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Aruba Bridges 5G, Wi-Fi 6; HPE Launches 5G Portfolio

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If 5G is the question, Wi-Fi 6 is the answer for Aruba Networks.

The vendor on Tuesday announced Aruba Air Pass, a roaming service designed to create a “seamless handoff” for cellular subscribers entering Wi-Fi networks. Air Pass works in conjunction with a new radio resource management service – Aruba Air Slice – to ensure application performance.

Larry Lunetta, Aruba’s vice president of WLAN and security solutions marketing, said the announcement gives telcos new monetization opportunities.

Lunetta, Larry_Aruba

Aruba’s Larry Lunetta

“The telcos are faced with the daunting task of trying to build a very capital-intensive set of new capabilities for 5G and chasing a standard that is still being certified and worked on through the 3GPP organization,” Lunetta told Channel Partners. “They need to do this because their revenue from their traditional access services is plateauing.”

Imagine an employee starting a phone call in their car and then entering their work office. The goal of Air Pass is to ensure that their device automatically authenticates to the Wi-Fi network and doesn’t drop the the call when they enter the building.

“With Air Pass, that’s all done seamlessly behind behind the curtain, if you will. So the call’s not dropped, and all of a sudden you’re doing Wi-Fi calling based on your authentication to the network using the same credentials,” Lunetta said.

Aruba is using Wi-Fi 6 as a 5G on-ramp was a cost-effective alternative to deploying indoor small cells or distributed antenna systems (DAS).

“For enterprise customers, you don’t have to worry about managing separate services — Wi-Fi and 5G. Wi-Fi 6 is still a lot cheaper to implement inside the building than a full 5G network build-out,” Lunetta said. “So there are economic benefits of being able to seamlessly manage these networks.”

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And Lunetta said Wi-FI 6 provides security benefits through Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) and Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE), in addition to “gigabit-class performance.”

“Frankly, our measurements are that whatever 5G is claiming, Wi-Fi 6 is already delivering,” he said.

Lunetta said the new service gives partners an additional reason to move customers to Wi-Fi 6, which he said is enjoying a faster adoption rate than any other Wi-Fi standard.

“Partners are certainly aggressively introducing and provisioning customers with Wi-Fi 6,” he said.

Layer 3 Communications is a regional network infrastructure engineering company that serves K-12, higher education and Fortune 500 customers in the Southeast and Texas. And for many of the customers that maintain large campuses, the move to 5G presents obstacles.

Craig Wall, who serves as vice president and general manager of the western region, echoed concerns that other telco experts have expressed concerns about the ability of 5G to penetrate buildings.

Wall, Craig_Layer 3

Layer 3’s Craig Wall

“These buildings have a lot of steel and concrete and multiple floors. The construction of these buildings doesn’t lend itself well to the cellular signals getting to everywhere in the buildings,” Wall told Channel Partners. “And with 5G, that problem is going to be even worse. The spectrum being used by 5G is great for the speed, but it doesn’t penetrate these buildings even as well as the 4G did.”

He said Air Pass will complement the existing Wi-Fi solutions that Layer 3 already sells. Sales engineer Doug Minderhout said customers may prefer the prospect of expanding their their Wi-Fi offering rather than investing in 5G equipment inside their campuses.

“Typically an enterprise customer will already be driving toward a voice-grade deployment. But a lot of the LTE customers or even some large campus customers may have …

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