We attended Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Las Vegas-based Atmosphere conference. It was very well attended, and this was Aruba’s first in-person user conference in over two years as we come out of the pandemic. Aruba made several important announcements at the event, including a formal Network as a Service (NaaS) offering, a series of broad cloud-services announcements, a formal unveiling of the Aruba/Pensando partnership, and the availability of industry first location-based access points.
The biggest splash came with Aruba’s NaaS announcement. While the company has been offering NaaS for two years, most of the deals were custom deals. In one of the smaller group meetings, the company shared a few of the logo wins, which included Texas A&M, Brookfield Properties, and Trevecca. What Aruba has done is standardized its offerings to a number of “service packs” that resellers can approach customers with. The company basically took its two years of experience and and packaged up what it felt were the best practices and the most common packages, which include wireless, switching and more. On a related topic, 650 Group announced that it is publishing a NaaS report, which of course includes historical and forecast data for this up and coming market. Additionally, in the small group breakout meeting, some resellers were asking questions about what happens at the end of a three or five year subscription and whether the offering can be split up or must it be sold as one. We feel that Aruba will be working closely with their partners over the next year or so to support them as NaaS gains stickiness, but that there is some genuine interest as markets move away from pure CAPEX models towards subscription and as-a-Service.
The company also announced significant enhancements to its Aruba Central Cloud-Managed Services offerings, with Aruba Central NetConductor. NetConductor allows for cloud-based central management of wired, wireless and WAN systems as well as to SASE systems. It also integrates the capabilities of two other functions well known to Aruba customers, Network Access Control (NAC) and Dynamic Segmentation. Aruba has based NetConductor on some widely used protocols like EVPN, VXLAN and BGP which would allow for integration with both Aruba gear and non-Aruba gear.
During the first day’s keynote sessions, HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, spent quite a bit of time on stage. Former Cisco CEO John Chambers joined him on stage so that they could discuss the HPE and Pensando’s partnership. It was interesting to see Chambers literally hugging Neri, especially considering that Chambers ran Aruba’s arch-nemesis, Cisco Systems, for two decades. It made the keynote very interesting. We covered the Aruba-Pensando announcement last fall and you can find more about it here. Another thing that is interesting is that Neri’s presence was felt beyond the Chambers discussion, as Aruba Central is now part of HPE GreenLake. HPE claims that this gives IT admins a single operating model for network, compute and storage services across edges, data centers, and public clouds.
Aruba announced that its newer access points have all been shipping with a location-based feature that leverages GPS. This is a differentiator for Aruba because it said it is not charging extra hardware or subscriptions charges to use GPS. We’ve been thinking about what this function can do for Aruba customers. Relative location capabilities have been around on WLAN Access Points and on Bluetooth beacons for several years now and many vendors offer it. However, the way we see it is that having a GPS capability makes location capabilities far easier to use because what Aruba’s location capabilities do is position all the APs on an absolute basis, and thereafter, a relative service like wayfinding, dwell time analytics and the like can be anchored to specific places on a floor plan without having to get the ruler out, so to speak. Also, maintaining control over inventory can be simplified because these Aruba APs know where they are, like, what ceiling tile they can be found in, or what building they were moved to.
In summary, at the Atmosphere show, Network as a Service has become a major talking point in the industry, Aruba’s cloud service now shares the stage with other top players in the industry, and Aruba announced a really cool function on its access points that simplifies location services.
Each year, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company has its Atmosphere conference. This year the conference theme was “Journey to the Edge.” However, this year was also much different from previous conferences because Aruba completed the acquisition of Silver Peak last September. As a result of the acquisition, the conference had a significant focus on SD-WAN, the primary product of Silver Peak, and integration with Aruba. A critical new trend that the combined company is now pivoting towards is SASE, which Aruba includes in “Edge to Cloud Security.” Aruba is partnering with well-known companies to deliver a complete “Edge to Cloud Security” portfolio. Aruba’s broadening portfolio allows it to “land and expand” to customers and provide a more comprehensive portfolio. Portfolio growth is what other competitors to Aruba are doing because there’s a growing need to manage networking and security systems simultaneously as users and computing leave the campus environment. Additionally, the company made several new announcements to advance Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform), like Aruba Central being available on-prem, ClearPass Policy Manager integration with the Aruba EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform, and IDS/IPS/UTM capabilities. The company also updated its partners on its growing AIOps capabilities and hinted that it would be making Wi-Fi 6E announcements “soon.”
