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Electrical and Mechanical Downtilt and their Effects on

Horizontal Pattern Performance

By Louis (Lou) J. Meyer, P.E.


Director, Applications Engineering

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Inter-sector interference has been a problem for wireless operators ever since RF engineers
deployed the first sector array antennas. Radiation patterns that bleed outside the antenna's
defined sector affect not only the quality of service in adjacent sectors within the same cell, but
can disrupt service in adjacent cells as well.
In an attempt to confine the signal to its specific sector, operators have employed a variety of
techniques, including physically downtilting the antenna. Known as mechanical downtilt, this
technique has been effective to some degree, but has also caused additional problems.
Physically downtilting the antenna occurs along a single horizontal plane. As the front of the
antenna is tilted down, the back is, by default, tilted up. This limitation creates a variety of
radiation pattern irregularities, such as pattern blooming, that are a major source of inter-sector
interference. Even still, mechanical downtilt has become an accepted practice. To help
compensate for the inherent limitations of mechanical downtilt, the industry has developed certain
general guidelines.
The introduction of electrically downtilted antennas gave network operators greater flexibility in
tilting the antenna beam and manipulating the radiation pattern. The electrically downtilted
antenna enables the operator to tilt the antenna pattern along an infinite number of angles, in
effect, creating a three-dimensional “cone of coverage.” As a result, electrical downtilt allows the
operator greater freedom in shaping the antenna's horizontal radiation pattern to minimize inter-
sector interference and maximize quality of service within the specified sector.
The use of electrically downtilted antennas has increased significantly since the technology was
first introduced. RF engineers, however, continue to apply the same basic guidelines initially
developed to help compensate for the limitations of mechanical downtilt antennas.
Additionally, many operators have begun to use mechanical downtilt in tandem with electrical
downtilt. While combining the two methods can be effective in very limited applications, data
suggests that overall this practice leads to horizontal pattern deformations that can altogether
offset the benefits of electrical downtilt.
This paper has been developed in order to demonstrate the horizontal pattern-shaping abilities of
sector array antennas using electrical versus mechanical downtilt. Specifically, it illustrates how
electrical downtilt can be used to minimize interference in the horizontal plane by systematically
lowering gain — at boresite, 180° behind boresite, and at ±90° to boresite. Additionally, this paper
seeks to quantify the negative effects of attempting to combine the two technologies.
It also provides a revised and improved guideline for antennas using electric downtilt in order to
help operators reduce horizontal pattern irregularities such as pattern blooming, beam squint and
front-to-back ratios to acceptable levels.

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 1 of 15


SECTORIZATION AND INTRA-CELL INTERFERENCE
A key driver in the design of RF networks is the continual need to create greater and greater
network capacity. Since the development of the early omnidirectional antennas, engineers have
relied upon frequency re-use within the same system in order to generate more capacity.
The introduction of the sector array antenna enabled engineers to employ frequency re-use to an
even greater degree and realize higher capacity within a given cell. While the upside has been
increased cell capacity, the downside is that sectorized antenna systems can create a greater
degree of intra-cell interference.
In a typical three-sector array, three antennas, each with a 65° horizontal beamwidth, cover the
area around the tower and some defined distance towards the horizon. Theoretically, each
antenna should cover the exact pie-shaped area defined by its sector, and only that area.
Practically, that is not the case. Because of the need to provide total sector coverage and ensure
consistent high-speed hand-offs, the patterns of adjacent sectors must overlap. The overlap
typically occurs at –10 dB from maximum gain. More overlap than this, –6 dB for example, can
create significant interference that degrades the quality of service and reduces cell capacity.
Today's high-speed data and video-driven networks are highly sensitive to any signal disruption.
Antenna designers are constantly in search of techniques to help them achieve total sector
coverage with a minimum of sector overlap. Of these techniques, downtilting the antenna has
proven the most cost-effect and, as a result, is among the most frequently used.
Note: Throughout this paper, any discussion of antenna patterns is meant to apply to the
antenna's horizontal pattern only.

MECHANICAL DOWNTILT AND ITS AFFECTS


ON PATTERN PERFORMANCE
Until recently, the accepted method for downtilting an
antenna was to mechanically alter its position on the
tower. But as shown by the yellow shading in Figure 1,
the antenna represents a fixed unit capable of tilting
along one plane only. As the front tilts down to lower the
gain on the horizon, the back tilts up, changing the front-
to-back ratio and increasing inter-sector interference.

