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Fluke Updates Wi-Fi Survey and Analyzer Tools for 11ac

As new Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac begins to make inroads into schools, Fluke Networks is introducing updated editions of its tools for designing and troubleshooting wireless networks. The company is adding 802.11ac functionality to AirMagnet Survey PRO and AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO.

Wireless networking gear built to the new standard promises near-gigabit performance, high transmission rates, greater range and higher density, features that are finding favor in school district environments where large numbers of users congregate and expect to use their mobile devices.

According to telecommunications research firm Infonetics, access points built to the 11ac specification are expected to account for about three quarters of all AP shipments by 2017. Right now shipment of 11ac gear is having a "much faster ramp" than 11n, due, the company said, "to the relatively small price premium of 11ac products." Infonetics projects that two-thirds of users who are currently using a/b/g networking gear will skip 802.11n altogether and go directly to 11ac.

And none too soon for users. ABI Research estimated that nearly three-quarters of mobile handset shipments with Wi-Fi will be based on 11ac by 2015.

However, warned Gartner, in a research report, although "more bandwidth is good, and 802.11ac can better support high transaction dense environments" the new standard "does not solve the underlying problem of poorly or inadequately implemented WLANs."

One temptation when a network is being upgraded to 11ac is to put APs into the same locations where the last set of APs was placed. That's a problem, said Dilip Advani, Fluke's director of product marketing and management. "The original network was designed for 2.4 gigahertz. With 11ac being a 5 gigahertz technology, some of the design and deployment decisions [network people] made earlier may not work here... They need to define their migration strategy before rolling out any access points physically." He added that network designers may find they don't need to go to 11ac. "Maybe 11n is good enough."

Advani added that the other "temptation" people face, especially when a user complains about wireless performance, is to "buy another AP and throw it [up]. It's easy and fast. But when you install it, it may cause even more problems in regards to interference and may even reduce the performance."

That's where Fluke's new products come in. AirMagnet Survey PRO is an application for doing site surveys and determining the number, location and configuration of the specific APs a school has chosen for its wireless network. The program can produce a "weather map" of radio frequency and user performance metrics to guide the network deployment. The new version of Survey PRO allows the network engineer to specify what 11ac APs will be used.

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO provides users a toolkit for detecting and troubleshooting Wi-Fi performance problems. The new version of the software adds the capability of working with 11ac network gear.

  AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO provides users a toolkit for detecting and troubleshooting Wi-Fi performance problems.
AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO provides users a toolkit for detecting and troubleshooting Wi-Fi performance problems.

The company indicated it expects AirMagnet Survey PRO to be available this month. The PRO edition includes AirMagnet Planner, software for designing the network pre-deployment and generating a bill of materials. Survey Pro is listed for $4,235.

Analyzer PRO will be available in the last quarter of 2014. That will have a list price of $4,115.

"Adding more 802.11ac capabilities to our AirMagnet products will help wireless engineers and technicians deploy Gigabit Wi-Fi networks right the first time, without costly redesigns or network overhauls," said Advani. "Using Fluke Networks, they will get the Wi-Fi performance they're paying for and can solve problems accurately and faster than ever before."

Fluke's network tools have been used in New York's Ithaca College, the University of Arizona and the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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