PCB of the antenna about to be modded, with components desoldered and different parts of the circuit highlighted

Make A GPS Antenna Compatible With Same Manufacturer’s Receiver

GPS can be a bit complex of a technology – you have to receive a signal below the noise floor, do quite a bit of math that relies on the theory of relativity, and, adding insult to injury, you also have to go outside to test it. Have you ever wondered how GPS antennas work? In particular, how do active GPS antennas get power down the same wire that they use to send signal to the receiver? Wonder not, because [Tom Verbeure] gifts us a post detailing a mod letting a fancy active GPS antenna use a higher-than-expected input voltage.

[Tom]’s post has the perfect amount of detail – enough pictures to illustrate the entire journey, and explanations to go with all of it. The specific task is modifying a Symmetricom antenna to work with a Symmetricom GPS receiver, which has a puzzling attribute of supplying 12V to the antenna instead of more common 3.3V or 5V. There’s a few possible options detailed, and [Tom] goes for the cleanest possible one – replacing the voltage regulator used inside of the antenna.

With a suitable replacement regulator installed and a protection diode replaced, the antenna no longer registers as a short circuit, and gets [Tom] a fix – you, in turn, get a stellar primer on how exactly active GPS antennas work. If your device isn’t ready to use active GPS antennas, [Tom]’s post will help you understand another GPS antenna hack we covered recently – modifying the Starlink dish to use an active antenna to avoid jamming on the frontlines.

A bias tee module added inside the Starlink terminal, connected to the pads where a GPS antenna used to be wired

GPS Antenna Mods Make Starlink Terminal Immune To Jammers

The Starlink receivers need positioning and precise timing information to function, and currently the best way to get that information is to use a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) such as GPS. Unfortunately, the antenna used for this secondary satellite connection leaves something to be desired. Of course, when it comes to solving Starlink problems, there’s no one best than [Oleg Kutkov], whose duty is to fix and improve upon Starlink terminals used in Ukraine — and when the specific problem is GPS bands getting jammed by the invading military, you better believe that a fix is due.

[Oleg] sets the scene, walking us through the evolution of GPS circuitry on the Starlink terminals. Then he shows us the simplest mods you can do, like soldering an improved passive antenna in place of the chip antenna currently being used. Then, he takes it up a notch, and shows us how you could attach an active antenna by using a bias tee module, a mod that would surely work wonders on more than just this device! Then, he brings out the test result tables — and the differences are impressive, in that the Starlink terminals with active antenna mods were able to get GPS signal in areas with active jamming going on, while the unmodified ones could not.

The post is exceptionally accessible, and a must read for anyone wondering about GPS antenna reception problems in customer-accessible devices. This is not the only Starlink hardware mod we’ve seen [Oleg] make, we’ve just covered his Starlink Ethernet port restoration journey that meticulously fixes Ethernet connectivity oversights in the newer models, and the blog also has an article about powering Starlink terminals without the need for PoE, so, do check it out if you’re looking for more!