Looking Ahead to MFD5: NetAlly

I love it when companies show up to Mobility Field Day each year, ready to show their latest product, updates, and ideas.

Over the last several years, NetAlly (previously NetScout) has shown up each year to show off their updates and seek feedback on where they might focus next. NetAlly has proven to be receptive to feedback and responsive as they demonstrate advances in their handheld tools.

During the last year, we’ve seen the advancement of the Etherscope nXG to a survey tool with the introduction of AirMapper. This utility allows a wireless engineer to load a floorplan through Link-Live, import it to the Etherscope nXG, and then survey a facility, carrying only a single device. Once the survey is complete, it is re-synched to Link-Live for viewing, enabling easy, fast, and remote troubleshooting.

In today’s COVID-19 climate, remote troubleshooting is a significant boon to the tool. The simplicity of AirMapper makes it easy to ship to a local resource, who, with basic instructions, can perform a survey of the facility allowing the wireless SME’s to work in more places, faster, all from their home office.

I’m excited to see the latest news for the Etherscope nXG and AirMapper.

Link-Live is another product NetAlly continues to innovate on. Last year at MFD4, they announced several enhancements, including an API. The API enables the ability to create custom reports or integrate test results into existing customer systems.

I would love to see the API enable the ability to prepopulate sites or job lists and then archive old data based on labels.

The AirCheck G2 also received updates last year at MFD4, although the focus was clearly on the Etherscope nXG. It gained Wi-Fi6 visibility for management frames and headers, the ability to upload iPerf Test results to Link-Live, and a few other features. I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more information about the AirCheck G2 this year.

Finally, I would like to throw out a few things I hope to hear more about from NetAlly.

First, there are going to be some obvious questions about 6Ghz and Wi-Fi 6E. I’m sure NetAlly is working away on future products, and I hope they can begin to talk about what 6Ghz means for them.

I made a request last year, which you can find at the 20:50 mark here:

In short, I would like the AirCheck G2 and Etherscope nXG to have port profiles for a switch applied at the push of a button. Those profiles could be implemented by a technician installing an AP or other device without providing them access to an actual CLI or GUI or knowledge of how to do so. There are a LOT of ways to implement the idea with APIs, SNMP, or even Python scripts, so I know its not an easy task. It also highly variable depending on the switch vendor, model, and OS. But, considering the great functionality NetAlly continues to add to their devices, I am sure they are up to the challenge!

Whatever NetAlly brings to MFD5, I am sure it will significantly expand the functionality of their tools and make the lives of their users easier.

What would you like to see from NetAlly at MFD5? Be sure to check out the Mobility Field Day 5!

Celona – LTE for Enterprise at MFD4

After the Mobility Field Day 4 live streams stopped, we secretly met with a secret company and were sworn to secrecy through a series of secret rituals and rites. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but there was definitely an unannounced company at MFD4.

That company, Celona, has now gone public, and it’s finally time to talk about what this could mean for the future of mobile devices inside enterprise networks. Here’s a hint: It is exciting!

Celona’s product is a fully integrated cloud based solution for CBRS or Citizens Band Radio Service. Before we go any further, understand that CBRS has nothing to do with truckers, Smokey and the Bandit, oversized antennas or anything near 27Mhz.

Instead, CBRS uses spectrum above 3.5Ghz and LTE technology with power output of up to 1watt/Mhz EIRP allowed by the FCC. The combination of higher power and LTE could mean a much broader coverage area than is usually offered by conventional Wi-Fi.

Further, clients that are CBRS capable must meet the much stricter 3GPP standards. Those standards highlight how weak and incapable the Wi-Fi Alliance is. Most importantly, those standards remove many of the client frustrations that many wireless engineers face daily such as poor 802.11r,k,v support.

Certification is required to install CBRS equipment and is attained after completing an online course. This course from Google cost $599 for the course and online exam, which makes it accessible to most wireless engineers who may decide to expand their craft and marketable skills. The certification is required as there are licensing requirements and frequency coordination, similar to those proposed for the 6ghz band due to incumbents in the space.

The best part of CBRS is that it allows enterprise customers to take ownership of their LTE coverage and data. Celona’s solution will enable ownership of the data path from the client device through the CBRS system and on to either internally hosted systems or out to the internet.

A quick google search will bring up a slew of articles screaming, “CBRS will kill Wi-Fi.” That is hardly the case. However, there are plenty of places where CBRS will be an excellent solution. For example, areas with high roaming requirements will benefit from the LTE underpinnings. Additionally, in medical and hospital systems iPhones, which are regularly used SIM-less to ensure HIPAA and PI data protection, will be able to connect to a hospital managed and controlled CBRS system.

Celona’s role in this space is providing the cloud based management solution and hardware. It’s easy to imagine them as the Mist Systems of CBRS, and that’s not far from the truth. Their business model is especially useful in CBRS, because it doesn’t require extensive knowledge of LTE standards to configure and manage a solution.

Before Celona’s vision can become fully realized, there are a few barriers to entry. In short, we need a skilled workforce that is capable and licensed to install and manage the equipment and appropriate tools required to design and troubleshoot installations.

The tools challenge is significant. Spectrum planning and coverage design is more complicated due to frequency coordination and licensing. Spectrum Analyzers which are currently capable of checking 3.5Ghz are very expensive and each new tool comes with a learning curve.

Considering the number of devices which support Band 48 out of the box, including the new iPhone, devices are already available. Celona brings the network that enterprises can install. With the right tools and enough licensed engineers, Celona and CBRS could have a very bright future.

Check out the event page at TechFieldDay.com and let me know what you think in the comments.

Introduction to Celona and CBRS Fundamentals from Gestalt IT on Vimeo.