Future announcements. Management hinted at some announcements that will come in the future. These include:
Updates. We felt some noteworthy comments came up during the show.
This week, we published our Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) Forecast and Research report, a deep analysis on the market, the key players, and the opportunity that lies ahead for it. We expect SASE revenue to grow more than 500% by 2025. As a result of strong market growth, we also expect a tremendous opportunity for new vendors to stake their claim in this increasingly complex environment. As the SASE market is at a relatively early stage, many vendors are introducing new products and services to the marketplace, many of which can be considered “best-of-breed” offerings.
We think enterprises will be navigating multiple priorities, shifting between the needs of their security teams and their networking teams. As enterprises shift toward Zero Trust and SASE architectures, they are increasingly evaluating and deploying multi-vendor cloud-delivered security services, and it is not currently necessary for all the SASE elements to come from a single vendor. For example, HPE Aruba (Silver Peak) offers freedom of choice through a best-of-breed multi-vendor partner ecosystem. HPE Aruba’s approach is reinforced by the hundreds of deployments they have alongside cloud-delivered security services from partners like ZScaler, Netskope and Check Point. Enterprises working with vendors like HPE Aruba, with a multi-vendor partnering strategy, should be able to continue working with vendors they have worked with already or be able to pick “best-of-breed” systems.
The news media has featured our research, and the reports have had interesting takes, for example a Dark Reading article, SASE Surge: Why the Market Is Poised to Grow, focuses on the significant growth opportunities for the market.
Alan Weckel: This week, HPE Aruba announced its planned acquisition of Silver Peak for $925 million with an expected close date during HPE's fiscal 2020, so we expect the deal to close in calendar 4Q20. SD-WAN is becoming a battleground for vendors as an increasing portion of enterprises want single-pane and cloud-managed solutions for their branch equipment.
Our research indicates the average branch employee connects to over one dozen cloud services daily and the edge-to-cloud experience has never been more critical in the COVID and post-COVID world as businesses try to engage with customers across an increasing amount of physical and virtual locations.
Enterprises will accelerate the retirement of MPLS links for more advanced WAN architectures with Cloud-first principles in their physical branches. Enterprise will also deploy a mix of hardware and software into employee's houses as Work-From-Home (WFH) changes every employee's residence into a new branch extension of the enterprise.
We have conducted significant research into the Branch in 2020 and how it will transform across verticals and product categories (SD-WAN, legacy routing, WLAN, switching, and security) based on long-term structural changes to the market as well as the sudden changes forced on customers by COVID-19. We project SD-WAN as the fastest-growing component in the Branch over the next five years.
Silver Peak's advanced SD-WAN portfolio (both hardware and software), completes HPE Aruba’s breadth of WAN offerings, strengthens Aruba ESP (Edge Service Platform) and complements Aruba's strong position in Ethernet Switching, and WLAN, especially Aruba's newer WiFi 6 APs and custom ASIC-based 6200/6300 Access switches.
We expect that AI/ML will increasingly become part of the Branch market in each year of our forecast driven by further product integration by vendors and the need to control and monitor an increasing amount of user and device (IoT) traffic. As the AI engines learn, self directly networks will move towards self-driving as automation of tasks beyond simple device management become common across networks. The ability to use AI at this scale in networking today is limited to the largest hyperscalers, but will quickly make its way to campus and branch networks.
We expect overall Branch spending to increase above its 2019 run rate during the forecast period (post-COVID) and single-pane management to nearly triple during that timeframe. HPE Aruba's acquisition of Silver Peak will help them address the fastest-growing part of SD-WAN and Branch networking. While there are dozens of SD-WAN, campus switching, WLAN, and security vendors vying for Branch spend, there are only 6 US-based vendors that have a holistic portfolio that customers want and need.
Posted by Alan Weckel, founding technology analyst.
Throughout the years, I’ve attended Aruba’s Atmosphere conferences. This year, I missed the in-person connections of the previous years, but Aruba did a great job transitioning over to a virtual event with engaging content…and some green screens. At Aruba’s user conference, Atmosphere, the company informed attendees of its new single-pane, cloud-native platform called ESP. We were impressed not only with ESP but how well it delivered the message under tough circumstances, using Zoom webinar. We want to highlight the ESP launch because it launches the company into a new category, that of single-pane management. We expect that customers value the capability to manage Wi-Fi, Switching, SD-WAN, 5G and IoT using the same system, without “swivel-chairing” between multiple software interfaces. And, by combining all these different “edge” systems to a single manager, this allows for a unified policy, security and insights system.
