Indoor vs Outdoor CBRS Small Cell Radios - Which Should You Choose?

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Ranges and Use Cases

Indoor and Outdoor small cells have quite different ranges and mounting considerations which will need to be taken into account when deciding which radio you should go with.

Range

Ranges listed for all radios are an estimate based on the most ideal environment with clear line of sight between the radio and phone. Environmental considerations such as walls, foliage, weather conditions, and more can greatly reduce the range.

Indoor:

Indoor Small Cells have a max range of approximately 3x that of an Enterprise WiFi Access Point, or about 15,000 square feet (4,572 square meters)

Outdoor:

Outdoor Small Cells have a max range of about 3 kilometers or 1.86 miles

Outdoor High Gain:

Outdoor High Gain Small Cells can have max ranges equal to other outdoor radios, about 3 kilometers or 1.86 miles, however depending on the external antennas chosen, the range could be decreased or increased. For example, if directional antennas are installed, the range will be increased over other outdoor radios.

Use Cases

Indoor CBRS radios can ONLY be installed indoors, and outdoor CBRS radios can ONLY be installed outdoors. This is due to CBRS legal regulations and violating this rule can get your radio suspended or blacklisted by the Spectrum Access System (SAS)!

All radios should be installed in places where there will be a large amount of foot traffic, preferably slow moving traffic and areas where 5G signal from incumbent providers is weak or non-existent. This will provide the best chance for phones to pair with the radio and offload data in the future when carriers offload to the Helium network.

Indoor:

Indoor Small Cells are ideal for indoor areas like malls, coffee shops, restaurants, and other small footprint indoor locations many people will frequent and spend extended periods of time. Larger indoor locations can be covered using multiple indoor radios with a small amount of overlap to cover the entire location.

Outdoor:

Outdoor Small Cells are ideal for outdoor areas like beer garden patios, bar or restaurant outdoor seating, backyard areas, farmer's market locations, and more. Places where a radio can be mounted outdoors but covers a smaller, more concentrated area will work best.

High Gain Outdoor:

High Gain Outdoor Small Cells are ideal for covering large open areas like parks, open-air stadiums, baseball or other sports fields, drive-in movie theatres, and more. Places where a radio can be mounted outdoors but more coverage is needed than would be reliably provided by normal outdoor radios are best.

Mounting Considerations

Small Cell radios must be mounted not only in a way that will provide the most signal coverage benefit but also in a way that adheres to regulations for SAS approval.

Indoor:

Indoor Small Cells are ideal for mounting indoors on ceilings or walls which will give the radio the most clear line-of-sight to as much of the area as possible. The radio's external GPS antenna must be able to get a steady GPS lock in order for the radio to work. SMA extension cables can be used for most brands to increase the reach of the antenna and allow for mounting in or near windows, however the maximum extension length for the GPS antenna is not certain.

Outdoor and Outdoor High Gain:

All Outdoor Small Cells should be mounted outdoors as high up as possible, angled for the best line-of-sight coverage of the most people who will be in the space. Radio mounts must be sturdy and must keep the radio from moving after installation, and must allow for proper angle measurements to be taken for SAS approval.

SAS Authorizations / CPI Approvals

All CBRS Small Cell radios must be registered with and approved by the SAS in order to be online. The process differs for indoor and outdoor radios.

Indoor:

All that is needed for indoor radios to be SAS registered is a solid GPS lock. The GPS antenna for indoor radios is external and can be placed in or near windows for optimal satellite reception. If needed, additional length can be added by using an SMA extension cable, although the maximum length is not certain. There is no manual registration process required for indoor radios to be SAS registered.

Outdoor and Outdoor High Gain:

All outdoor antennas must be manually registered by a Certified Professional Installer (CPI) which is done by FreedomFi. As the radio installer, you must provide pictures, details, and other documentation to FreedomFi CPIs for them to register your outdoor radio with the SAS. For details on the full process, check out our article on CPI Approvals. The radio must also have a GPS lock similar to indoor radios, however for outdoor radios the GPS antenna is built into the unit as it is expected to be installed outside where it will have a clear view of the sky.

Genesis MOBILE Reward Weightings

During the MOBILE Genesis rewards period, gateway owners will be rewarded with MOBILE tokens for each online and registered radio attached to their gateway. Depending on the type of radio (and theoretical coverage area), the rewards will vary. The more potential coverage area a radio offers, the higher the reward weighting and the more MOBILE tokens that radio will earn:

SmallCellRewards.jpg

For more in-depth information on MOBILE Genesis rewards, check out our article on the subject. For up-to-date MOBILE rewards issued per radio type and earning estimations, check out our daily MOBILE earnings ranking page.

In the future, when earnings are based off of usage, radios with more coverage reach will theoretically produce better earnings as there will be more opportunity to offload data for cell phones in range.

Deployment Do's and Don'ts

Indoor

For a simple guide on considerations for indoor radio deployments, refer to our article on the subject. Here's a brief summary:

  • Only deploy indoor radios indoors!
  • Be aware of coverage needed and spread out radios
  • Don't deploy where there are excessive obstructions like walls
  • Don't make your Ethernet cable runs more than 100 meters

Outdoor

For a simple guide on considerations for outdoor radio deployments, refer to our article on the subject. Here's a brief summary:

  • Only deploy outdoor radios outdoors!
  • Mount radios on high ground or on roofs to maximize coverage
  • Don't deploy in places where people pass by quickly rather than lingering
  • Don't deploy where there are excessive obstructions like walls

Multiple Radios

For a simple guide on considerations for multiple radio deployments, refer to our article on the subject. Here's a brief summary:

  • Whether choosing indoor or outdoor radios or even a mix of the two, you'll need to give consideration to powering all the radios - either by using wall outlets or a Power over Ethernet setup
  • Due to a networking switch being needed to connect the radios to the Bobber 500 gateway, consider using a PoE switch to simplify deployment
  • When deploying outdoor radios, ensure the Ethernet runs are Cat6 minimum and are outdoor rated for weather exposure

Where to Find Equipment

If you're in need of a Helium 5G Gateway, you can find the Bobber 500 on our website. The Bobber 500 was designed with long term use and various deployment scenarios in mind, and passes stringent hardware testing requirements.

No matter if you're looking for an indoor or outdoor radio, while picking up a gateway you can simplify the purchasing process and get a great deal by taking advantage of our partnership with radio vendors and grabbing a single radio + gateway bundle or multi-radio + gateway bundle from our website! You can also find links there to other recommended CBRS Radios for the Bobber 500.

Summary

The type of radio you need will depend on the specific deployment you have planned, however the pros and cons can be summarized as such:

Indoor

Pros:

  • Cheaper than outdoor radios
  • Setup is easy, no CPI approval process needed
  • Radios are lighter and easier to mount
  • Requires less upkeep and maintenance due to being indoors
  • Earns MOBILE Genesis rewards immediately upon installation
  • Multiple radios can be used to increase coverage area

Cons:

  • Earns the least MOBILE Genesis rewards
  • Can only be used indoors
  • Offers the least amount of coverage area

Outdoor

Pros:

  • Earns higher MOBILE Genesis rewards, up to 4x more than indoor with High Gain Outdoor
  • High Gain Outdoors can accept external antennas for better coverage planning
  • Larger coverage area per radio than indoor radios
  • More use cases for deployment due to not being limited to indoors

Cons:

  • More expensive than indoor radios
  • Can only be used outdoors
  • Requires CPI approval process to be followed
  • Requires more maintenance due to being outdoors and exposed to weather
  • Earns MOBILE Genesis rewards only after CPI approval is processed by FreedomFi

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