Range and coverage not as expected

Hi there experts,

I am using a Draguino PG1301 as gateway (on a Pi4)
I have an external antenna that is on the roof of my house (metal roof) and is about 9m above ground.
The antenna is for 868 MHz and has 7 dbi gain, but also a cable of 5m.

I have been testing with a Rak 7200 and Rak 7220 but both seem to cover not much more than maybe 1km

As there are no other gateways in my town (it should actually be called a village, but is in fact a town because of the (long) past) I am solely relying on my own gateway.

The distance I would like to cover should be around 4km which I understood should be super easy?

Can anyone suggest what to do.
I guess a different antenna might help, but which?
Should I be looking at an outdoor gateway? If so, which one.

Or is the problem with the Rak 7200?

Thanks, IT-gypsy

You are not supplying sufficient data for us to offer anything but very generic advice.
To get a better picture could you please provide answers to:

  1. does the antenna have a clear view of the horizon? No trees or large scrubs?
  2. what type of cable? (RG58, Aircell 7,…)
  3. What type of connector are you using to connect the cable to the PG1301 and what to connect it to the antenna? Are you using just two or additional converters?
  4. What is the RSSI and SNR of received packets at the edge of reception and what when you are next to the house (but at least 3 meters from the antenna)

…also some higher gain antennas have main beam inclined up or downwrt horizon and often start to show null regions. It may be that where you run out of steam at ~1km you are in a null and that further out (if LOS prevails per Jac’s q) you may receive again. 1st thing I would try after Jac’s suggestions is go through all connections to make sure tight (use spanners no just finger tight!), along the way check you have correct connector tyes (mating pin to socket not socket to socket with no pin (e.g. SMA vs RP-SMA etc.) Then if no joy remove 7dbi ant (what type do you have) making sure GW is off 1st! Change over to a more isotropic like radiator such as a simple 2.15dbi rubber duck ant and try that (again checking connections). Whilst you may loose a few dB in far field and some range at extremes, that isnt your problem yet…1st job is find where signal loss is. :slight_smile:

Also, thinking about, it try opening the 7200 and add another rubber duck off a pigtail cnnector vs the tiny ant shipped with the device and check that for coverage too…

thanks for both replies.

the antenna type can be found here:

There are no extra connectors, it’s one cable, one connector directly to the board.

There is no real “line of sight” there is a building in between.

When the Rak 7200 is at the ground floor (I have a STEEL roof, so no reception under the roof) these are the data:

{
“time”: “2020-05-31T20:13:41.834457922Z”,
“frequency”: 868.1,
“modulation”: “LORA”,
“data_rate”: “SF7BW125”,
“coding_rate”: “4/5”,
“gateways”: [
{
“gtw_id”: “eui-dca6326fdd8affff”,
“timestamp”: 2491329579,
“time”: “2020-05-31T20:13:41.814041Z”,
“channel”: 0,
“rssi”: -87,
“snr”: 9.5

Thanks for assisting :slight_smile:

Agreed, the internal antenna is 0.23dBi and if the RAK7200 is orientated such that the battery is in the way, I can’t see it working at all. I’ll get mine off the washing line (I’m testing the accelerometer) and try it with different orientations to see how that affects reception.

I have a couple of those from a different source and I would be very surprised if the one you got gets near 2dBi, let alone the claimed 7dBi. Also The VSWR of the ones I tested was nowhere near 1.5, let alone less than that number.

My first suspect is the antenna and the antenna cable. To test I would attach a rubber duck type antenna (or the one Dragino ships with the concentrator board) to the gateway and put the gateway in front of a window, then try distance in the direction of that windows view.

Good day and thanks for the reply.

I have tested (at first) with the “rubber duck” antenna, but of course on a different location because my house has a Steel roof.
With the standard antenna (which is not more than a piece of wire inside a tube) the reception seems even worse.
Yesterday I have been in Hoofddorp (near Schiphol Airport) but even there the 7200 does not get received by other gateways. To be honest… I am at this moment highly dissapointed in what was announced as the solution to most of our problems, Lora, to me does not work at all.
The area covered using “standard” devices, like a RAK 7200 / 7205 is minimal and that takes away the advantage of the system because if there are no gateways nearby, the Lora system does not work.