ESP. What we learned about Edge Services Platform (ESP) at the Atmosphere show. ESP is an automated, all-in-one platform that operates in the cloud or on-premises, and is designed to deliver a cloud experience at the edge. Large or small companies can use ESP, and it is also available on its controller-less APs, and can be used across large campuses down to branches and to remote worker locations. Now, with the launch of ESP, data gathered from APs, switches, IoT devices, user devices and SD-WAN connections are retained in a single location, and thus this data can be analyzed together. Since all the telemetry data is in one place, the company can now use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve insights into how the network is performing, to improve the throughput (the company claims 15%), and reduce to the time to resolve issues (the company claims a 90% improvement). Aruba shared with attendees that it has 10M APs at customer sites – we see this large installed base, spinning off a lot of telemetry, as being a key advantage to Aruba, because AI systems get better with more data.
Greenlake. Aruba ESP can be consumed either as a service in the cloud or on-premise, as a managed service delivered through Aruba partner. Customers can also consume it as a network as a service through GreenLake. Greenlake is a Network as a Service offering recently introduced by Aruba that allows customers to pay for equipment and services monthly, as opposed to as an up-front expenditure.
Other new product announcements. UXI-6 sensor - the company announced a new sensor for gathering information from IoT and user systems. This data can be leveraged by software and services to enable asset tracking, contract tracing and other systems. Additionally, the company announced a new Ethernet Switch, the CX 6200 Switch Series. The new switch can run on enterprise campuses, branch access and data centers.
Contact Tracing. The company is also innovating for the future hybrid work environment. They are releasing a new set of contact and location tracing tools, and are working with a partner, Plexus. It uses a variety of data sets: Wi-Fi, BLE/Bluetooth, location-capabilities inherent in the infrastructure, wrist-bands, keycards, or Aruba asset tags. Wi-Fi-only is the base case and is the minimum data set that gets customers started immediately. As additional data sources, primarily those leveraging Bluetooth to improve tracking and capabilities of the contact tracing system. For expanded capabilities, Aruba Technology Partners integrate with Aruba infrastructures to monitor social distancing and group sizes, and generate contract tracing trees of potentially exposed individuals.
Today's big news from the FCC is that it will open up 6 GHz to Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses. The FCC authorizes "1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz) available for unlicensed use," and further explains that it authorizes "standard-power devices in 850 megahertz in the 6 GHz band. An automated frequency coordination system will prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services." We see that this vote is very beneficial to Wi-Fi chip and systems companies that serve both consumer and enterprise markets. We also expect that outdoor systems that take advantage of this new spectrum may benefit wireless ISPs (WISPs) and their equipment suppliers. And, also, the FCC's statement that an automated frequency coordination (AFC) system will be used to prevent interference from existing microwave transmission systems. With that background, we have compiled a list of companies that will benefit from the FCC's vote.
WLAN Semiconductor companies Broadcom, Qualcomm, ON Semi, Celeno, and Intel. In our research of the WLAN Infrastructure semiconductor market, these are the vendors we expect to sell Wi-Fi radio chips to devices such as Access Points, Broadband Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) with WLAN, and Consumer Routers. A new class of Wi-Fi that takes advantage of 6 GHz is now called Wi-Fi 6E. Broadcom and Qualcomm have already made statements about Wi-Fi 6E in the past month or two, and others somewhat more recently. Historically, Broadcom and Qualcomm have enjoyed significant market shares of the enterprise WLAN Access Point market, while players in the consumer AP/router/CPE have included a wider list of players including Broadcom, Qualcomm, ON Semi (formerly Quantenna), Celeno, Intel, Realtek, Mediatek and others.
Enterprise WLAN companies Cisco, HPE Aruba, Commscope, Extreme Networks and Juniper. While each of these companies has launched Wi-Fi 6 products over the past couple of years that operate in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, we expect this group of companies to release Wi-Fi 6E products that connect over 6 GHz over the next year. We expect initially that 6E enterprise products will sit at the high end of product portfolios, selling at higher prices than 5 GHz and lower products. The FCC commented in today's press release that "The notice also seeks comment on increasing the power at which low-power indoor access points may operate," which means that there is still some work to do in figuring out whether these Wi-Fi 6E devices can operate at powers levels more common in enterprises without needing to connect to an AFC. We are sure there is more to come on this topic.
