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Bluetooth Antennas

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Bluetooth Antennas:  Primer / Summary Introduction 

Bluetooth is a wireless communication technology used for exchanging data across short distances.

Bluetooth antennas are designed for use on devices running at 2.4GHz. sizes range from miniature to sub-miniature connections, using RP-SMA, SMA and U.FL connectors. Cable sizes and types vary depending on the connector used. Most Bluetooth antennas are omnidirectional, but small directional antennas of 2.4GHz are options for BlueTooth. Mounting options include through-hole, surface mounts, wall and pole mounts. We carry a number of weatherproofed Bluetooth antennas for outdoor use. 

Small devices such as cell phones cannot be fitted with an external Bluetooth antenna. Here is a list including some devices that can accommodate an external Bluetooth antenna.

• Bluetooth audio receivers
• Bluetooth instruments

• Broadcast video systems
• PCI Bluetooth adaptors
• Wireless microphone receivers
• Wireless P.A Systems

Different Bluetooth devices have different antenna compatibility. matching the right antenna to the right device is done by checking connector compatibility and frequency rating. Range and gain are variables depending on antenna’s brand. Connector adapters can also be used where the device and antenna have different connectors.
 
Since its invention by Ericson in 1994, Bluetooth has been a replacement for short-range wired communication. Transceivers are designed to run on low power and are produced at a low cost. This makes fitting an antenna onto some Bluetooth devices necessary to increase range and reduce noise. 

Bluetooth Antennas:  Deep Dive into the Details

Bluetooth is a radio frequency antenna produced with the physical and electrical specifications for wireless communication in compliance with the Bluetooth wireless technology standard. They tend to be:

  • microstrip antennas,
  • PCB trace antennas,
  • chip antennas,
  • or metal plate antennas

Bluetooth antennas are usually integrated within Bluetooth enabled devices, attached to printed circuit boards. External Bluetooth antennas are a popular extension for increasing the range and quality of Bluetooth connectivity or can be used to replace a broken or missing antenna. Replacement antennas can be attached with radio antenna connector types like rp-sma and SMA. Low gain omnidirectional antennas that operate at the 2.4 GHz frequency can be used effectively in Bluetooth related applications.

What is Bluetooth?

This wireless networking standard was developed in Denmark and is currently overseen by the expansive Bluetooth Special Interest Group or SIG, which is comprised of thousands of stakeholder companies in the telecommunications and computing sectors.

Bluetooth was initially standardized by the IEEE 802.15.1 protocol but now specifications and protocols for Bluetooth are overseen by the Bluetooth SIG. Compliance with the published Bluetooth standards is necessary for an antenna to be described as a Bluetooth antenna, utilization of proprietary patents, and Bluetooth circuit chips that may be integrated into a compatible antenna’s design.

Bluetooth is a key wireless technology standard for the creation of personal area networks or PANS. Its operating range is typically centimeters to meters but with optimal conditions the range can be extended further. Bluetooth antennas, in particular, can assist in achieving ranges in excess of 100 meters (330 feet) with appropriate deployment.   Bluetooth utilizes the unlicensed ISM bands for short-distance, short-wavelength data transfer and is operable on both stationary and mobile devices. It's mobility and use of the 2.4 GHz frequency band means that it has had widespread integration in objects as diverse as speakers, pressure cookers, and ice fishing tips. The availability of a range of Bluetooth antennas and their compact size has also been a driver for the adoption of this form of wireless networking.

Data exchange takes place using Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS), where the data that is transmitted is broken into smaller packets that are individually sent via 79 sub-bands or 1 MHz Bluetooth channels in a predetermined order. FHSS advantages Bluetooth by reducing narrowband interference and interception due to the hopping between channels over the course of the transmission.

Bluetooth networks are hierarchical with a master/slave relationship between one master device and up to 8 downstream slave devices with patterned and structured communications between networked objects coordinated by a master clock. Mesh networking which does not have a hierarchical relationship, can also be undertaken using Bluetooth to involve a larger number of networked devices, which is ideal forInternet of Things applications.