Maybe in a City like Amsterdam Lora works because of the many gateways available, but in more Rural area’s (like Medemblik where I live) I am the FIRST Gateway.

I guess nobody want’s to invest a couple of thousand euro’s privately to setup an Outdoor gateway?
https://connectedthings.store/gb/lorawan-gateways/outdoor-lorawan-gateways/the-things-outdoor-gateway-868-mhz.html
with a directional antenna?

Are there any other solutions that will work without investing a lot of money.To me Lora(wan) is a dead end.

Thanks

Neither LoRa or LoRaWAN is a dead end, or do you think the many thousands of successful implementations are not real, as in some form of conspiracy theory ?

LoRa cannot subvert the laws or physics or propagation. You need appropriate antennas, short or no cable connections between gateway and antenna and you need to locate the antenna as high as possible. Its the same for most all IOT systems that rely on wireless connectivity.

The antenna you showed in the picture earlier looks well dodgy, with a very long and thin cable. The cable alone is likely cutting your range in half, even if the antenna is a geniune one for 868Mhz, and I have great doubts about that.

While I am not an RF expert, the metal roof will probably have a big impact on your results as it will serve both as a huge groundplane and will also work as a shield and reflector.

As already said by others, the monopole antenna in your picture/link does not compare to antenna"s used for more serious outdoor setups.
Don’t expect positive miracles from that antenna.

LoRaWAN may or may not be suitable for your applications but the proper setup of RF parts (antenna, its radiation pattern, its location/position, cabling, connectors, groundplane etc) will play a very essential role in the range and coverage of your gateway.

Outdoor gateways are available starting from around €160, external antenna from around €30-40.add to that some quality cabling and you can have a complete outdoor gateway starting for around €300.

The important difference between outdoor and indoor gateway is that with outdoor the antenna can be placed outdoors while the antenna cable can be kept as short as possible so RF losses can be kept to a minimum.

A chain is as strong as it’s weakest link and there are multiple links that play a role. E.g. the RAK 7200 and the quality and position of its antenna also play a role here.

Thanks for the replies.

Too bad nobody adds information on where this Outdoor gateway for around 300 Euro might be available
I guess Lora is a great idea… but not what it sells to be. I guess also THE reason KPN has no succes whatsoever with their LORA network :slight_smile:
I will investigate a bit more, but like I said… My enthousiasm is no longer there.

IT-Gypsy

Probably because you do not ask and hardly provide any details nor requirements.

As @kersing already mentioned

For one of the cheaper outdoor suitable gateways check the following topic MikroTik LoRaWAN gateways and concentrator boards (available e.g. here). But if that will suit your requirements is not at all clear.

Using low power long range WAN networks is more complex and less evident than buying a TV, connecting it to an antenna wall outlet and then start watching.

If you want to setup your own environment you will have to investigate and do some homework yourself. If this is not for you then maybe you should consult a solutions provider.
No one is going to present you a complete working solution that matches your needs on a silver platter (unless you pay them for it).

We are not here to do your homework :wink:. You can find information and advice about antenna’s here (search is your friend): The BIG and SMALL ANTENNA topic part 2.

I guess Lora is a great idea… but not what it sells to be.

It is not clear what your expectations are and what they are based on (shiny sales brochure or study of LoRaWAN technical specifications and real use cases), but your current setup with single indoor gateway (with ‘sub optimal’ antenna) and some nodes is not exactly representative for the quality, possibilities and usability of LoRaWAN in general.
LoRa is actually ‘just’ a radio modulation technology. It doesn’t sell anything, people do.

If you want more help from others it helps to clearly specify your use case, provide requirements and other relevant details and ask more targeted questions.

For experiments you do not need a different gateway at the moment. You can start with a decent antenna with proper placement and during the tests place your current gateway on the roof with mains power and LAN extension cables (in case you use wired LAN) but only with dry weather conditions of course. You can also start experimenting with other nodes. But do not expect a solution that works perfectly for your case right out of the box.

That might indicate your nodes antenna is not optimal and does not live up to your expectations.

I invested several thousands to provide gateways in the north of NL. So certainly some people want to invest.

