Terms & definitions. All the clever words used in NetSpot and Wi-Fi related science explained

Here’s a list of (hopefully) all tricky terms you may come across when using NetSpot. Probably there are many more that relate to the subject, but we tried our best. If you think there are any that should also be listed here, email us. Thanks

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  • Active ScanningActive scanning is a PRO feature where the download speed, upload speed and wireless transmit rate of a network can be measured.
  • Airport Card – An Airport Card is the standard Wi-Fi card that comes installed on most models of Apple laptops. This is what allows your laptop to connect to a wireless network. To check your card type, hold down the Option (⌥) key, click on the Apple menu, select System Information, and then select WiFi under Network.  NetSpot works with all standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless cards.
  • AP (Access Point) – A wireless access point (also called a WAP or hotspot) is a device (such as a wireless router) that allows other wireless devices (such as a computer) to connect to a local area network using radio waves instead of wires. It acts as an antenna, transmitting and receiving wireless signals and relaying them to the network. NetSpot can scan an area and identify the quantity and strength of all access points within range.
  • Area Map – Each NetSpot site survey is based on a map of the location you wish to scan. The map should be a floorplan of the area, with all interior walls and other barriers marked. The map must be drawn to scale in order for the scan to be accurate. Area maps can be loaded into NetSpot from a scanner or outside drawing program, or the map can be drawn right in NetSpot, using its map-drawing function.
  • SSID, BSSID & ESSID – These acronyms all describe wireless network identities (names). SSID stands for Service Set Identifier and the “B” and “E” versions stand for “Basic” (MAC address of the Station in an Access Point) and “Extended” (the identifying name of a wireless network) respectively. NetSpot scans are able to detect and display all network identities present within a given area.
  • Band – A wireless network transmits radio signals on certain ranges of frequencies, called bands. The most commons wireless bands are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Each band has multiple channels.
  • Channel – A wireless network uses radio signals and those signals can only be broadcast on certain bands and channels. Some wireless protocols (802.11b and 802.11g) use the 2.4 GHz band, while 802.11a uses the 5 GHz band and 802.11n uses both. Each country allows certain channels within each band to be used for wireless networks. For example, the United States uses channels 1, 6 and 11 in the 2.4 GHz band. NetSpot allows you to view your scan results by channel, so that you can determine which have the least interference.
  • Data Point – When performing a NetSpot Site Survey, each time you stop and click on the map to take a scan, you are creating a data point. These points are also called measurements or sample points. Each data point provides critical information about the Wi-Fi signals and noise present in that location.
  • Decibel (dB) – A decibel is a unit used to measure the intensity of an electrical signal. NetSpot uses decibels to measure the Wi-Fi signal levels and other radio waves (noise) present during a scan. The decibel symbol is often qualified with a suffix, that indicates which reference quantity or frequency weighting function has been used. For example, dBm indicates a reference level of one milliwatt. More on Wikipedia.
  • Discover Mode – This mode allows users to take a quick survey of surrounding networks from one location, without having to do a full survey.
  • Download Speed – Download speed is the rate that information can be downloaded from the Internet to a device connected to the network.
  • Heatmap – A heatmap is a map with an overlay of colors representing different values. After performing a site survey in NetSpot, the results are displayed as a heatmap. Red represents the best signal levels, and blue represents the worst. By looking at the heatmap you can identify areas of low signal strength. The heatmap can be modified by adjusting the minimum and maximum values, as well as by selecting individual networks or channels. NetSpot can display several different types of heatmaps, including Signal Level, Signal-to-Noise Ratio and Signal-to-Interference Ratio.
  • Hidden Network – A hidden, or non-broadcasting, network is one that has purposely been hidden from public view and is accessible only if you know its name and password.
  • Interference – When applied to wireless networks, interference usually refers to other radio waves in the area that interfere with the wireless signal you’re trying to receive. The source of these radio waves can be other Wi-Fi networks, microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, wireless video cameras, wireless game controllers, fluorescent lights, and more. In the case of NetSpot’s Signal-to-Interference Ratio, the interference is specific to co-channel interference from other radio transmitters.