Figure 1: Articulation of a mechanically downtilted


antenna along the horizontal plane

One of the specific results created by the limitations of mechanical


downtilt is known as pattern blooming, illustrated in Figure 2. The
degrees of mechanical downtilt are indicated by the varying shades in Figure 2. The outermost
pattern represents a mechanically downtiled antenna with 0º of downtilt. The change in pattern
shading represents what happens as the antenna is mechanically downtilted – 4º, 6º, 8º, and 10º.

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 2 of 15


100 90 80
110 70
120 60
130 50

140 40

150 30

160 20

170 10

180 0

190 350

200 340

210 330
220 320
230 310
240 300
250 290
260 270 280

Figure 2: Pattern blooming as a result of mechanical downtilt

At 0º downtilt, and even at 4º, the pattern is relatively uniform. But notice what happens as the
antenna is mechanically downtilted further. The 3 dB beamwidth begins to flatten out. At 8º of
mechanical downtilt, the 3 dB beamwidth continues to grow wider, well beyond the 65º pattern for
which it was intended. At 10º mechanical downtilt, the pattern is grossly distorted. All these
pattern deformities represent varying degrees of a phenomenon known as pattern blooming.
Realizing that mechanical downtilt creates pattern distortion, the industry attempted to define how
much pattern blooming was acceptable. A 10% pattern bloom, defined as a 10% increase in the
rated azimuth pattern of a particular antenna, became the recommended maximum for this type
of horizontal pattern distortion. It was well documented that the typical 65º azimuth antenna, at 0º
mechanical downtilt, exhibits about a 10 dB reduction in crossover gain. Therefore, this 10 dB
reduction in gain has become the de facto specification for most modulation schemes in high
capacity areas.
To help designers determine how much mechanical downtilt could be employed without creating
more than 10% pattern blooming, engineers developed a rough rule of thumb through studies
using vertically polarized (V-Pol) antennas. The guideline recommended that mechanical downtilt
of an antenna should not exceed more than one-half of its vertical beamwidth. While new antenna
technologies have continued to develop, this guideline has seen no change since its inception.
Recent studies involving cross-polarized (X-Pol) antennas along with more accurate and
sophisticated range measurement equipment have both improved the former rule of thumb and
shown that additional performance parameters can also be degraded by aggressive mechanical
downtilting.

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 3 of 15


ELECTRICAL DOWNTILT PROVIDES GREATER
PATTERN CONTROL
The development of the electrically downtilted antenna
gives operators greater control and precision in
shaping the antenna's horizontal radiation patterns.
Whereas mechanical downtilt alters the antenna's
physical position on the tower, electrical downtilt
changes the phase delivered to the antenna's
radiating elements — independently and
simultaneously. This allows engineers to manipulate
gain in a full 360º around the tower and to the outer
perimeter of the site. The visual representation of this
coverage resembles a cone as seen in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Cone shaped coverage of


electrical downtilt

When mechanically and electrically downtilted antenna patterns are compared side by side, the
ability of the electrically downtilted antenna to reduce anomalies such as pattern blooming
becomes apparent. Figure 4 illustrates the results when two antennas with identical specifications
— one electrically downtilted and the other mechanically downtilted — are tilted at varying
degrees. The pattern on the right (Figure 2 from above) indicates undesirable distortion
previously noted. The distortion grows more acute as the tilt position increases. The pattern on
the left indicates how the electrically downtilted antenna suppresses the pattern bloom. It is able
to achieve this because the individual radiating elements are being manipulated instead of the
entire antenna as a fixed unit.

