All electronic devices always become more and more compact, and GPS trackers are not the exception. GPS antennas connected to AVL units with long coaxial cables might already seem rudimentary. Will they share the destiny of external GSM antennas in mobile phones that disappeared many years ago?

Indeed, if you take a glance on GPS trackers that recently appeared on the market, you will notice that many of them don’t require an external GPS antenna. They either just equipped with the plug for optional antenna or even don’t have it at all.

Evidently, external GPS antenna allows to “catch” the poorest signals and use more satellites in a visible area. However, with gaining GPS sensitivity it becomes less crucial to have the good tracking waypoints at all.

This trend can be traced in many product lines. We took some popular brands to discover the fading of external GNSS antennas as an essential part of trackers.

Queclink GV series is considered to be one of the most advanced and popular AVL devices in the world. The earlier GV200 model that was equipped with external GPS antenna. Some years later the series has eventually evolved into the internal-only antennas in very small devices GV500GV55 and GMT200. The idea on extra equipment came back later with GV65 model and its optional GNSS antenna. These changes became possible thanks to the newest GPS chips used, e.g. 72-channel u-blox M8 which supports GPS, GLONASS and other satellite signals and has the sensitivity up to -162dBm.

Teltonika vehicle trackers had just the same situation. The oldest AVL terminals FM3200 and FM4200 used to go with external antennas while next FM1120 and FM1200 models have core antennas inside. This trend has been followed by the newest Teltonika FM1010.

Let’s turn to Coban. The older Coban GPS103 uses an outward GPS antenna while the newest compact vehicle units like Coban GPS303 are equipped with internal receivers only.

Why do external GPS antennas become so rare?

  • Price. Customers often interpret “optional” as something irrelevant and unnecessary. The cost of antenna may be worth 5 to 15% of device price. It may push the tracker to another price tier.
  • Lack of necessity. A-GPS and high-sensitive receivers with modern GPS chips make the use of external antenna as a “very extra” feature.
  • Installation hardship. More wires mean more hassles. Consumers enjoy plug-and-play devices and may not be ready to think on how to install another antenna in their car.
  • Fragility. One of the issues of any external antenna is the aptitude to intentional or contra-volitional breaking.

Thus, external antennas are still used by consumers who are not aware of these reasons. In most cases, this story goes about fleet management, trucks control and special cargo when placement of antenna is crucial for more precise tracking.

Nonetheless, the expansion of the GPS III system scheduled for 2017 may end up the era of external antennas.

Would you like to share your personal experience about using GPS trackers with outward antennas in comments?