Consumer WLAN Infrastructure companies NETGEAR, Commscope, Technicolor, Amazon and Google. We expect NETGEAR to be an aggressive player in Wi-Fi 6E, just as it released super high-end Wi-Fi 6 products in its Nighthawk product line. We expect Broadband CPE vendors such as Commscope (through its Arris brand), Technicolor and others to benefit as they seek to capitalize on the new spectrum, which should allow the delivery of Wi-Fi at higher speeds and to more devices in the home. We wouldn't be surprised to see consumer mesh vendors such as Amazon (through its eero acquisition) and Google to offer Wi-Fi 6E products, but these probably come a bit later than traditional router and Broadband CPE devices.
Wireless ISPs such as Etheric Networks and Common Networks (both located near the 650 area code that we used to name our company, 650 Group) will likely benefit as they will be able to offer new WISP services over the new 6 GHz spectrum. Since the spectrum is new, essentially unused and there's lots of it, we expect that these, and other WISPs in the US market, can benefit by expanding beyond the current unlicensed spectrums commonly used today, such as 60 GHz, 5 GHz, 2.4 GHz and 900 MHz spectrums. We think it might take a year or two before the WISPs can capitalize on these spectrums, but we see it as a windfall.
WISP suppliers such as Ubiquiti Networks, Cambium Networks, Airspan, and others will be likely beneficiaries. These suppliers sell to WISPs and other operators to enable "last mile" services that compete with fixed-line broadband services such as cable modem, DSL and PON. As we alluded to above, the 5 GHz spectrum is quite crowded, and thus, as 6 GHz becomes available for outdoor use, we expect that a new class of equipment will take advantage of this ample spectrum to deliver broadband to a more significant number of business and consumers. The FCC has a "goal of making broadband connectivity available to all Americans, especially those in rural and underserved areas," according to its 6 GHz press release today, and we see WISPs as one of the main constituents of serving this goal.
Mobile network operators AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. Similar to WISPs, we expect that mobile operators will eventually leverage 6 GHz to deliver Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services (and potentially mobile services) to consumers and businesses. In suburban and rural areas, we have already seen some operators, notably Verizon, deploy FWA in licensed mmWave spectrum (in 20 GHz and 40 GHz ranges) - we have seen operators pare back on plans to deliver services, though they haven't stopped deployments or anything. But, we see 6 GHz could puff some new life into FWA plans because this is a lot of new frequency and since it is lower frequency than mmWave, does not suffer as much from immovable obstacles such as tree leaves, windows and precipitation. Additionally, we see mobile services could benefit as well, as we have already seen operators such as AT&T leverage 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum in delivering mobile service on its small cells in locations such as New York City, so we would expect mobile operators to eventually take advantage of 6 GHz in a similar fashion. But, incumbent services (point to point microwave systems) are more likely to interfere with mobile operators' plans in urban areas, where paradoxically, there is more need for this extra bandwidth, so we think operators will take some time to sort this interference out.
AFC services operators such as Federated Wireless. Given that the FCC announced a specific need for AFC services in its media blitz today (see above), we point out that Federated Wireless has already announced an AFC service. Just as Federated has competition in its CBRS SAS service from players such as Commscope, we would not be surprised to see new competition in AFC services.
Today, HPE Aruba announced its Aruba Air Pass cloud service that allows for a hand-off between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. The service is enabled by Passpoint, which is a standard created by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The idea is that a mobile operator customer can go into a building with Wi-Fi coverage and, without having to "log on" to the Wi-Fi, the user's phone will automatically connect. Using Air Pass means that mobile operators won't need to build a cellular infrastructure in these buildings for customers to continue with their phone calls.
For mobile customers to see the benefit of seamless roaming from the Air Pass service, mobile operators will need to engage in a relationship with the property owners of the building. While this seems like a lot of work, connecting to Air Pass will be far easier than it would be for a property owner to install a cellular network inside the building. Examples of in-building cellular that can operate either on licensed, shared or unlicensed spectrum is a Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) system or licensed small cells. Building owners or operators have to build new, in-building cellular if they want cellular coverage. Managed Service Providers, such as Federated Wireless, have begun selling a service to property owners where they will manage the cellular infrastructure for the owner.