100 90 80 100 90 80
110 70 110 70
120 60 120 60
130 50 130 50
140 40 140 40

150 30 150 30

160 20 160 20

170 10 170 10

180 0 180 0

190 350 190 350

200 340 200 340

210 330 210 330


220 320 220 320
230 310 230 310
240 300 240 300
250 290 250 290
260 270 280 260 270 280

Electrical Downtilt Only Mechanical Downtilt Only

Figure 4: Electrical vs. mechanical downtilt pattern comparison

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 4 of 15


In addition to reducing horizontal pattern blooming, the increased beam forming capabilities of
the electrically downtilted antennas have yielded significant improvement in controlling other
negative pattern characteristics. These include beam squint, front-to-back ratio and cross-
polarization ratio.
Beam Squint
Beam squint is defined as the difference between the mechanical boresite and the electrical
boresite of an antenna as shown in Figure 5. The mechanical boresite is defined as being
perpendicular to the antenna’s back tray while electrical boresite is defined as the mid-point of the
3 dB beamwidth.
Horizontal Boresite

Mechanical Electrical
Boresite Boresite
0/2
Squint
0
0
350 10
340 20
–3 dB 330 30 +3 dB
320 40

310 50

300 60

290 70

280 80

270 90

260 100

250 110

240 120

230 130

220 140
210 150
200 160
190 180 170

Figure 5: Beam squint


Figures 6 and 7 compare the degree of beam squint created when using mechanical downtilt only
versus electrical downtilt only. The data is based on a vertically polarized (V-Pol) 65º azimuth
antenna and a DualPol® (X-Pol) 65º azimuth antenna, and is expressed as a percentage of the
antennas’ vertical beamwidths for easy comparison.

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 5 of 15


In Figure 6, the degree of difference between mechanical and electrical boresites remains
relatively consistent when using electrical tilt only. Figure 7 demonstrates how the beam squint on
the DualPol antenna increases with the degree of mechanical downtilt. At the higher angles of
mechanical downtilt on X-Pol antennas, the squint can exceed 10% of the antenna’s azimuth
beamwidth, causing coverage holes in some areas and inter-sector interference in others.

Beam Peak (Bisected at 3 dB)


Max and Min over Band vs E-Tilt
Max and Min Squint (degrees)

(M-Tilt = 0)
8
6
4
2 48 in X-pol Squint
0 48 in X-pol Squint
-2 48 in V-pol Squint
-4 48 in V-pol Squint
-6
-8
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
E-Tilt (percent of VBW)

Figure 6: Beam squint with electrical tilt only

Beam Peak (Bisected at 3 dB)


Max and Min over Band vs M-tilt
(E-Tilt = 0)
8
Max and Min Squint (degrees)

6
4 48 in X-pol Squint
48 in X-pol Squint
2
48 in V-pol Squint
0 48 in V-pol Squint
-2
-4
-6
-8
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
M-Tilt (percent of VBW)

Figure 7: Beam squint using mechanical tilt only

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 6 of 15


Sector Power Ratio
Sector Power Ratio (SPR) is another measure of an antenna’s ability to minimize interference.
SPR is an expression of the RF power radiated outside the sector versus the RF power radiated
and retained within the sector. The best performing antenna designs provide SPRs of 3% – 4%,
while typical designs using dipole or patch elements yield an SPR of about 8%. Figure 8
illustrates the concept of Sector Power Ratio and the equation used for its calculation.

120°

350 0 10
340 20
330 30
320 40

310 50

300 Desired 60

290 70

280 80
Undesired
270 90

300 260 100

Σ PUndesired 250 110

60
SPR (%) = X 100
240 120

60 230 130

Σ PDesired
220 140
210 150
200 160
300 190 180 170

Figure 8: Sector power ratio

Much like beam squint, SPR remains relatively constant for both V-Pol and X-Pol antennas using
solely electrical tilt (Figure 9). When subjected to mechanical downtilt only, however, SPR
performance begins to degrade rapidly as the tilt angle is increased (Figure 10).

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 7 of 15


Sector Power Ratio vs E-tilt
M-Tilt = 0
18

16
Sector Power Ratio (%)

14

12
48 in X-pol 850
10 96 in X-pol 850
48.5 in V-pol 850
8

2
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
E-Tilt (percent of VBW)

Figure 9: SPR using electrical downtilt only

Sector Power Ratio vs M-tilt


E-Tilt = 0
18

16
Sector Power Ratio (%)

14

12

10 48 in X-pol 850
96 in X-pol 850
8 48.5 in V-pol 850
6

2
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
M-Tilt (percent of VBW)

