Fluke’s AirMagnet Spectrum ES: Inexpensive Spectral Analysis for Cellular Services

Already a leader in Wi-Fi spectral analysis, Fluke Networks has announced a powerful, low-cost spectrum analyzer for cellular that will prove invaluable in solving a broad range of coverage and performance issues.

My #1 wish-list item back in the '90s was a low-cost WLAN-oriented spectral analysis tool, interference and propagation being the challenges that they are in the unlicensed bands. But given that installers of distributed antenna systems (DASes), small cells (microcells, femtocells, etc.), and even cellular repeaters on any scale need a similar set of functions, it's great to see Fluke Networks stepping up to the plate with AirMagnet Spectrum ES, a very cost-effective spectral analysis solution for spectrum between 698 MHz. and 2690 MHz.

Anyone familiar with spectral analysis should be productive very quickly with this product, which is delivered as a USB adapter and software for Windows. It's all here - FFT, spectrogram, spectral density over time, and duty cycle by band. The device can be connected (through attenuators, of course) to an antenna cable directly to verify antenna function and performance. And, by the way, it would be wrong to assume that interference is never an issue in the unlicensed bands - it can indeed be, from co-channel interference on the same or a nearby network to intentional jammers. I think the regulatory community across the globe will thus also be interested in this product. AirMagnet maintains a database of what carrier is in what band with what technology, so the device is even more intuitive and easy to operate. Ever tried using a US$25K (or even much more) cellular test set? This product, at about US$6K, is going to prove, I believe, wildly successful - a gold star to Fluke Networks! Oh, yes, it will also integrate with Fluke's Spectrum XT Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer.

Keep in mind here this product is only a sensor/scanner, and in that only of the PHY - it won't let you put a load on a cellular network (although you can use your own handset for that), it's not a protocol analyzer, and it won't let you listen in on calls (which would be illegal anyway). No matter - I'm looking forward to giving this one a try and will have a more detailed report of features and performance for you in (I hope) the coming months. I suspect this product might also be useful for examining other systems in the L-Band, including GPS, some satellite communication services, the 900 MHz. unlicnesed band, and more. In the meantime, though, check this one out - if you're responsible for cellular service in your building or anywhere else, this is product you will want to own.

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