Wi-Fi survey tools get RF analysis

Wi-Fi survey tools get RF analysis

Wi-Fi site survey tools are starting to include spectrum analysis, so network managers can set up more reliable wireless LANs with one trip round the office.

AirMagnet has combined its RF analysis tool (launched last year, into the latest version of AirMagnet Survey, which also includes GPS linkage to make for easier data gathering. Wireless survey specialist Ekahau, meanwhile, has had its product adopted by network measurement company.

"With one walk through the floorplan, you can collect Wi-Fi and spectrum interference data," said Wade Williamson, product manager at AirMagnet, which is launching an integrated version of AirMagnet Survey 3.0 and Spectum Analyzer version 2.0 today. Building in spectrum analysis allows the network staff to identify the characteristic signals patterns of non-Wi-Fi devices such as phones and micro-wave ovens, and avoid problems, as well as to plan for the capacity and quality of the eventual network, he said.

"We've added in a notion of capacity planning," said Williamson. "Even if there's great coverage everywhere, if you have 40 users you may get bad performance." Network staff can select areas on the floorplan, specify how many users will be expected there, and find if the network will cope. They can set requirements, such as having two access points accessible, and see how much of the floor area meets those needs.

The combined product also includes integration with Microsoft MapPoint, so GPS data can be used directly without manual effort. The product has a 3D visualization of the peaks and troughs of wireless coverage, and also records and plays back the data captured, so any issues can be discussed after the survey.

Although US-based, AirMagnet has gone to some trouble to suit the product for Europeans as well, said Williamson. It checks for 50Hz microwaves as well as those using the US 60Hz mains, and it also looks for European Bluetooth profiles.

"AirMagnet is pitched at the right level so users can buy it on their security budget," said Jim Harvey of U.K. distributor ARC Technology Distribution, who says that survey tools are selling faster as more users attempt to run demanding applications such as voice on their wireless LANs.

Meanwhile, network test and analysis company Fluke has done a deal with wireless survey specialist Ekahau, to put together InterpretAir (which sounds a bit posh if you say it out loud), a laptop based system for simulating and building wireless LANs based on floorplans.

The two products sound very similar, although the Fluke one appears to have less spectrum analysis ability. They may end up competing on price: Harvey reckons that previous Fluke products have been more expensive than the AirMagnet. This time round, the AirMagnet Site Survey costs US$1995, or US$3995 for the Pro version, with the bundle including Spectrum Analyzer costing US$6995. Fluke's InterpretAir starts at US$3460 for a one user package.

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