Figure 10: SPR using mechanical downtilt only

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 8 of 15


ADVERSE EFFECTS OF COMBINED ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL
DOWNTILT
Since the advent of the electrically downtilted antenna, it has been common for some operators to
combine electrical and mechanical downtilt on the same antenna in hopes of achieving better
pattern performance. This, in fact, can have the opposite affect.
Reports of worse than normal interference at a site using combined electrical and mechanical
downtilt led to Andrew conducting an investigation to analyze the effects of such a combination.
The investigators looked at the degree of pattern variance at different tilt positions using
mechanical tilt only, electrical tilt only, and various combinations of mechanical and electrical tilt.
Some key findings from this analysis are reflected in Figure 11.
The patterns shown in Figure 11 are examples of various downtilt scenarios (In the legends
shown below, M represents the degree of mechanical downtilt and E represents the degree of
electrical downtilt).
-100 -90 -80 -100 -90 -80
-110 -70 -110 -70
0 0
-120 -60 -120 -60
-130 -5 -50 -130 -5 -50
-10 -140 -10 -40
-140 -40
-15 -15
-150 -30 Tilt: M=0, E=0 -150 -30
-20 -20
-160 -25 -20 Angle: 17° -160 -25 -20

-170
-30
-10
Crossover: 10 dB -170
-30
-10
-35 -35
180 0 180 0
-40 -40

170 10 Tilt: M=0, E=7 170 10

160 20 Angle: 17° 160 20

150 30 Crossover: 10 dB 150 30

140 40 140 40

130 50
Crossover denotes the pattern rolloff 130 50
120 60 at the sector edges where adjacent 120 60
110 70 110 70
100 90 80 pattern amplitudes intersect. 100 90 80

-90 -90
-110
-100 -80
-70 Angle denotes an arbitrary interference -110
-100 -80
-70
0 0
-120 -60 zone where adjacent pattern -120 -60
-130 -5 -50 -130 -5 -50
amplitudes are different by 6 dB or less.
-140 -10 -40 -140 -10 -40
-15 -15
-150
-20
-30
Tilt: M=7, E=7 -150
-20
-30

-160 -25 -20


Angle: 25° -160 -25 -20

-170
-30
-10 Crossover: 7 dB -170 -30 -10
-35 -35
180 0 180 0
-40 -40

170 10
Tilt: M=14, E=0 170 10

160 20 Angle: 29° 160 20

150 30 Crossover: 5 dB 150 30

140 40 140 40

130 50 130 50
120 60 120 60
110 70 110 70
100 90 80 100 90 80

Figure 11: Pattern variances

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 9 of 15


Note that the normalized light green pattern for M=0, E=0 and the light blue pattern for M=0, E=7
practically overlay each other. In both cases, the antenna beam has been re-directed using
electrical downtilt only. This substantiates the concept that, when using electrical downtilt only,
the horizontal pattern remains consistent even as the tilt angle increases. By contrast, the other
patterns in Figure 11 illustrate what happens when mechanical downtilt is used by itself or in
combination with electrical downtilt. The patterns in which mechanical downtilt is used (Purple
and Red) indicate blooming of the horizontal pattern as well as worsening of front-to-back ratios.
Investigators also analyzed the effects of combined mechanical and electrical downtilt on the
front-to-back ratio (F/B) and Cross-Polarization Ratio (CPR).
Front-to-back ratio (F/B) compares gain at boresite to gain at point 180º behind boresite as
shown in Figure 12. It is often expressed as the F/B ratio over some angle around the 180º point
(ie. 180 ±30º).

Figure 12: Front-to-back ratio

Cross-Polarization Ratio (CPR) as shown in Figure 13 is a measure of the de-correlation of the


two polarizations used in a X-Pol antenna — one at +45º and the other at –45º.

Figure 13: Cross-polarization ratio


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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 10 of 15


Figure 14 demonstrates the degradation in F/B ratio and CPR when mechanical downtilt is
applied to an antenna already having a large amount of electrical downtilt. The patterns are for a
typical 4 foot, 65º antenna employing 15º electrical downtilt and 5º mechanical downtilt.

Color Dataset Name Frequency Pattern Pol.


