Friday, August 19, 2011

Yellowjacket b/a/n/g Wi-Fi Analyzer - a review

Recently I had the opportunity to get some hands on time with a Yellowjacket b/a/n/g Wi-Fi Analyzer. I'd heard of the device before, but I'd never come across one in real life. It is also incredibly hard to find out the retail cost of this device. The manufacturer's website only shows the basic information on operating the device. All information requests must be obtained by contacting their sales support team. I have a pending request, but no hard data yet.

This device is an HP iPAQ running Windows Mobile 5.0 encased in a large yellow plastic enclosure which also houses the wireless cards used by the Yellowjacket software. The iPAQ's internal wireless card is disabled and the Yellowjacket wireless card is used for the spectrum analysis. The Yellowjacket softaware is run as an application on the iPAQ, much the same as any other application would be installed/run on an HP iPAQ.

When I was using the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g device, I also had the Cisco Spectrum Expert application running on my Lenovo x201 laptop as a control since I know how the application works under normal circumstances, as well as what the display shows when I enable a wireless security camera as a source of constant interference.

The Yellowjacket b/a/n/g has a series of tabs you can select to show different wireless information. It seems that the tab that would be in use under most circumstances would be the MAC tab. This tab shows the MAC address, SSID, SNR and RSSI of all detected wireless devices and clients.

When I had this screen selected as the main display, and I powered on the wireless security camera - a strange thing happened. The MAC tab display that had previously shown all the detected wireless access points and clients began to show less and less listed devices, until the entire MAC listing was blank.

I navigated through the different filter options for the MAC tab, and found nothing that I could select to show the list of MAC addresses again. When I switched over to the Spectrum tab to see if the wireless security camera showed a disturbance in the spectrum readout. It did, but since the screen is only 640 x 480, the entire 2.4GHz spectrum is shown quite small on the screen. If I were not experienced in using spectrum analysis tools, there would have been no real way for me to visibly discern that there was a source of interference that was critically impacting the 2.4GHz channel 6. The detected spectrum is shown as a green wave form, and there was a visible spike in the waveform, but the color of the spike was still green. To anyone with little spectrum analysis experience, the spike would not have stood out, and green usually means 'good'.

I sent an email on 8/5/2011 to Berkley Varitronics Systems' email address asking about why the MAC display tab began to clear when I powered on the wireless security camera. I have yet to receive a response to my request for additional information to explain the unexpected behavior of the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g Wi-Fi spectrum analyzer.

The device is described as being able to analyze the entire 2.0-4.0 & 4.9-5.9 GHz spectrum, but the 2.4GHz and 5GHz antenna connectors on the device aren't far enough apart to connect the 2.4GHz and 5GHz antennas at the same time. I also didn't see a way in the application to analyze both spectrums concurrently. The inability of the device to detect sources of interference on the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrums at the same time causes the wireless engineer to have to do twice the walking to test the same physical space for both wireless frequencies.

All in all, I was very disappointed in the  Yellowjacket b/a/n/g device. I had hoped that this device would be comparable to the Cisco Spectrum Expert, AirMagnet Spectrum XT and the Metageek Wi-Spy dBx spectrum analyis tools. The simple fact that you cannot quickly switch between scanning the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrums makes the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g a poor choice. The inability of the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g to display and alert the user to the presence of a major source of interference was also very surprising. I hope that I will hear from the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g tech support team and find out why the scan screen ceases to show the previously detected access points and wireless clients once the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g is exposed to a source of non 802.11 wireless interference. Based on my experience using the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g Wi-Fi Analyzer, I could not with good conscience recommend this tool to anyone needing a handheld spectrum analysis tool.

I also made a video recording of the whole process for easier demonstration of how the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g responded under the testing conditions.

Previously posted on YouTube: Cisco Spectrum Expert, AirMagnet Spectrum XT & WiSpy Chanalyzer 4

Previously posted: MetaGeek Chanalyzer Pro - Beta Testing


  1. I've one of these companies devices in the past and it seemed to work ok, it def had issues. For the cost it didn't seem like it was really worth it.

    This was before MetaGeek had released such awesome tools so there wasn't much to pick from on the market. In today's market I don't see how this company can sell such a low quality product at such a high cost.

