Cisco announces CleanAir for Wi-Fi interference on new access points

Limited warranties on 802.11n products also offered

Cisco Systems Inc. today announced a new lineup of high-end wireless LAN access points with so-called CleanAir technology that gives network administrators the ability to monitor Wi-Fi interference from a variety of devices, such as microwave ovens, cordless phones or spycams.

The new 3500 series APs will range in price from $1,095 to $1,495, and they will go on sale in May, Cisco said.

In an apparent response to pressure from Hewlett Packard Co., Cisco also announced limited lifetime warranties on all of its 802.11n Wi-Fi access points, meaning they will be replaced at no cost if they fail.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc., said Cisco must be feeling pressure from HP , which already offers warranties on networking products. "A warranty has obviously become a necessary component of this gear," Kerravala said.

Kerravala said the CleanAir technology will make Cisco unique in the Wi-Fi market, since the technology runs in hardware on the actual AP in an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit). Having that capability could improve Cisco's chances to sell the technology to more customers, since most Cisco Wi-Fi customers ordinarily choose Cisco if they already use the company's wired networking gear. Having an unusual feature in the APs might persuade a customer to buy Cisco wireless products exclusively, Kerravala said.

Aruba Networks has plans to ship a product that will compete with Cisco's CleanAir, but it won't be available until sometime in the third quarter, according to Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group.

The CleanAir technology gives network administrators system-level information to detect, classify, locate and mitigate the impact of wireless interference, Cisco said. Motorola offers a similar capability, but only in a system software offering and not in faster ASICs, Kerravala said.

Fluke Networks also offers a Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer, but it is a stand-alone unit.

David Stiff, a Cisco product manager, said CleanAir offers detailed information that would allow an IT administrator to detect what type of device -- whether it's a microwave or a spycam -- is causing interference. Also, an AP that is receiving interference can be automatically moved to another wireless channel to avoid the interference.

Cisco said several universities are trying out CleanAir on new 3500 APs, including the University of South Florida, Purdue University and Oregon's Portland State University. Another beta tester, Telekom Austria, said in a statement that CleanAir helped it identify a number of devices causing interference in the 2.4 GHz band, including Bluetooth devices and microwave ovens.

"As Wi-Fi networks become more pervasive, interference can be serious," Mathias said.

Cisco said that 54% of 600 network managers in a recent survey reported that wireless interference has caused performance problems in their Wi-Fi networks.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about wireless networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Knowledge Center.

This story, "Cisco announces CleanAir for Wi-Fi interference on new access points" was originally published by Computerworld.

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