The Price to Play

As someone who has been in the wireless industry for a few years now there’s one thing that really stands out about a Wireless engineer role: the price to play is much higher than other roles. What do I mean by this? Let’s take a look at what is in my toolbox that I use:

  • Survey Tools
    • Ekahau Site Survey – $4495
    • Metageek inSSIDer – $19.99
    • Fluke AirCheck – $1995
    • Theodolite (iOS App) – $3.99 + In-App Purchases
    • RF Toolbox (iOS App) – $7.99
  • SpecAn Tools
    • Metageek Chanalyzer w/CleanAir – $650
    • Metageek Wi-Spy DBx  qty 2 – $499/each
  • Packet Tools
    • Metageek Eye P.A. – $499
    • WildPackets Omnipeek Pro – $2994
    • Riverbed Air Pcap NX – $699
    • Wireshark – $0
  • Network Tools
    • Fluke LinkSprinter 200 – $299
  • Client Devices
    • Asus USB-N53 Dualband 802.11n Adapter – $36
    • Linksys AE6000 Dualband 802.11ac Adapter – $30
    • Netgear A6200 Dualband 802.11ac Adapter – $55
    • Ekahau NIC-300 (Proxim 8494) qty 3 – $145
    • Apple iPhone 6 64GB – $399 (on contract)
    • Apple iPad Mini 128GB LTE – $829
    • Google Nexus 5 – $349
    • Samsung Tab 8.9 – $399 (estimated cost for similar tablet)
    • MacBook Air – $1499
    • Surface Pro 3 – $1428 (1299 + keyboard 129)
  • Misc Tools
    • Get-Console AirConsole XL – $139

Pretty long list isn’t it? There’s a lot of items that we, as Wireless engineers, need to have in order to properly do our jobs. At the bare minimum we need to have a survey tool like Ekahau, a spectrum analyzer tool like Chanalyzer, a packet capture tool like Wireshark, and client devices. That list added up (using available list prices) would cost almost $20,000! You also need to factor in maintenance renewals on a yearly basis for most of the software applications.

Let’s compare that to a list that you would need for a typical standard network engineer:

  • Packet Tools
    • WildPackets Omnipeek Pro – $2994
    • Wireshark – $0
  • Network Tools
    • Fluke LinkSprinter 200 – $299
  • Client Devices
    • MacBook Air – $1499
    • MacBook Air Ethernet Adapter  – $29
  • Misc Tools
    • Get-Console AirConsole XL – $139

Quite a bit shorter isn’t it? And you costs are only around $5,000! There is easily a $15k delta between wired and wireless engineers required tools.

When you look at this list does it really surprise you that there are people out there trying to do wireless with just the free tools? Wireless is an expensive industry to be in and you have to make that investment if you want to do it right.


Quick note, Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd), made a good point on twitter that a Network engineer might need a more fully featured cable checker. This could be something like a LinkRunner AT for example. So you may need to add another $500 – $1500 or so for a nice tester. I left it off as typically a cable installer is doing that and providing the certification results so a LinkRunner would be enough.

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Blake Krone

Blake Krone

Cisco CCIE #31229 (Wireless) and CWNE #152, all around tech junkie, code poet. Connecting people with cans and strings.


  1. October 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm — Reply

    And then there is the lab gear..,

    • October 15, 2014 at 11:31 am — Reply

      Yeah, I didn’t want to open that can of worms!

  2. Jeff Rensink
    October 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm — Reply

    Do you need all of those smartphones and tablets? Or are you just trying to write off toys? 😉

  3. Troy
    October 20, 2014 at 1:58 am — Reply

    You are also missing the hardware for conducting Site surveys, i.e. Batteries, PoE injector/Inverter, whatever you use to hold AP’s to the ceiling.
    I even have a selection of Cisco AP’s specifically for Surveying with

  4. Alan Wang
    September 15, 2015 at 10:11 am — Reply

    I know this post is almost a year old, but is it necessary to have two Wi-Spy DBX units now that Chanalyzer 5 does allow simultaneous dual band capture without the need of two separate Wi-Spy devices?

    • October 16, 2015 at 11:20 am — Reply

      I still personally feel you should use two Wi-Spy units, but I’m old school that way.

  5. February 2, 2016 at 11:20 am — Reply

    […] written about these before over on the podcast, No Strings Attached Show (NSAShow), but it’s worth recapping here real quick again. To be a skilled wireless engineer you need […]

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