HPE rolls out Private 5G for enterprise customers

Will be able to integrate with corporate Wi-Fi networks, but not a replacement, it says

HPE has introduced a Private 5G network for organisations with requirements such as broad geographic coverage or high reliability, plus the ability to integrate with corporate Wi-Fi networks.

Like most things HPE does these days, the Private 5G offering will also be available under its GreenLake consumption-based pricing model.

As the name implies, Private 5G lets organisations operate their own 5G wireless network. HPE's version is being made available through local third party suppliers and targets customers that have a need for data network coverage over a wider geographic area than Wi-Fi.

However, HPE is not positioning it as a replacement for a corporate Wi-Fi network. Rather, it sees the two as working together, and has designed its Private 5G to offer interworking across both networks. HPE said it sees opportunities for Private 5G across a range of sectors, such as healthcare, manufacturing, gas and oil fields, and container ports.

"Most telecommunications groups in the world today are betting on enterprise and B2B to be a plank of future growth and we think HPE working along with the sector can liberate some of those opportunities," Tom Craig, VP and general manager for HPE's Communications Technology Group told us.

The technology itself is an evolution of the HPE 5G Core Stack which HPE introduced in 2020, but adds two key new features: the ability to integrate with Wi-Fi networks thanks to the inclusion of Aruba wireless tech, and pre-integration with 5G radio access network (RAN) equipment from vendors that enables a full 5G core to be deployed on a customer site.

In fact, the only 5G RAN vendors that HPE disclosed are Airspan Networks and JMA Wireless, but it said that other kit was tested at the HPE 5G Lab in the US and the list will be extended in the coming months.

HPE's Private 5G technology supports different deployment models, allowing for all the functions to be deployed into single chassis, for example, or for a distributed deployment. The latter sees the user functions and radio in an edge node, for local availability and low latency, while the control functions are centralised into an enterprise data centre or with a service provider.

The single chassis model, or "5G in-a-box" as HPE calls it, runs on HPE's Edgeline EL8000 Converged Edge System fitted with four Xeon server blades, and allows for a fully automated deployment for oil and gas or even military applications, as it requires no surrounding infrastructure.

Another key difference in the Private 5G product over the existing HPE 5G Core Stack is the provision of an enterprise self-service portal that provides customers with the ability to carry out day-to-day operations and admin tasks such as on-boarding of new devices and setting security policies.

Richard Band, head of Mobile Core and 5G for Communications & Media Solutions at HPE, said that network slicing will be an important capability for some customers. He gave the example that some organisations will want logically separate networks for IT and OT applications, but operating over the same Private 5G infrastructure.

Band stated that on Wi-Fi and 5G interoperability, HPE is able to offer customers authentication across the two networks, and session continuity as end users move from one network to the other. This latter builds on the "3GPP specifications that are going in this direction," he said.

Giving IT admins a single user interface for managing both kinds of network will also be beneficial, Band added "and here we are benefiting from all the experience that Aruba has in enterprise connectivity," he said.

HPE said the Private 5G product is available now and is already being deployed by some customers, citing Japanese telecoms provider Optage as one that is trialling Private 5G over licensed spectrum.

Telecoms providers may well prove to be the main partner for delivery of HPE's Private 5G, since there is the vexed question of available spectrum. HPE admitted that this will vary depending on country and region, but pointed out that governments in a growing number of countries are intervening to open up spectrum for new uses. ®

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