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Aruba @ Mobility Field Day 4

Aruba Mobility Field Day 4

Aruba covered a lot of subjects during their Mobility Field Day presentations this year, bringing some of their brightness staff members on stage. In this episode, we are discussing hot topics such as IoT, Wi-Fi in the 6GHz band, Wi-Fi 6, new Wi-Fi security and Passpoint.

If you want to catch back with the presentations and watch them, here are the links you need:

For more insights from the other delegates, please read the following articles:

Aruba Presenters:

  • Ash Chowdappa, GM-SVP of WLAN
  • Chuck Lukaszewski, VP of Wireless Strategy & Standards
  • Eric Johnson, Director of Product Line Management
  • Sati Banerjee, Senior Product Line Manager, WLAN
  • Jone Ostebo, Distinguished Technical Marketing Engineer
  • Dan Harkins, HPE Fellow & Office of the CTO
  • Sriram Venkiteswaran, Director Product Management, Cloud and Service Provider Solutions
  • Jose Tellado, HPE Fellow and Chief Technologist

Enterprise Passpoint

Passpoint has been around for some time now. However, for some reason, it is quite a trendy subject right now. Aruba actually started their presentations having Chuck Lukaszewski talking about it. His idea was to say that Passpoint can be the solution to bring in-building coverage for cellular networks.

The new cellular networks will be using the 3.3GHz – 3.7GHz frequency band, maybe the 5GHz band with solution such as LAA. So the penetration of cell signals will not get better.

As an alternative, DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) are very expensive.

So the idea would be to leverage the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to carry cellular traffic. It’s already an idea that has been implemented with Wi-Fi calling (now supported in over 100 operators in 40 countries.

So, the idea behind Passpoint, is that the device would automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network if there is an agreement between the user’s cell phone operator and the Wi-Fi network operator. The roaming would be smooth and doesn’t require any user intervention. Chuck actually did a demo where he had his phone connected to the Wi-Fi network (Passpoint enabled), placed his cell phone into airplane mode, and called one of the delegates.

I, personally, have always been a fan of the technology. We have just not seen it implemented very often because it requires working out agreements with different big carrier companies. It’s nice to see Aruba pushing the technology. The success will also depend on how the carrier get involved. For instance, with my Canadian phone, I wasn’t able to connect to the Passpoint SSID while being at the event. I am guessing, it is because of non-existing roaming agreements.

Wi-Fi on 6GHz

Aruba is very active in trying to get more spectrum open for Wi-Fi. They have been working with the FCC to see if some spectrum in the 6GHz band could be released for Wi-Fi use. Similar work has been done for Europe as well.

Having more spectrum would allow us to leverage the larger channels (80MHz and 160MHz). I believe that one of the biggest advantages for us, is the fact that we could be deploying greenfield Wi-Fi 6 networks on this new band. The efficiency will be great as soon as the bands are available and the device support.

Here are some challenges we have today:

  • Not all bands are ready from a regulatory perspective (Only U-NII-6 and U-NII-8 are ready to go today). It will take time before we see 6GHz support.
  • Do we ship the hardware if we are not sure that the frequency will be ready?

As an alternative, Aruba is proposing to allow low-power transmissions on all the bands (max 14dBm). This would allow vendors to come out with devices supporting all bands at once until we figure out all the regulatory needs for the database control.

In terms of scheduling, we are still in the process of convincing the FCC that the solution will work technically without affecting the incumbents. A lot of tests have to be done to make sure it will work fine and all parties are happy.

Aruba is hoping to be able to ship APs supporting the 6GHz band next year. It might be a little optimistic but it is really nice to see that it is slowly but surely coming to life. We could then leverage the 6GHz band for high bandwidth applications and much more.

New Outdoor APs

Aruba released 2x new Outdoor APs to be more adapted to hazardous locations. Eric Johnson explained what the different levels of zones defined in hazardous locations.

I believe that Aruba was trying to meet a specific need for specific customers. It is nice to know that they provide such products in case we have to work on a project that has hazardous zones.

In terms of the hardware, the 2 new access points are called the AP-375EX and AP-377EX. These are pretty much the same as the AP-375 and AP-377 but adapted for hazardous environments. They are not 802.11ax AP but we could expect new outdoor 802.11ax APs from Aruba in the near future (according to Eric).

IoT is Hot!

IoT was a pretty hot subject this year at Mobility Field Day. Aruba also have their own solutions:

  • They offer IoT solution embedded into their new Wi-Fi 6 APs (500 series)
  • They offer USB external adapters that could add IoT functionalities to their previous line of APs (300 series)

The industry is moving to a “digital transformation” that will leverage IoT for different solutions. These use cases will leverage protocols such as Bluetooth, Zigbee and Wi-Fi. So aruba is trying to find a solution where the customer wouldn’t have to install an IoT overlay network.

Knowing that these IoT technologies are coming to the AP, we (as Wi-Fi Engineer) should start to study these technologies and try to understand how they work and how this will impact the work we do. This will impact our design and implementation work.

Today not all sensors are recognized by the Aruba platform, but Aruba is working with selected partners to ease the configuration and implementations.

I am not excited to start seeing these use cases being implemented in the real world. I’m thinking that the retail and industrial verticals will be the firsts to implement IoT in their network. We have seen a lot of electronic labelling system demos.

Enhanced Security – Wi-Fi Easy Connect

Aruba has always been working on new Wi-Fi security protocols. This year, Dan Harkins decided to talk to us about DPP (Device Provisioning Protocol). This protocol allows us to provision IoT devices in a secure and fast way. We are talking about IoT devices that don’t have a screen or keyboard and that usually require a cell phone to onboard them onto the Wi-Fi.

DPP is certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance under the Wi-Fi Easy Connect program. Looking at the Wi-Fi Alliance website, there are 289 devices certified today ( which is very good news for us if we want to leverage it on our networks.

Here is a link to Wi-Fi Alliance Easy Connect document: Device Provisioning Protocol Specification.

We did a demo and DPP was super easy to use and we can see how scalable it is. On top of that, it is very secured. The easiest way to onboard a device would be to scan a QR code. You could also leverage other methods (NFC, PKEX or other proprietary options)

This could be leveraged for some interesting use cases. We could use this to securely onboard guests on our networks.

Data Analysis

That has been another trend in the industry for many years now. It started with companies such as Nyansa. Aruba is leveraging Aruba Central to analyze the data going through its networks. They use the data to enhance their machine learning engine.

Using the data, they are able to identify the characteristics and behaviours of different verticals (K2-12, Hotels, Retails…). Then you can use that data to provide better insights and peer-comparison recommendations.

The Insight data is available in the new Aruba Central.

You can download the slides provided by Aruba here:

Wireless Network Engineer and Owner at SemFio Networks. CWNE #180. Living in London ON Canada, born and raised in Dijon, France.

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