Aruba has some competition for its service to allow Wi-Fi sharing to mobile operator customers. In February 2020, Cisco announced its Unified Domain Center as a means of sharing Wi-Fi coverage with mobile operators, as well, and claimed that it is at the proof of concept stage with operators. Also, Swedish software and services company, Aptilo, has created systems that allow SIM-based device users to roam onto Wi-Fi, as well. We applaud the efforts of Aruba, Cisco, Aptilo and many others who have built systems to allow device users to roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
There has been a lot of excitement by mobile operators and cellular equipment suppliers about the 5G opportunity to expand to enterprises. In November 2019, for instance, Nokia discussed how enterprises are adopting its Private LTE systems to allow cellular coverage at customers such as utilities and shipping ports. We have been cautious on the idea that mobile operators will get lots of new revenue from providing cellular coverage to the enterprise; a year ago, we laid out our thoughts on the 5G Enterprise hype at the MWC19 show.
The implications of the emergence of services like Air Pass and the capabilities of Unified Domain Center is that Enterprise Wi-Fi coverage will be leveraged in the 5G era far more than all the hype about "5G" wiping out the need for Wi-Fi. However, we also feel that cellular systems will see growing popularity in certain enterprise verticals, as was evident at the MWC-Americas 2019 show.
We attended the Comcast Business analyst event in Philadelphia. We find the Business Services part of Comcast is interesting, and so do customers, because it is growing rapidly. It installs a “new Ethernet every four minutes,” and has “40-45K installs per month.” The company shared with the audience that it is expanding the breadth of its services to grow its potential revenue it can get from each customer, and in many cases is either acquiring or developing this technology itself. We see these development efforts as moving up the technology stack.
To understand Comcast Business, you have to know that it has unique approaches to its different customer segments. The organization addresses customers of different sizes, and it does not use the same terminology as some others do: SMB (<20 employees), Mid-market (20+ employees), Enterprise (Fortune 1000). We think it is more common that small is considered 100 employees and smaller, which would include SMB and Comcast’s Mid-Market, and that mid would be 101 employees or greater. Here are the Comcast Business market views:
More details about customer segments. In addition to attacking three customer size groups with distinct approaches, it also serves two verticals (carriers and government) segments with different strategies and recently acquired Deep Blue (May 2019) that serves WiFi to venues and hospitality verticals. Each served customer type uses different combinations of third-party developed technology and Comcast in-house developed technology. The company has 4,000 people developing in-house technology. As a mix of total systems sold to customers, today, Comcast Business uses a higher mix of in-house developed technology when serving its small and mid-market customers than it does when serving large enterprises. The group that serves Enterprise Solutions serves large enterprises using mostly using third-party technology from vendors like Cisco, Fortinet, and HPE.
On the other hand, the company serves smaller-sized customers using fully or partially in-house developed technology. Comcast Business’s SVP Product Management, Bob Victor, summed up its approach to working with third-party vendors by saying, “We want to totally commoditize hardware.” We assume he means this is a long-term goal because, during the event, the company told us of new hardware and software relationships announced with new vendors.
For small and mid businesses, the company has developed several in-house technology systems that compete with vendor-supplied technology. One such example is its WiFi Pro service, which combines internet connection and WiFi service. In WiFi Pro, which was introduced a couple of years ago to small businesses and is available at up to four Access Points, the company sources WLAN access points from a non-branded access point. Based on our discussions at this conference, we would not rule out that at least some of the in-house developed technology may be supplanted by vendor-supplied technology if there is a compelling reason. However, on multiple occasions, we learned that the direction the Comcast Business is going is to develop in-house technologies and bring these directly to customers, first with smaller customers, and perhaps very long term to large enterprises.
Managed Services. The company delivers both transport/network services and transport bundled with other services; there is a case to be made that Comcast Business’ bundled services could be called Managed Services. However, even Comcast says there is some confusion about using the terminology “Managed Services,” because of customer expectations; some customers see it as a very high level of services, where customers do nothing, while others see it as Comcast Business is “working with” the customer to deliver the service.
