification. The software development is then still with the customer. If required, we put together the “all-round carefree package” and develop the hardware plus firmware, plus software on the server and app on the smartphone.

Since we have extensive experience with NB-IoT projects and development of antennas, we would like to guide and support your project and we are happy to make you a commercial offer. We need a sketch or drawing of the case with dimensions to be able to estimate the size of the board. If the board is too small compared to the wavelength of the lowest frequency, the development costs will increase. In the worst case, no antenna can support the application in this format.

Extract of wireless IoT related services:

  • Matching of the antenna in the device (chip, PCB antenna, helical antenna)
    Guidance on antenna design if undertaken by the client
  • Antenna layout of the dual F-antenna on an empty PCB in the customer’s enclosure
  • Antenna layout of any other custom PCB antenna: Helix antenna, Flex PCB antenna, Antenna punched from tinplate, Antenna printed on plastic in housing, Antenna on ceramic, Slot antennas and many more techniques
  • Antenna with radio module and power supply for extremely low power consumption
  • Assisting in the implementation of the antenna or power supply concept in the fully-featured PCB of the customer
  • Development of the whole PCB including an antenna with software Development by the customer
  • Development of the whole device (HW + SW) following the client’s specifications
  • Reference designs with NB-IoT, LTE-M, GSM, GNSS, BLE, Wi-Fi, MCU, sensors, charging electronics for over 20 applications with an open block diagram and the possibility for customers to develop their own code using a free C compiler
  • Preliminary measurements and tests required for radio certification
  • Radio certification according to RED (CE), FCC and several more standards
  • Workshops at the client’s office or via video conference
  • Training and seminars on radio technology and radio certification

We look forward to receiving your inquiry. In most cases the IoT M2M Cookbook or the reference design akorIoT SensPRO is only the beginning. After that there are often follow-up orders for the services mentioned above. “akor” is the ancient Celtic word for “open” and we prefer openness in our concepts, and like to share our knowledge in training and to maintain open communication with our customers.

August 19, 2019

Author: Harald Naumann

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