Today, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is announcing the first enterprise-grade Wi-Fi 6E solution set available in the commercial market, starting with the 630 Series campus access point.
“Wi-Fi 6 is a standards from the Wi-Fi alliance, and we released ours at the end of October 2018,” said Gayle Levin, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Aruba . “It really focused on efficiency gains, and added some security enhancements, notably WPA3, and a new feature, Target Wake Time, to help with IoT by saving battery. Wi-Fi6E – the E being for Extended – is the latest standard. It takes all the the goodness from the 5 GhZ band and moves it to a new band – 6 GhZ. It gives more than double the capacity we had before.”
Wi-Fi 6E is complementary to cellular, but is not the same thing, with 5G being the latest cellular standard. It is also unlicensed, whereas cellular is licensed.
“This is not cellular,” said Steve Brar, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Aruba. “It is Wi-Fi for offices.”
That may change, but it will take a while.
“Right now the focus is indoor, because there are outdoor incumbents like microwaves and TV mobile units on the band,” Levin said. “The process to make it work outside is longer term, and is more than a year out. It will require making sure there’s not an incumbent in place before authorizing.”
The expansion to the 6 GhZ band is the result of the continued explosion of new devices.
“Up until recently, we just had the 2.4 and 5 GhZ bands, with no new spectrum since 2003,” Levin indicated. “Now there are a ton more devices. Gartner expects 6.2 Billion Devices, and 15 billion more IoT devices, by 2029.” In addition, 91% go through narrower 20 or 40 MhZ channels, and only 9% 80MhZ, which can impact performance.
Market intelligence research firm 650 Group projects that 6E will see rapid adoption in the next couple of years, with over 350,000,000 devices entering the market in 2022 that support 6 GHz. 650 Group expects over 200% unit growth of Wi-Fi 6E enterprise APs in 2022.
“We expect 6 and 6E will coexist for a while but there is momentum around 6E, Levin noted. “While 6E itself is backwards compatible, only 6E devices will be able to use the fast line 6 band.”
All countries have been going through a regulatory process around 6E. 70 countries have already approved it, or are in the process. Canada was the most recent country to approve it, on May 19. Megahertz frequency also differs somewhat. While the US, Canada, and South American and Asian company have adopted 6 GE are all 1200 MHz, the UK and EU are both going more cautiously, at 500 MHz and 480 MHz respectively.
Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6E solutions are part of Aruba ESP [Edge Services Platform, their AI-powered, cloud-native platform focused on unifying, automating, and securing the Edge.
“The AP 635 is the first enterprise-grade AP and the first in a series of 630 Series APs that support the 6 GHz band,” Brar said. “It’s a tri-radio access point, so supports all three unlicensed bands, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz.
While other enterprise vendors will follow into 6 GHz, joining the consumer grade products that are already there, Brar highlighted Aruba’s new ultra tri-band filtering capability, which minimizes interference between the 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands, as a differentiator against future competitors.
“The ultra tri-band filtering really optimizes the performance of the network,” he said. “It delivers dynamic filtering for less interference and unrestricted selection.”
The AP also supports a 9 Gbps maximum aggregate data rate.
“This will deliver a performance increase,” Brar said. “It is likely to push the limits of wired networks that operate at 1 GB, so some customers may look at refreshing their wired networks as well. As we get more global regulatory approvals, we will be able to update these with software and speed the global rollout.”
The AP also supports up to seven 160 MHz channels in 6 GHz to better support low-latency, high bandwidth applications like high-definition video and AR/VR. It also operates on existing IEEE 802.3at standards for PoE power, and has WPA3 and Enhanced Open security. Flexible failover comes from two HPE Smart Rate Ethernet ports for 1-2.5 Gbps, for true hitless failover from one port to another for both data and power.
Aruba sees the new 6E portfolio as providing partners with a first mover advantage in a market which is extremely likely to grow fast.
“We are starting to see devices that can support 6E from a client perspective, but no one has been able to do this in the enterprise space until this,” Brar said. “This opens up a good opportunity for partners to differentiate with this first mover advantage. We think this will have a 2-3 year adoption cycle – not a 10 year one – which will provide significant benefits for partners in being first to market. It will give them a competitive advantage.”
“For other partners with a more holistic approach, this will provide them with an opportunity to revisit what a customer’s network architecture looks like, and design it for 6E. Customers see it as a way to future proof their investments, and believe going to this standard will give an additional 50% return on their investment.”
The Aruba 630 Series APs will be available in Q3 of 2021