Playing to Strengths. On an overall basis, Bill Stemper, who runs Comcast Business, says the company’s strategy is to focus on serving the wireline needs of businesses in the US. He says, “this is where we invest. We expect to focus this way for decades.”
Small Business details. Stemper said that the company would bring “mobile to small business.” It will bring mobile to this segment when “all the systems are squared away, and when sales reps are capable of selling this additional service without slowing down customer purchasing decisions on the existing suite of services.” It is currently offering mobile in selected markets to learn more about selling this new service. We expect mobile to small business to be offered sometime in 2020.
Growth Avenues in Mid-Market. The company made it clear that it believes the mid-market is an enormous growth opportunity. And, starting in 2020 and beyond, the company says, it is putting more investment into it to improve coverage, its focus, and its reach. Today, the company has 800 reps targeting the in mid-market and plays to strengths in certain verticals such as government, education, and healthcare.
Large Enterprise Opportunities. Approaching the Fortune 1000, the company has its most meaningful exposure in finance, healthcare, restaurants, retail, hospitality verticals. The company is finding customers who, according to Comcast, are replacing MPLS service with broadband and getting a 50% cost reduction and an order of magnitude speed improvement. Comcast introduced a leader from a large finance company to the audience, and though we cannot name the customer, the company shared that it had moved initially to use Comcast transport, and is currently doing a proof of concept for voice and Comcast’s ActiveCore SD-WAN service. Comcast reiterated its plans to use Cisco, Fortinet, and HPE at large enterprise (Fortune 1000), though implied it is entering another phase that it internally calls Enterprise 2.0 for its Enterprise Solutions group. In Enterprise 2.0, the company hinted it might develop more in-house technology and further implied its ActiveCore (SD-WAN is one service it offers in ActiveCore) might find a home in some large enterprises. Comcast’s customer endorsed the idea of using white box universal CPE loaded with “best of breed services” instead of buying vendor-supplied routers so it will not have to replace 15,000 routers when it comes to upgrading time or transitioning.
Carrier opportunity. Bill Stemper, who leads Comcast Business explained that, since 2009, it has served carrier Ethernet to the mobile industry and it will pursue 5G opportunistically. Elaborating further, Stemper said it would decide whether we can get leverage on new builds to serve 5G simultaneously with other customer types. So, it sounds like building new plant to serve only 5G backhaul is not in the cards.
Deep Blue WLAN. In May 2019, the company acquired a Troy, NY-based WiFi services company. We understand from the presentations that Deep Blue was growing at least 30%/year for several years before the acquisition and that its revenues may have hit around $40M. The company designs/installs third-party WLAN and associated systems, then operates the networks for a recurring fee mainly in verticals such hospitality and large venues. The wholly-owned subsidiary has developed advanced software and services capabilities that could easily be leveraged across the other parts of Comcast Business, but from what we learned, there has been no cross-fertilization as of yet.
Products. The company is expanding the number of services it can deliver to customers, thereby increasing its possible revenues to each customer. It began offering SD-WAN services three years ago. It plans to expand beyond SD-WAN. In its mid-market customer focus, the company will soon offer security (Advanced Firewall and UTM, for instance), routing, and a bit later on, voice gateway (SBC) and WiFi. For premises-based VNFs, these are run on a universal CPE (uCPE) that today costs about $1,000 to Comcast and it will be launching a $500 uCPE with similar capabilities soon. The company is updating the cable plant that serves business users, where 4 M businesses are passed, towards a “mid split” architecture that allows for greater upstream speeds so that initially 50 Mbps up and down will be possible, and then over time 100/100, 300/300 and longer-term 1 Gbps up and down. The company also uses EPON for more demanding needs and places like multiple dwelling units; it won’t be moving to XG PON (10 Gbps) for the foreseeable future.
The company has a multi-vendor approach with these VNFs. This week, it announced Fortinet UTM/security. We expect the company could announce other security, routing and perhaps longer-term, other SD-WAN vendor options. We think the company will stick with a single WiFi cloud controller for at least the next year or so, but indicated it could introduce at least one more vendor’s technology afterward. The $500 uCPE device is capable of 1 Gbps SD-WAN throughput, as well as advanced firewall at 1 Gbps and has UTM at 600 Mbps. These are impressive throughput numbers, we think, especially because similar throughput capabilities are available on proprietary boxes from vendors that cost much more.