The Bluetooth protocol is known for its low power consumption, which is understandable as the typical distances for data exchange are short. A variant of standard Bluetooth, known as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Line of sight is not necessary for Bluetooth connectivity and the range and penetration of the signals is dependent on the power class of a particular Bluetooth device. At present, there are up to four classes of Bluetooth device which vary in their maximum permitted power and range. Most battery-operated Bluetooth devices are Class 2 with a maximum power of 0.5mW and a range of around 10 meters.

Bluetooth antenna selection

Any

  • low bandwidth
  • low to moderate gain
  • low VSWR
  • resonant

antennas operating in the frequency range of 2.4 to 2.485 GHz should be able to perform the function of a Bluetooth antenna. Below we describe some of the notable types of Bluetooth antenna.

Types of Bluetooth antennas

[A] Microstrip antennas

Printed or microstrip antennas are thin and versatile Bluetooth antennas produced on a printed circuit board. Due to ease of production, the costs of these antennas are generally low. Seen up close, they are made of multiple arrays of geometric patches of metal foil which are electrically connected to a ground plane on the underside of the PCB. Foil transmission lines are integrated to facilitate the connection of the antenna to the transmitter or receiver. The patch antenna is a narrowband widebeam variant of the microstrip. They are low profile and hardwearing and can be printed on a square, circular or elliptical circuit board.Patch antennas are usually integrated directly within devices or attached as an externally connected multi-antenna or puck Bluetooth antennas. These low gain monopole or dipole antennas have an impedance of 50 ohms and may be linearly or circularly polarized. Their power consumption is generally low. Gain can be increased by adding additional arrays of printed antenna linked in series, but this increase PCB size.

[B] Chip antennas

Chip antennas are small, high-performance antennas that are widely used in a range of Bluetooth applications. They are typically integrated within circuit boards due to their compact size and their low to moderate gain makes them a complimentary choice for short-range connectivity. The conductor is printed in the form of a fractal, a patterned precision geometric design that maximizes the radiating surface area of this 2-dimensional antenna. They are high-frequency, narrow bandwidth antennas that are highly tuned, typically operating at frequencies up to 2.5 GHz. Chip antennas can be incorporated into a range of enclosures including rubber and ceramic antennas and even button mount antennas.

[C] Wire monopole antenna

This is one of the most basic antenna designs but performs efficiently as a Bluetooth antenna. It consists of a wire that is trimmed for resonance at the 2.4 GHz frequency that has been soldered onto a conductive ground plane. They can be PCB mounted, but the length of wire means that they are not low profile.

[D] PIFA antennas

PIFA stands for Printed Inverted F Antenna. This antenna builds on the design principles of a monopole antenna but betters it by making the antenna much more compact. The ground plane and feed lie alongside the resonant component of this antenna. It has been adapted from its original bent wire design to a microstrip format that can be printed onto circuit boards.

[E] Helix antennas

These antennas are similar to monopole wire antennas but in this case, the wire is coiled into a spring-like helical structure to compact the antenna's total footprint. Due to its shape, it will project above the circuit board if PCB mounted. The Helical units can be multiplied for an increase in gain and performance with bifilar and even quadrifilar helical antennas available. A notable example of a helical antenna is the rubber ducky antenna, which can also be used as an external Bluetooth antenna.

Some considerations for Bluetooth antenna selection.

  • Antenna length is determined by the specified Bluetooth frequency of 2.4 GHz

As Bluetooth uses the 2.4 GHz frequency band a compatible antenna will be constrained by the wavelength at this frequency. The signal wavelength of Bluetooth lies between 120 and 125mm. An effective WiFi antenna can be achieved by an antenna with a which is at least one quarter to a half wavelength in length (around 31mm), especially if its ground plane is included. Antenna efficiency decreases with length so a Bluetooth antenna design should strive to meet these minimum requirements.

