Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has made a significant acquisition by buying out Athonet, a provider of technology that will allow the company to enhance its private cellular network offering. The move will enable HPE to integrate Athonet’s software into its existing Aruba Networks portfolio, combining the high capacity enabled by Wi-Fi with the coverage and mobility of 5G. HPE Wireless CTO Stuart Strickland said that the integration would be targeted towards existing Aruba WLAN customers, with software components, including SD-WAN, being integrated with private cellular networks.
Strickland stated that HPE has been looking to partner with a private cellular network core company for a long time, with Athonet being a perfect fit due to its similar vision of technology development with private networks in mind rather than being oriented towards the public backbone network. The primary aim of the integration will be to enhance the network coverage, with the goal of offering 5G that is complementary to Wi-Fi and deeply integrated with the Aruba products familiar to customers.
HPE’s objective is to create an intermediate translation layer between the Aruba and Athonet technology. Still, Strickland said that the company believes “the time is right” to begin integrating private cellular and Wi-Fi portfolios. The process of integrating the software components will be done in a relatively light integration at first before going on to complete integration into Aruba’s Wi-Fi management systems by 2024.
According to Strickland, enterprises are looking for 5G that is complementary to Wi-Fi and deeply integrated with the Aruba products already familiar to them. He added that customers are interested in use cases for private 5G and not in cellular technology for its own sake. They do not want to learn new vocabulary or manage the technology in a different way with different tools.
Strickland said that HPE’s push to strengthen its private cellular network portfolio would happen relatively quickly, with the company aiming to integrate Athonet technology into the general HPE portfolio this year. The ultimate goal is to offer customers a 5G experience that works seamlessly with their existing WLAN to achieve greater coverage and capacity, particularly in areas with wide coverage like airfields or warehouses.
Many other enterprises are slowly introducing 5G to be used in tandem with Wi-Fi, particularly for scenarios where determinism is needed in a network, such as having vehicles that always need to be connected or segregating cellular traffic from Wi-Fi traffic for different applications. Strickland added that SD-WAN has been crucial to HPE’s enterprise customers and that he expects it to be as effective in the private cellular domain as it has been in the rest of the wireless domain.
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