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Netgear Orbi 4G Mesh Router (LBR20) External Antenna Guide

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Looking to get the best possible data rates from your Netgear Orbi 4G Mesh Router?

You’ll want to purchase and connect external MIMO antennas to the device’s two SMA ports.

In this guide, we'll:

  • Recommend the best external antennas to use.
  • Show where the SMA ports are located.
  • Explain how to aim the antennas for best results.

In this guide

The Best External Antennas For the Orbi 4G

Using a MIMO antenna outside your building, pointed at the nearest tower, can help you get the fastest LTE data rates possible.

The Orbi 4G has two SMA ports on the back, which allow for a 2x2 MIMO antenna to be connected to the device.

We recommend two different MIMO antenna options for use with the Orbi 4G:

Best For Most Users

This MIMO panel antenna kit will provide meaningful signal improvement, even if you're surrounded by trees, hills, or tall buildings.

For most users the best external antenna choice for the Orbi 4G is our MIMO Panel Antenna kit. While still directional, this antenna doesn’t require line-of-sight to the tower.

However, if you have line of sight to the nearest tower, we recommend using a MIMO Log Periodic Antenna kit instead.

Best With Line Of Sight

These cross polarized log periodic antennas have higher gain and are more directional, but work best if you have direct line-of-sight to the tower.

The higher gain on these antennas can get you better performance, but only when you have a straight shot to the tower.

Why External Antennas Are Critical for Improving Data Rates

There's one big misconception about external antennas.

Most people think that external antennas primarily help you increase your data rates by increasing the signal strength.

But that's not the case.

An increase in signal strength is actually probably the third most important way that external antennas help.

Here are the three main ways that external antennas help you increase your data rates:

1.They Improve Signal Quality

In 4G LTE networks, signal quality is measured as SINR (Signal to Interference plus Noise Ratio) or sometimes as RSRQ (Reference Signal Received Quality).

Improving signal quality has a huge impact on your data rates.

Higher data rates allow your hotspot to communicate using "higher order modulation schemes." That means they can use the same wireless spectrum to send more data per second.

However, there's one big caveat:

In order to improve your signal quality, you need to both aim and shield your outdoor antenna properly. We talk more about this in the next section.

2.They Allow You To Connect On More Bands

Hotspots like the Orbi 4G support an LTE feature called "carrier aggregation."

Carrier aggregation allows for the ability to connect on multiple cellular bands simultaneously.

The more bands you're connected on, the greater the bandwidth, and the higher your data rates.

However, many of the higher frequency bands aren't able to penetrate into buildings. Using external antennas allows you to access higher frequency bands, which are often less congested and offer higher speeds than lower frequency bands.

3.They Increase Your Signal Strength

As you might expect, using outdoor directional antennas can help increase the signal strength.

This helps increase data rates, but only up to a point.

If your signal strength (called "RSRP" in LTE networks) is stronger than about -100 dBm, stronger signal won't speed up your connection any further.

Positioning and Aiming MIMO Antennas

Positioning and aiming MIMO antennas well is crucial to getting the best performance to your Orbi 4G.

We've compiled a detailed instruction manual to accompany our own MIMO Antenna Kits, where we go into depth on the best ways to aim the antennas.

The goal is to find the best location and direction for the antenna(s), to maximize data rates to the Orbi 4G. It can take a little patience, but can have a huge impact – it’s worth a bit of extra effort!

Before getting started, it's always a good idea to run a couple of speed tests indoors from a device connected to the Wifi of your Orbi 4G. The results will fluctuate a little, but this is the baseline you're trying to improve.

SMA adapters connected to the Orbi 4G

SMA adapters connected to the Orbi 4G

Now connect the MIMO antennas to your Orbi 4G via the SMA ports, like in the image above, and go outside with your "test-rig".

With each location and direction you try, run a couple speed tests, and make a note of the results. Here are all the locations and directions where we recommend testing your MIMO antenna:

Where to test your signal

Where to test your signal

Pro tip: Don’t just go to the highest point of the roof! While signal is generally stronger the higher you go, there’s also often more interference. We’ve found it’s often better to mount the antenna(s) on the side of the building where the structure can shield the antennas from interference.

Once you've found the position which gets you the highest data rates to the Orbi 4G, that's where you'll want to install the MIMO antenna. Go ahead and mount the antenna, run cables inside, connect everything up, and enjoy superior data rates!

Orbi 4G Technical Specifications

Supported 4G LTE bands

  • AT&T: B2, B4, B5, B12, B14, B17, B29, B30, B66
  • Verizon: B2, B4, B5, B13, B66
  • T-Mobile: B2, B4, B5, B12, B25, B26, B41, B66, B71
  • Other: B7

Cellular Modem

  • MIMO Support: 4x4 w/ internal antennas, 2x2 w/ external antennas
  • LTE-A Carrier Aggregation: 5x Download, 3x Upload
  • LTE Performance Category: Cat 18
  • Max Theoretical Speeds: 1.2 Gbps Download, 150 Mbps Upload

Wi-Fi 6

  • Technologies: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz)
  • Bands: Simultaneous 1x 2.4 GHz and 2x 5.0 GHz bands.

Ports

  • Cellular Antenna Ports: 2x SMA
  • Other Ports: 1x WAN/LAN, 1x LAN

Other

  • Power: AC power only (no battery)

Other Helpful Resources

A helpful review by Mobile Internet Resource Center

Netgear's support page for the Orbi 4G:

Documentation

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