  • Small size is not everything

With Bluetooth chip antennas as small as 1mm in length, it is easy to consider small size as the priority. However, miniature Bluetooth antenna designs do not necessarily deliver the best performance. To achieve functionality with such tiny dimensions manufacturers manipulate the structural and electrical performance of the antenna to slow down electromagnetic energy within the antenna unit and shorten down the wavelength to produce a loaded length antenna. But loaded antennas have reduced bandwidth and efficiency with a drastically reduced range and a propensity to amplify the effects of interference. Energy consumption may also be increased due to the way in which these antennas operate. Longer antenna length is better, hence the demand for external Bluetooth antennas.

  • Avoid proximity to metal

As with all radiofrequency devices, proximity to or enclosure in metal will block the transmission of the wireless signal. If a Bluetooth antenna is used on a vehicle or within metal housing, care must be taken with the location and mounting of the antenna, ensuring that if the antenna is directional, it radiates away from the metal. External Bluetooth antennas with a suitable length of Bluetooth antenna extension cable or SMA connector coax will be able to be optimally positioned.

Frequently asked questions

How can I boost my Bluetooth signal?

Bluetooth is ideal for wireless Personal Area Networking (WPAN) so it is no surprise that you might want to have as many of your home or office devices networked as possible. Though Bluetooth theoretically can achieve ranges in the tens or even hundreds of meters, the reality is that its efficacy is greatly constrained by the environment in which you use it. Here are some pointers for boosting your Bluetooth signal if you are struggling with poor performance.

[1] Ensure all devices are operating with the same version of Bluetooth.

Discrepancies between the versions of Bluetooth used by devices may cause minor incompatibilities as the transmission range and power ratings of devices vary. The lower-performing version of Bluetooth will limit the performance of any devices that are networked with it. Operating all Bluetooth networked devices with the same version will, therefore, optimize performance.

[2] Wherever possible, physical barriers should be avoided.

Though a line of sight is not absolutely essential for Bluetooth to operate, it helps. Obstacles like walls, doors, and screens can degrade the signal quality and impair what is already a short-range communication modality. Wherever possible limit physical obstructions between your Bluetooth devices.

[3] A Bluetooth repeater can be used to add much-needed range for your network.

If you are relying on Bluetooth for a printer or other fixed items in your space a repeater can prove a good investment. The repeater will need to be within the range of the devices that are to be paired and should increase the range of the least powerful networked object.

[4] Adding an external Bluetooth antenna booster ensures that you always have the coverage you need.

If you are using a device with an integrated PCB antenna, you may find that the reception is not as reliable as you would like. Low-quality firmware and antennas may be the cause. Upgrading the antenna, even bypassing PCB antennas by using a suitable Bluetooth adapter with antenna like a u.fl to rp-sma pigtail can vastly improve signal quality making applications like a Bluetooth antenna for pc or home audio feasible.

Can WiFi antennas be used for Bluetooth?

Both antennas operate at the 2.4 GHz frequency and so a Bluetooth wifi antenna can be used interchangeably. Bluetooth 5ghz is not possible though WiFi is functional at this frequency. If you have a Bluetooth router, any of the antennas listed can be connected to improve performance.

Can Bluetooth antennas be used for ZigBee?

ZigBee is a local area networking solution that has greater range and uses more power than Bluetooth, but similarly operates at the 2.4 GHz frequency and can, therefore, utilize Bluetooth antennas because they operate at this same frequency.

In conclusion

Despite longer-range wireless networking solutions like WiFi being available, Bluetooth still has demonstrable utility and performance across a range of applications where short-range connectivity is desirable. The addition of a Bluetooth antenna is useful for boosting range for what is admittedly a network that operates best over short distances. Given the heterogeneity of devices and the quality and fabrication of antennas, an external Bluetooth aerial is likely to advantage the performance of your network.

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