Additionally, the product called CBR2, a new version of its Comcast business router, will be coming soon. Both the original CBR and CBR2 have WLAN as a built-in feature. But, neither the CBR nor the CBR2 has sufficient WLAN coverage capabilities to satisfy a mid-sized business, so Comcast thinks its soon-to-be-launched WLAN plans to mid-sized businesses allow it to serve more customers. One such new target from these added WLAN capabilities will be the E-Rate program, which is a partial funding mechanism for K-12 schools overseen by the US FCC, is one such target.
Comcast emphasized that it has spent significant time and resources developing software capabilities that allow it to orchestrate VNFs, to remotely administer customer networks, and to allow multiple VNFs from different vendors, or to allow VNFs that are developedin-house by its customers.
We attended the Qualcomm Wi-Fi 6 event held in San Francisco today. Representatives from partner companies who attended included HPE Aruba, Cisco, Commscope, Boingo, Netgear, Rivet Networks, AMD, and Microsoft. The principal announcement at the event was that Qualcomm announced its Networking Pro Series Platforms which are focused on Wi-Fi 6 capabilities, semiconductor systems which are in initial stages of availability and expected to be available on systems in coming months and quarters. The new Networking Pro Series chip systems hit four price points generally segmented by the number of antennas (more at the higher end) and are primarily targeted to the enterprise market, though we learned that some of the high-end consumer ("prosumer") vendors plan to use these chips as well. The new Networking Pro products have unique features compared to previous Wi-Fi 6 chips introduced from Qualcomm, including upstream MU-MIMO and upstream OFDMA and the design claim is that these can support 1,500 simultaneous users both upstream and downstream.
In the past, it could be said that Wi-Fi and cellular compete in some markets. We found it interesting that Qualcomm said that it expects that Wi-Fi 6 mesh products will be the way to get 5G millimeter-wave signals indoors. Several Qualcomm executives echoed the message that Wi-Fi and cellular are complementary, even though many Qualcomm service provider and cellular equipment partners do not subscribe to this point of view.
Qualcomm shared some impressive numbers. It ships approximately 1B Wi-Fi device chips per year at a run-rate; it has shipped over 4B Wi-Fi chips since 2015; and by comparison, had shipped 1/2B chips by 2010. It has shipped Wi-Fi chips with MU-MIMO capabilities to a total of 0.75B client devices. Qualcomm claims it has found that Target Wait Time (TWT) can improve cell phone battery life by as much as 60%.
HPE Aruba President, Keerti Melkote, presented and shared with the audience that it had won the Wi-Fi project to the nearby Chase Center, where the NBA's Warriors play and that it should operating soon. Additionally, Melkote emphasized that Aruba had recently begun shipping its price-competitive Instant ON product and the take-up has been strong. Cisco SVP Engineering, Anand Oswal, primarily discussed Cisco's Open Roaming initiative that focuses on seamless and secure public Wi-Fi onboarding. It was interesting that Cisco did not focus its comments on Wi-Fi 6. Morgan Kurk, CTO Commscope and acting President of Ruckus Networks spoke about the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 to venues, primary and secondary educational institutions, including AR & VR, 1:1 and online assessment use cases. Derek Peterson, CTO Boingo, a Wi-Fi/cellular venue services provider shared that it is now serving 1B consumers per year. Its goal is to get 100 MHz to each user, and that it will reach this goal by using all available spectrum, licensed and unlicensed. Peterson also shared its observations of the benefits from using Wi-Fi 6 at its trial that began in April of 2019 at the John Wayne Airport in Irvine, CA. Morgan Teachworth, Head of Hardware Platforms of Cisco Meraki, shared observations of several events it has been involved with, including the US Open Pebble Beach 2019 event, where, to its surprise, upload traffic exceeded downlink traffic. David Henry, SVP Connected Home Products from Netgear, hinted that it plans to introduce its Wi-Fi 6 mesh product, saying wait for details next week. We also learned that Netgear would leverage the highest end Qualcomm Network Pro chips intended for enterprise-class devices.
VK Jones, VP of Technology, Qualcomm Atheros, spoke about future products and standards work. He said by 2020, we should expect 6 GHz, and, by 2022, 802.11ax Release 2 features including scheduling and spatial re-use to improve old device capabilities. 6 GHz requires a third-party service provider to coordinate what frequencies each access point uses.