  • MAC Address (Media Access Control Address) – A unique identifier assigned to network interfaces and used as a network address.
  • Map – See Area Map.
  • Measurement – See Data Point.
  • Multi-Floor Scanning – This PRO feature allows zones for multiple floors to be linked, so that APs are displayed on the correct floors.
  • NetSpot Enterprise – A paid upgrade to the free version of NetSpot, which includes all the features of PRO, plus allows for commercial use and licenses for all company personnel.
  • NetSpot PRO – A paid upgrade to the free version of NetSpot, which enables more advanced features.
  • Network – A wireless local area network is called a WLAN. A wireless network allows two or more devices to communicate using radio waves instead of wires. At its simplest, a wireless network can consist of just a wireless access point (such as a wireless router) and a Wi-Fi-enabled computer. A NetSpot survey can detect the name, strength and channel of all wireless networks and access points within range.
  • Noise – When applied to wireless networks, noise usually refers to other radio waves in the area that interfere with the wireless signal you’re trying to receive. The source of these radio waves can include other Wi-Fi networks, microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, wireless video cameras, wireless game controllers, and fluorescent lights.  A NetSpot survey has the ability to map both the Noise Level and Signal-to-Noise Level in a given area.
  • Overlapping Channels – See signal-to-interference ratio.
  • Project – A NetSpot Project is created every time you start a new Site Survey. Projects can have multiple area maps and Zones. NetSpot Project files are saved with the NetSpot file extension of .netspd.
  • Router – A wireless router is type of wireless access point (AP) that allows a network of wireless devices to communicate. NetSpot can scan an area and identify the quantity and signal strength of all wireless routers within range.
  • Sample Point – or Sampling Point: See Data Point.
  • Scan – NetSpot performs a scan for wireless signals and interference each time you click a spot on the map and create a data point during a Site Survey. The term “scan” is also sometimes used as another name for a Site Survey.
  • Security Type – Wireless networks are protected from unauthorized access by certain security protocols. The most popular are WEP, WPA and WPA2.
  • Signal Level – Wireless signals are transmitted by radio waves. The signal level refers to the strength of those waves, usually measured in decibels (dBm). NetSpot can map the Signal Level, Signal-to-Noise Ratio and Signal-to-Interference Ratio in a given area.
  • Signal-to-Interference Ratio – Similar to the signal-to-noise ratio, this ratio compares the Wi-FI signal level to the level of co-channel interference from other radio transmitters. NetSpot can display the exact ratio at each data point taken, and can display the ratio of individual networks or channels as well.
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio – This ratio compares the Wi-Fi signal level to the level of background noise. NetSpot can display the exact ratio at each data point taken, and can display the ratio of individual networks or channels as well.
  • Site Survey – A site survey includes all scans taken at a specific site. It can include multiple area maps and Zones. Site surveys are saved as Projects.
  • Survey Name – A site survey name is just a general name that will help you identify the Project you are running, it may contain any characters and may actually be just the name of your client or location. A sample survey name would be “My school” or “My new house coverage”.
  • Upload Speed – The rate that information can be uploaded from a device connected to the network to the Internet.
  • Vendor – This is the manufacturer name of the access point or router.
  • Wireless Transmit Rate – The speed that data is being transmitted from an AP to a wireless device.
  • Zone – When you set up a new survey and create or load a map, this area is called a zone. A zone can encompass all of an area map, or just part of it. Each Project and Site Survey can have multiple Zones, each with a different name. You can use the same map for multiple Zones or have a different map for each Zone.
  • Zone Snapshot – A zone snapshot creates a copy of the current zone, allowing you to quickly take another survey of the same area, using the same parameters.
  • Zone Survey – also referred to as “survey snapshot”: starting with version 2.0 NetSpot will feature survey snapshots which are a convenient way to compare visualizations within the same zones after there were changes in a network setup. Zone Survey is a copy of a zone with a different set of samples. You can have as many Zone Surveys as you need within the same zone Any two of them can be compared automatically.
NetSpot WiFi scanner for Windows can be found here
updated: December 6, 2017 author: Alex
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