Cisco Spectrum Expert sets pace for affordable spectrum analysis tools

Score: 5.0 out of 5.0

We've been using Cisco's Spectrum Expert product since its origins at Cognio, and have found it to be a very useful tool at a very reasonable price (around $4,000). For this test we evaluated the latest hardware version (2.0) from Cisco, along with the latest software release (3.3.52). Spectrum Expert is easy to install (load the software, and insert the PC-card sensor), and information is presented logically in multiple customizable tiled windows. A broad range of configuration possibilities exists, with each window being easily settable to display particular information via a simple menu system.

Core functions include a real-time Fast Fourier Transform (FFT, used to convert gathered data to a useful frequency-spectrum display -- FFT duty cycle, swept spectrogram, power vs. frequency, and power vs. time. Summary charts for channel utilization and interference power are provided, along with a detailed summary of statistics, including channel utilization, interference levels and SNR by channel, and classification and details of both Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi devices alike.

An important feature of Spectrum Expert can be configured for a wide range of customizable alerts, including performance (interference duty cycle), security, spectrum unitization and SNR, and many elements of channel utilization. The "Device Finder" feature can localize a source of interference, using the tool to guide a moving user closer to it. Finally, Spectrum Expert integrates with Cisco's WCS management console for detailed reporting, but local reporting options are limited to the active displays - not a major drawback given the typical, real-time use of these tools in practice.

A few minutes with the manual and/or the very complete online help facility are recommended, but this product offers a broad range of functionality in a very easy-to-use package, even for those with little background in spectral analysis.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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