IoT is not plug and play. IoT needs to be tailored to use cases. That requires knowledge and investing time. That applies to the IoT stacks provided by Amazon and Azure as well as the IoT gateways and devices.
If you want plug and play you can engage a system integrator to do that work for you.

Then may-be you read the wrong marketing brochures? I’ve several use cases deployed without issues. However I invested a lot of time to understand the technology.

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Lora is presented as “The Internet of Things”
Low Power usage, low amount of data, but long range.
Most systems that I have tested and read about thus far, are only low power usage and low amount of data.
The “Long range” does not work very well. At least not with the “home solutions” on “The Things”.
I have done some tests with the KPN Lora network and due to the large amount of antenna’s on strategical positions, the KPN LoRa network seems to work for example with tracking systems.

I understand (working in IT myself) that you can build solutions that will work, when creating the proper circumstances, but this will not be a viable option for creating products that can work “out of the box” for the lesser technical in our society.

To me, The Things Network seems like a really nice Idea for hobyist, same a the 2meter broadcast amateurs that I was part of. Unless a gateway system can be build with enough coverage, The Things, will remain something for us “geeks”.

Thanks for all the replies and opions.

LoRa together with TTN does provide systems with enough coverage that a lot of users are quite happy about, that is self evident.

More coverage and longer distances would be great, but the technology does not exist to provide it. Legal restrictions prevent more power or high gain antennas being used.

I regularly see devices reach out over several km. The concept of long range absolutely has to be put in context of low power - you can’t have low power (years running on two AA batteries, license free, thousands of users) AND 10’s of kms.

There are no “home solutions” - almost all devices & gateways require some level of technical ability to setup & run.

TTN pay for & maintain a server infrastructure for free for community use - the deployment of gateways is up to us.

I have never seen LoRaWAN advertised as an ‘out the box’ solution for non-technical end users, aka ‘home solutions’. I doubt it will ever be in that position as the cost / scaling issues would preclude it compared to the quick win of GSM - stick in a SIM and go.

If there was a compelling use case for a device and some sort of dashboard for end-users that was appropriate to run over the TTN community network, then I’d pre-configure the module before shipping.

There are many many commercial companies providing good coverage. TTN Community provision is based on people providing gateways and respecting the use limits.

This scenario is somewhat similar to my gliding (sailplane) activities - there are clubs all around the UK but not necessarily on everyones doorstep. You can be taught to fly for free but we can’t make it fool-proof, you have to put in the effort to learn. Clubs are run by volunteers and so everyone has to contribute to make it all work. If you are really technically competent you can get long range (+500km) and it uses no power after the launch …

Hi @IT-Gypsy - you seem to give up very easily!

Think what aeroplanes were like 110 years ago.
Think what medicine was like 100 years ago.
Think what radio was like 80 years ago.
Think what TV was like 60 years ago.
Think what cars were like 50 years ago.
Think what PCs were like 40 years ago.
Think what computer networks were like 30 years ago.
Think what mobile phones were like 20 years ago.

What if all those people had behaved like you and given up when they couldn’t get it to work first time.
Roll your sleeves up and put in the hard work. It’s worth it. It works very well when it’s done right.

2 Likes

Just my 2 cents, I am using the same Dragino PG1301 + Rpi3 gateway indoors with a ‘real’ LoRa antenna (not a cheap chinese one, they are not suitable) and already cover more then 4 km with a TTGO tracker node with a rubber duck antenna.

The chinese antenna’s tend to have a very bad SWR, some of them are even GSM (915 MHz) antenna’s and perform very bad at 868 MHz. A good antenna, position and good cable will make all the difference.

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Respectfully need to disagree. I have been experimenting with LoRaWAN, and not much more than that (although, with two collegues, we presented a plan to cover The Netherlands with cheap ($10 range) LoRa devices to check for abuse of the FM; 88~108 MHz band).
During that particular experiment, I did connect my HellTec (https://heltec.org/project/wifi-lora-32/) to a gateway some 900 meters away, and later, to another, almost 3KM away!

So, distance is there. Gateways are few and far between, in some areas, like Monickendam…
Checking the Gateways map and checking on outdoor antennas might help.

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It is called the community network because the community needs to provide the gateways… So that is the challenge for us all, how to successfully get sufficient gateways deployed.