AZ/LB/RP/12 (MECH. Tilt 5) 0.836 AZ Co-pol
AZ/LB/RP/12 (MECH. Tilt 5) 0.836 AZ X-Pol

Figure 14: Effect of combined tilt on CPR and F/B

The F/B ratio has degraded to approximately 18 dB at 180º and the cross-pol is actually worse
than the co-pol pattern. Taken over a ±30º angle around 180º this F/B method measures only
8 dB!
Finally, the CPR over the desired sector degrades to only 5 dB at the sector edge — far short of
the 10 dB expectation.
With a vertical beamwidth of ~16º @ 850 MHz, the tilt combination is well beyond even the 20%
blooming curve of Figure 7. In fact, the horizontal beamwidth is in the neighborhood of 160º or
approximately 250% blooming!

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
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to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 11 of 15


DEVELOPING A MORE ACCURATE RULE OF THUMB
The observations of the investigation team strongly indicated that — in most cases –– combining
electrical and mechanical downtilt has significant adverse affects on pattern performance. The
next step was to revisit the original rule of thumb to ascertain whether it was still applicable.
First, range patterns were measured on different antennas for both the azimuth (through elevation
boresite) and horizontal (on the horizon) cuts. This was done at various mechanical and
electrical tilt angles. The findings in Figures 15 and 16, show that the old rule of thumb is no
longer applicable when electrical downtilt is employed.
But the fact remains that some operators will continue to combine electrical and mechanical
downtilt. Therefore, it is useful to have a rough but workable guideline when deploying
mechanical and electrical downtilt in order to suppress pattern blooming.
In developing a more accurate rule of thumb, investigators used data points from the latest and
most accurately measured range data. Once the data points were plotted, the resulting curves
(indicated in Figures 15 and 16), dictated the typical amount of combined mechanical and/or
electrical downtilt allowable in order to keep pattern blooming to a maximum of 10% and 20%.
Figure 15 models the performance of an antenna with a 65º azimuth, 48.5 inch height, 19º
elevation, and operating at 787 MHz. Figure 16 assumes an antenna with 65º azimuth, 81.5 inch
height, 9.9º elevation, and operating at 787 MHz.

LNX-6512 Blooming (Calc) M0E0 0.0%


70% M4E0 3.0%
M7E0 9.8%

60% M11E0 32.0% M9E0 17.9%


M11E0 32.0%
M9E4 34.4% M0E4 0.0%
50% M9E0 17.9% M4E4 6.3%
M-tilt (% of VBW)

M7E4 18.8%
M7E4 18.8% M7E8 36.7%
40% M7E0 9.8%
M9E4 34.4%
M0E8 0.0%
M5E8 18.5% M4E8 12.3%
30%
M5E8 18.5%
M4E4 6.3%
M5E10 24.6% M7E8 36.7%
M4E0 3.0%
20% M4E10 15.4% M0E10 0.0%
M4E8 12.3%
M3E15 39.4% M4E10 15.4%
M5E10 24.6%
10% M2E15 16.7%
M0E15 0.0%
M0E0 0.0% M0E4 0.0% M0E8 0.0% M1E15
M0 6.1%
M0 E1 M1E15 6.1%
E1 5
0% 0 0 0.0 M2E15 16.7%
.0 % %
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% M3E15 39.4%
10% Blooming
E-Tilt (% of VBW)
20% Blooming

Figure 15: 48.5 Inch height antenna performance

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
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WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 12 of 15


LNX-6515 Blooming (Calc)
70%
M6E0 39.0% M6E2 78.1%
M0E0 0%
60% M2E0 2.8%
M4E0 12.8%
50% M6E0 39.0%
M4E2 25.0%
M-tilt (% of VBW)

M4E4 46.9% M8E0 96.3%


M4E0 12.8%
M0E2 0.0%
40%
M2E2 6.3%
M4E2 25.0%
30% 10% Blooming
M2E4 10.4% M2E8 57.8% M6E2 78.1%
M2E0 2.8% M0E4 0.0%
20%
M2E2 6.3% M2E4 10.4%
M1E8 15.6%
M4E4 46.9%
10% M0E8 0.0%
M0E0 0% M0E2 0.0% M0E4 0.0% M0E8 0.0% M1E8 15.6%
0% M2E8 57.8%
20% Blooming
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
E-Tilt (% of VBW)

