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Could anyone help ID this antenna?

drgowans

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I noticed a couple nights ago these bright blinking red and green lights off in the distance. I thought it was an airplane at first, but it never moved.

The next morning, I noticed a pretty substantial structure on the roof of a nearby neighbor. I have searched google images and some various keyword searches (like antennas for cellular indoor repeaters, omnidirectional wireless rooftop antenna, etc.) for this device but haven't had any success in identifying what it is.

It looks like some kind of omnidirectional antenna unit but part of the housing has cooling fins which makes it seem pretty substantial. The wires run down into their garage from it. I have attached a few pictures.

Mostly curiosity, but I have also noticed that around 5-6 PM everyday, for a few hours until sundown, when I call people with my cell phone they cannot understand me (I cut out a lot) During the day, people can hear me just fine. This problem started recently and I was wondering if there was local interference with my cell phone's signal being sent to the tower. So I'm looking a little more at people's rooftops wondering if something is broadcasting in the evenings...

Thanks!
 

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prcguy

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Its not "professionally" installed like sanctioned cell site hardware, especially with a single Ty-Rap holding a cable down. It does have a lot of heatsink area. The antennas look like small patches and they would be pretty small making them fairly high frequency, I would say 2.4GHz or higher. They could also be small horn antennas. I also see only one cable leading into the thing and I suspect Ethernet with power over Ethernet. Maybe its a new kind of outdoor access point? Maybe a new 5G thing?
 

KevinC

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Somewhere other than home :(
Its not "professionally" installed like sanctioned cell site hardware, especially with a single Ty-Rap holding a cable down. It does have a lot of heatsink area. The antennas look like small patches and they would be pretty small making them fairly high frequency, I would say 2.4GHz or higher. They could also be small horn antennas. I also see only one cable leading into the thing and I suspect Ethernet with power over Ethernet. Maybe its a new kind of outdoor access point? Maybe a new 5G thing?
That one cable you see is attached to a ring terminal on the unit. It appears the "good stuff" is snaked through the tube.
 

prcguy

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If this is on a residence the thing looks a little pricey for a consumer item. I know some high speed Internet providers put access points at some customer locations to grow their hot spot network for subscribers so if your with that company and across town you can have extended WiFi. Maybe its a high power Wifi hot spot with cell type coverage?
 

drgowans

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Thanks everyone for the thoughts. Sounds like it might be a pretty new technology or something. I actually looked at my comcast wifi hotspots to see if that might be it but there are none near this house though.

Yes due to the small-ness of the antennas on the unit I thought high frequency too.

Yes, the unit is sitting on the top of a residence. Easy to notice at night as the green and red lights flash and they are very bright - bright enough to even seem them in the daylight if looking at the unit from the street.

I'll see if I can get a better picture and maybe catch the text on the base of the unit - that was with a camera using 10x zoom from the sidewalk with good sunlight so that might be best I can do without a super nice zoom.

I might just ask the neighbor too :) but they are kind of reclusive folks.
 

drgowans

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It might also have a GPS antenna on top.
I noticed that too - there appears to be a white plastic dome on the top that might be GPS. Does look like a pretty expensive unit. Perhaps they are leasing their rooftop to some company for local coverage - wifi hotspot, something like that - or maybe their employer really needs them to have good cell access in the house for working from home due to virus so employer paid for a high end cell repeater setup.
 

ScubaJungle

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Definitely looks like some of the 4G/5G stuff Ive seen. I think prcguy hit the nail on the head with a provider installation on a residential roof - maybe for some rebate or discount(?)
 

AB4BF

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I have not seen nor heard of what antennas that the new Starlink internet system will be using. Could this be one of the beta testing units?

I have signed up for participation in the beta testing, but haven't heard anything...
 

vagrant

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I have not seen nor heard of what antennas that the new Starlink internet system will be using. Could this be one of the beta testing units?
Those panels are aimed at the horizon.

I was thinking it may be a Ham omni mesh antenna. If so I am not familiar with that design. To the OP, does your neighbor have any other antennas on their roof or vehicle?

Could this be a someone’s idea of a digital TV antenna? I have seen some weird thngs.
 

Ubbe

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There seems to be three cables coming over the roof. Two thick ones that goes to that box on the lower part of the mast pole and it looks as if it has to be oriented horisontally. It's probably TX and RX cables and something happens in that box that then goes up the top unit inside the mast pole. The thin cable goes up to that top unit and looks like it is only attached to a bolt. So must be a grounding cable.

It's one sharp picture from one direction but there's no logo seen and the other photos with logos are too blurry.
It looks as if it is a round circular logo and a name with 7-8 letters.

As it has cooling fins it has to use fairly high power transmitters.
You can see sky thru that top dome so probably not a GPS antenna there.

The panel antennas are positioned to get omni coverage.

As there are bright status lights that can be viewed from street level it probably are a hired roof place by some companys system that needs omni coverage both TX and RX with some substansial output power.

/Ubbe
 
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ScubaJungle

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If its possible, try to get a picture with some kind of logo or lettering, that would make searching a lot easier. Ive tried searching this image with different engines and no luck, but I am definitely curious.
 

drgowans

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If its possible, try to get a picture with some kind of logo or lettering, that would make searching a lot easier. Ive tried searching this image with different engines and no luck, but I am definitely curious.
Yes, I'll try to get some better pictures when the light is better and post them. Thanks everyone it's been an interesting discussion!
 

drgowans

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Well, I tried but can't get anything much better as far as pictures. There is a very detailed tag on the base of the antenna unit, but the print is too fine and my zoom isn't good enough. What looked like a logo on the other side, I think is actually a screw. Next time I see them outside I'll ask them what it's all about. It's funny a bird was enjoying it, it was a little cool today, just rained the last couple days, maybe it's warm on top :) .
 

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drgowans

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I have a few hypotheses from searching the web and staring at the unit.

First, the unit has a lot of heat dissipation capability. This suggests that there is integrated amplification into the unit, and/or a good amount of in-unit processing power. Both of these are consistent with planar massive MIMO type active antenna systems (at least from what little I know). I read an article saying that mmWave technology will be a big part of 5G cellular, using carriers of 28GHz to 40 GHz. mmWave, planar phased array antennas (beam-forming directional) all require a good amount of compute power (DSP) and amplification, and can come in fairly small packages due to the high frequencies.

My guess is that the unit here doesn't necessarily incorporate all of the above, but I wouldn't be surprised if it uses a couple of those technologies. As I am thinking the planar antennas, although small, are active and may include beamforming/directional capabilities, which implies multiple low power amplifiers. This article states that managing many small amplifiers is less efficient than fewer large amps, requiring better heat management, typically in the form of passively cooled heat fins. This paper was also interesting and showed active antenna array technology that might be behind those plastic planes.

I actually wonder if the unit might be there beta testing for someone, there just aren't many pictures of commercial antennas like this, but plenty of drawings and articles. Like when searching Google for ["mMIMO" beamforming antenna].

Too bad I don't have $2000 to drop on this report.
 

drgowans

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To the OP, does your neighbor have any other antennas on their roof or vehicle?
Nope. They seem like average folks, no overt technology interests that I can see. They have a Dish Network dish on their house - that's the only other noticeable thing. Their cars have no antennas on them or anything that I've seen.
 
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