  2. I got word on the pricing for the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g for the whole kit of extra antennas, power charger, software etc: $12,381.45

    To put it into perspective (all prices approximate as of 8/2011):
    Metageek Wi-Spy dBx = $599
    AirMagnet Spectrum XT = $2495
    Cisco Spectrum Expert = $4200

    That's quite a premium for a product that I though was less than satisfactory.

  3. We've tried to respond to all the criticisms that we feel are unjustified or just uninformed. We can be contacted directly with any questions. Thanks for this opportunity.

    1. It is NOT incredibly hard to find the price for this product. Give BVS a call (Toll Free : 888-737-4287 ), and ask for a sales engineer and you can get a price over the phone and formal quotation if desired.

    2. You have contacted BVS at the wrong email address which is why no one is aware of your difficulties. It is not "". It is "". Customer support by phone is also available: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM EST Toll Free : 888-737-4287

    3. Of course the MAC addresses will disappear when you put an interfering RF device next to the YellowJacket receiver. That's why it's called an interferer. Anyone with WiFi knowledge knows that channel 6 overlaps with adjacent channels in the 2.4 GHz band and will interfere with these as well. Also, keeping the interferer right next to the YellowJacket could possibly overload the RF front end of the device.

    4. Simply setting the trigger in spectrum mode will clearly show the interference in the band. Setting the trigger to a certain level will only update the spectrum when that level is achieved.

    5. As clearly seen on your video, you are trying to attach an SMA RF antenna to an SMC GPS connector. An omnidirectional antenna in either band will see RF in both bands.

    6. You CAN select all channels from both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands to scan in the same sweep.

    7. Based on your last comment of "The inability of the Yellowjacket b/a/n/g to display and alert the user to the presence of a major source of interference", please realize the disappearance of the MAC addresses is an indicator that you have interference.

  4. 1) I found it very difficult to find a list price online. I did reach out to customer support and received no reply to my inquiry.

    2) I sent my email request to '' - perhaps I made a typo in the blogpost, but I will paste in the email I sent that the bottom of my responses.

    3) There was nothing in the Yellowjacket documentation that described the disappearance of the MAC addresses as a normal result when exposed to a source of RF interference that was not an 802.11 access point. The whole point of spectrum analysis devices is to detect sources of interference in the 2.4 and 5GHz bands regardless of the sources being 802.11 or non-802.11 devices. The Yellowjacket did not indicate that there was a non-802.11 source of RF interference (other than the screen going blank).
    5) The antenna I was attempting to connect was labeled 5GHz - how can the single bottom antenna connector be used to scan the 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum, if only on or the other type of antenna can be connected at a time? I saw no way to scan both the 2.4GHZ and 5GHz spectrums at the same time from the Yellowjacket. If this is possible, I apologize, but it was not readily apparent to me.
    6) Again, this ability to scan both frequencies was not obvious, especially when the device ships with antennas clearly labeled 2.4GHZ and 5GHz.
    7)What would make an inexperienced IT staffer aware that an RF interference source was the reason for the screen going blank? There was nothing indicated by the Yellowjacket device that anything was amiss when using the out of the box settings in the application.

    Below is the email I sent asking for additional input on the screen blanking issue:

    From: Jennifer Huber
    Sent: Friday, August 05, 2011 12:08 PM
    To: ''
    Subject: Technical question about the Yellowjacket B/A/N/G Wi-Fi Analyzer


    I am a wireless consultant working at a customer site where they have purchased a Yellowjacket B/A/N/G Wi-Fi analyzer.

    I have a question about the working functions of the device. When I have it in survey mode, I see a list of detected mac addresses, SSIDs and signal strengths. I usually test spectrum analyzer tools by connecting up a wireless security camera to a 9v battery and watch the display for the fixed frequency device to affect the configured channel.

    When I performed this test with the Yellowjacket – the list of SSIDs displayed in the MAC list began to disappear one by one until the list was blank. I did see the spectrum spike on the spectrum tab, but the spike was not identified in any way to tell me what the spike was caused by or that the spike was even something I should recognize as bad.

    Do you know why the Yellowjacket device would have this response to being exposed to a source of fixed frequency interference? This behavior is not what I expected from the Yellowjacket B/A/N/G.

    I look forward to hearing back from someone in Tech Support and thanks for your time.

    Jennifer Huber

    Jennifer Huber| Sr Systems Engineer | CCNP CWNE #51|