Figure 16: 81.5 Inch height antenna performance

As the green (10% blooming) curve demonstrates, the more electrical downtilt is employed, the
less mechanical downtilt can be used to stay within the 10% goal. Based on this new data, the
investigative team recommended a new rule of thumb to be used in order to keep blooming to
within 10%. It states:
65º AzBW M-Tilt10% Bloom = (VBW – E-Tilt)/2.5

Figure 16 also illustrates another important new finding. Even when no electrical downtilt is used,
the old rule of thumb governing the maximum amount of mechnical downtilt is no longer valid.
Instead of using a k-factor of 2, the graph in Figure 16 indicates that the correct formula should
be:
65º AzBW M-Tilt10% Bloom = VBW/2.5

It should be noted that the guidelines suggested here apply only to common 65º azimuth
beamwidth antennas. Upon further investigation, antennas having azimuth beamwidths other
than 65º vary as to the maximum k-factor required to keep blooming within 10%. As indicated in
Figure 17, the k-factor ranges from 1.5 for 33º azimuth models to 3.3 for 90º azimuth models.
Note that these rules of thumb describe typical band-center performance and can vary somewhat
at the band edges. They also only hold true if the combined mechanical and electrical tilts do not
tilt the pattern beyond its first upper null.

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
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WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 13 of 15


Mechanical Downtilt
Factor for 10% Horizontal Blooming
Xº HBW M-tilt10% Bloom = (VBW – E-tilt)/k
3.5

3.0
k Factor

2.5
k vs HBW
2.0

1.5

1.0
30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90
Rated Azimuth Beamwidth (deg)

Figure 17: Maximum k-factor for non-65º azimuth antennas

CONCLUSIONS
The industry has long been aware of the inherent physical limitations of antennas using
mechanical downtilt and the challenges they present in trying to adequately balance coverage
and interference. In fact, it was this understanding of the shortcomings of mechanically downtilted
antennas that led to earlier engineers developing a basic rule of thumb to try and keep pattern
blooming in check.
Yet, when this rule of thumb was revisited it was found to be somewhat inaccurate and
insufficient in consideration of the use of X-Pol antennas and the demand for more precise RF
containment. More accurate range data shows that, in order to keep pattern blooming to less than
10%, the maximum mechanical tilt is not half (50%) the vertical beamwidth as previously
believed, but it is more precisely the vertical beamwidth divided by 2.5 (40%). This finding in and
of itself is significant as one can readily see how at increased tilt angles, pattern blooming can
quickly get out of hand. Couple it with the fact that many of today's engineers are attempting to
combine mechanical and electrical downtilt — which adds much greater degree of pattern erosion
— and it becomes clear that a new mathematical model is needed.
While we have suggested an alternative model to the old rule of thumb, one that is more accurate
and consistent with today's more precise antenna designs, the underlying message throughout

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© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 14 of 15


this paper does not change: Engineers employing any degree of mechanical downtilt, whether by
itself or in combination with electrical downtilt, must be prepared for unexpected and often
undesirable pattern variances.
This effect holds true beyond pattern blooming and can be seen in other horizontal pattern
characteristics such as front-to-back ratio, beam squint, sector power ratio, and cross-polarization
ratio. Therefore, it would seem that the best and most precise solution would be to eliminate the
use of mechanical downtilt altogether. As noted in this paper, antennas using only electrical
downtilt produce horizontal patterns that maximize sector coverage while minimizing potential
interference, and that their patterns demonstrate a high degree of consistency regardless of the
tilt angle.
As the industry continues to evolve, the need to be able to consistently support high-speed, high-
capacity video and data traffic will become a subscriber expectation. In this interference-limited
environment, keeping inter-sector signal disruption to an absolute minimum will become a key
competitive advantage. Those operators who plan now to make exclusive use of electrically
downtilted antennas a part of their deployment strategy will be positioned to reap the benefits in
the near future.

Visit our Web site at www.commscope.com/andrew or contact your local Andrew Solutions representative for more information.

© 2010 CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. Andrew Solutions is a trademark of CommScope. All trademarks identified by ® or ™ are registered trademarks or
trademarks, respectively, of CommScope. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating
to Andrew products or services.

WP-103755-EN (6/10) • Page 15 of 15