Hewlett Packard Enterprise Monday unveiled its new HPE Aruba networking enterprise private 5G technology aimed at making private 5G networks as easy to deploy and manage as current Wi-Fi networks.

HPE Aruba networking enterprise private 5G builds on HPE’s 2023 acquisition of private cellular provider Athonet, whose technology was proven in the market for 15 years with 500 customers, said Gayle Levin, HPE’s head of wireless product marketing.

“We’ve integrated everything that an enterprise needs to deploy a private cellular network,” Levin told CRN US.

“And we’ve made it much simpler so that the network admin can now deploy it very easily. We’re also taking a big step in the journey to integrate it into HP Aruba Networking Central, because what we’ve heard from customers is they want to be able to manage both Wi-Fi and private 5G and their wired networking all in one place. That gives them an on-ramp to IoT data as well for AI inference and everything at the edge.”

The Athonet technology will also continue to be available as a standalone offering for both 4G and 5G, Levin said.

“But for our Aruba customers, we’re delivering an integrated solution that has everything,” she said. “It has the server, the small cells, the SIM cards, even the SAS (spectrum access system) needed to protect incumbents so when you use CBRS (citizens broadband radio service) shared spectrum in the U.S., you don’t need to get it from an operator.”

Wi-Fi remains a useful technology, but there are cases where Wi-Fi may not be the best fit and where private 5G could solve the need for connectivity that is additive to Wi-Fi, Levin said.

5G technology is deterministic, where the infrastructure manages the quality of service, so it can be used for very high-precision applications, she said. Furthermore, one cellular access point, a small cell, can cover more area than a Wi-Fi access point, making it more useful for outdoor use and for warehouses and other large space.

“It also supports high-speed mobility better than Wi-Fi,” she said. “If you think about your cell phone, it’s designed to work in your car as you’re moving versus Wi-Fi that was more designed for pedestrian-level speeds. If you have a robot in the middle of your warehouse, that’s an autonomous vehicle. You don’t want it to stop when there’s a handoff, right?”

Wi-Fi traffic segmentation is also an issue in areas such as a large arena or a stadium where fans are using lots of Wi-Fi to get an amazing fan experience, Levin said.

“They’re sending videos and they’re doing online quizzes and all kinds of interactivity,” she said. “So there’s a need for a separate network that can handle those back-of-house applications to make sure that the ticketing, the optical scanners for the ticketing, or the guy who’s selling beer can transact business. So private cellular can be quite a nice complement to that. And we’ve seen private cellular work really well in manufacturing or places like airports.”

Aruba networking enterprise private 5G also helps simplify a lot of the complexity that comes with private 5G adoption, Levin said. Traditionally, she said, the spectrum needed to be acquired by mobile operators which takes time and cost. Many of the solutions were designed for operators, not for businesses, and required specific resources to manage the private 5G network, she said.

“Our goal is to make private 5G as easy to manage as Wi-Fi,” she said. “We’re also using lightly licensed spectrum, which can be secured without a full spectrum license. That lets us really scale. It’s easily consumable. It’s something the enterprise can manage on their own. And that allows us to really replicate at scale.”

Deployments of private 5G networks traditionally needed up to seven separate vendors for the dashboard, radio management, spectrum access system, and SIM cards, Levin said.

“We’re trying to make it just one vendor with HP Aruba networking enterprise private 5G,” she said. “It’s an end-to-end offering, integrated with everything you need to deploy a cellular network. It’s deployed using HPE ProLiant servers, either one or two for redundancy. And what’s new from us are the small cells. We are working with the same ODM that we use for our access points to deliver the small cells so we can do the end-to-end management.”

HPE is making HPE Aruba networking enterprise private 5G as much like its Wi-Fi offering as possible to make it easy for channel partners to deploy, Levin said.

“They will leverage their existing knowledge in RF management and have to understand how to deploy 5G at the customer site,” she said. “It’s learning about how the two complement each other, what are the use cases, and how to have a use case-driven discussion. It’s priced the same way as HPE’s Wi-Fi offerings, with a capex component including the HPE ProLiant servers and the small cells, plus the subscription that pulls all the software pieces together. Subscription for the hardware will come when it is available through HPE GreenLake.”

The first iteration of HPE Aruba networking enterprise private 5G is slated to be available in October.

Aruba with private 5G is targeting Industry 4.0, a real growth market for wireless connectivity focused on automation, said Mike Owen, chief technology officer of BearCom, a Garland, Texas-based systems integrator and HPE Aruba channel partner

“To achieve that automation, that machine-to-machine development or experience, putting systems in place where I can look at how I do processes, how I do things within my organization, and make them more effective, that’s where this is going to have a real impact,” Owen told CRN US. “That’s really what’s going to drive the competitive edge that any organization would have against somebody else.”

The first potential applications for HPE Aruba networking enterprise private 5G will be in things like manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, anywhere that is focused on automation, Owen said.

“Wi-Fi has been around for a long time, and no way am I trying to say Wi-Fi goes away,” he said. “But customers are looking to do purpose-built network, and that’s what 5G gives you. That private 5G network gives you the ability to do things that you just can’t do with Wi-Fi. For instance, when you get into 5G networks, they are inherently more out-of-the-box secure, and I don’t have to add a bunch of security aspects to it to have a secure RF environment.”

When it comes to automation, private 5G is much better than Wi-Fi, Owen said. “It provides better coverage than Wi-Fi and overcomes issues of RF tracking when automated equipment is moving through an area.

“You’re dealing with environments that really weren’t designed for RF,” he said. “Wi-Fi does a really good job, but I tend to have to go super dense with Wi-Fi. With LTE, I’m a little bit more flexible because of the way it covers the RF space.”