What Is a GPS Antenna

GPS, or global positioning system, helps you stay on track by telling you where your exact location is. It can be used along the roads, mountains, or any outdoor areas. When the signal gets intermittent, you probably need to install a GPS antenna. What is a GPS antenna?

What Is a GPS Antenna?

An antenna is defined as a basic electromagnetic device for transmitting and receiving signals to and from the air respectively. Many electronic devices such as television, radio, cellular phones, and GPS are built with an antenna to send or receive radio waves. It can also work in outer space.

GPS is a navigation system that receives signals from the satellites made possible by the antenna. You might think that GPS units don’t have antennas because most of them are not visible. What you might not know is that they are built inside the GPS unit or inside its case. In some cases, an external antenna is installed when the need arises.

When looking for a GPS antenna, always consider the quality and opinions of other users. Sometimes, expensive antennas are worth an investment. Among the popular manufacturers of GPS antennas are Novatel Inc., QGP Supply, Xtenzi, Aukey, Linx Technologies, and Antcom Corporation.

Different Types of GPS Antenna

Most GPS units are built with an internal antenna that works perfectly fine especially on a clear day. However, they are not as powerful as the external antennas, which can double up the signal strength.

Some people try to move the GPS device around to find or increase signal strength, but if you do this every day, you might need to install an external GPS antenna. There are three types of GPS antenna that you can choose from, which are passive, active, and re-radiating antennas.

  • Active Antennas

The major component of active antennas is the Low Noise Amplifier (LNA). Most antenna cables experience signal loss, which the LNA makes up for. Active antennas are connected to the jack of the receiver’s external antenna for power supply. This causes the receiver’s batteries to drain easily.

On most cases, the receiver identifies the presence of an active antenna by the current drain. When the current drain level is above a particular point, the receiver automatically switches off the internal antenna. Active antennas should be mounted further away; hence, it is best used for bigger cars.

  • Passive Antennas

A passive antenna does not have LNA, so it does not need power. It simply receives the GPS signal and passes it on to the GPS device. It is mounted through a coaxial cable that is no longer than three feet. With this limitation, passive antennas cost less than an active antenna.

  • Re-radiating Antennas

Re-radiating antennas are commonly installed in offices, laboratories, trucks, ships, buses, and other vehicles. It is an antenna system that is comprised of two antennas: a receiving antenna and a “re-radiating” one.

The receiving antenna is mounted outside the building or any other structure, while the “re-radiating” antenna is placed close to the GPS receiver. Both antennas are linked together using a coaxial cable. A re-radiating antenna is powered by an AC adaptor or a 12-volt vehicle supply. It is the most advanced type of antenna that has a range of up to 30 meters.

Popular GPS Applications

GPS is used in many different applications. The most popular is the GPS units installed in vehicles. It provides accurate navigation and location services to help the driver maintain the right direction.

Other applications of GPS are:

  • Astronomy
  • Cell phones
  • Cartography
  • Automated vehicles
  • Aircraft tracking

Why Would You Need GPS Antenna?

It is not imperative to install a GPS antenna. This is especially true when your GPS device is working well and doesn’t experience any signal loss at all. However, there are some instances that you might need to install an external GPS antenna. Here are some the most common reasons:

  • If you plan to drive to a place you have never been before, make sure that your GPS doesn’t lose signal. Signals in some locations are weak that it doesn’t reach the GPS internal antenna. In this case, you need to install an external antenna.
  • The quality of the internal antenna is not good.
  • The specific factors that obstruct the signal. These may include trees, buildings, etc.
  • You switched from a portable GPS device to an in-dash GPS unit.
  • You are using a new GPS device that has accuracy or signal problems in your location.

Causes of GPS Signal Errors

The following could be too technical for you, but it will help you understand why your GPS device experiences inaccuracy and other signal errors.

  • Orbital Error

The cause of the error is the reported location by the satellite. It is also known as ephemeris errors.

  • Signal Multipath

The GPS signal is reflected off of trees, buildings, rocks, and other large surfaces before it reaches the GPS antenna. Signal multipath causes the signal to travel longer than normal. Hence, an error or delay occurs.

  • Error in the Receiver Clock

Very little timing error happens when the accuracy of the integrated clock of the receiver is not the same as the atomic clock inside the GPS device.

  • Number of Visible Satellites

GPS devices usually don’t work indoors and undergrounds. Buildings, dense foliage, and other electronic devices can block the signal and cause errors in positioning. In simpler words, the number of satellites the GPS can reach, the more accurate is the position reading.

  • Thick Clouds

The signal from the satellite slows down when it passes through troposphere and ionosphere. This kind of error is partially corrected by the integrated model used in the GPS device.


When it comes to GPS devices, it is important to keep the GPS location accurate and reliable. Knowing what is a GPS antenna is something that plays a huge role in keeping everything in order. This is especially true in more important applications where GPS devices are used.

The truthfulness and availability of signal are always taken into consideration. In public transportation where the safety of passenger is at stake, it could be a total disaster if the signal gets an issue.

Most GPS devices are built with an internal antenna, which is only accurate in unobstructed areas. If you plan to make your GPS device more reliable, installing an external antenna is a good idea. It may cost some bucks, but it is definitely a worthy investment.

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