Looking to make a long-term splash in private-enterprise 5G, HPE has grabbed up Italian private cellular technology maker Athonet for an undisclosed amount.
Founded in 2005, Athonet says its goal is to speed and simplify private 5G deployments. Among other packages, it offers CBRS and 5G starter kits that include Athonet mobile packet core, SIM cards, a choice of radio and other components needed to set up private cellular networks quickly.
In 2022 the company formed the 5G Consortium to bring vendors together to develop a 5G ecosystem. The group includes Google Cloud, AWS, Airspan, Bearcom, and Digi.
Athonet technology will expand HPE’s 5G portfolio, which includes private 5G equipment integrated with its Aruba Wi-Fi gear to provide the option of using the technology that best meets enterprise requirements. HPE also has integrated 5G core technology it offers to service providers.
HPE said it will offer Athonet private 5G as part of its overarching Green Lake edge-to-cloud service platform and bundle Wi-Fi and private 5G into a monthly subscription plan that requires no capital outlay by customers.
In addition the 5G services will be tied into Aruba Central, the vendor’s cloud-based management platform, so customers can administer Wi-Fi and private 5G networks through a single pane of glass.
Other integration with Aruba networking products will come “in the near future,” the vendor stated.
Analysts see the buy as an investment in HPE's future.
“With solid execution, it could end up being a big deal, over time. Acquiring Athonet helps HPE deepen its 5G core (cloud-native software) offering, particularly with a focus on delivering Private 5G to enterprise customers,” said Patrick Filkins, research manager, with the IoT and Telecom Network Infrastructure group at IDC.
“The acquisition is driven by HPE’s push to dually leverage its telecom business in conjunction with its Aruba business line, to offer an integrated offering to customers who will deploy both Private 5G networks, and Wi-Fi networks in tandem. While the acquisition immediately augments HPE’s 5G core itself, eventually, they will leverage Athonet in a more unified way with its Aruba business line as well,” Filkins said.
“Specifically, we expect HPE/Aruba to over time release follow-on solutions which help enterprises manage the two technologies seamlessly,” Filkins said.
“Enterprises are not interested in deploying both 5G and Wi-Fi networks in a silo, they want a combined solution that can help tackle the integration and management issues from a single pane. This means you’ll see HPE’s telco and Aruba teams working together more closely over time,” Filkins said.
Enterprises that otherwise see value in 5G, but that are balking at it, are doing so for a few key reasons, Filkins said.
“One, the advanced 5G devices and chipsets (robots, mining equipment, healthcare, etc.) that would use ultra-low latency, time-sensitive networking, etc.…, or all the actually new stuff that 5G networks offer, are still in the queue for another year. Second, enterprises are demanding private 5G integrate with existing IT systems,” Filkins said.
“The Athonet acquisition will underpin this broader effort to integrate 5G and Wi-Fi for enterprise customers and make easily consumable from the cloud," Filkins said.