How Aruba Air Pass links WiFi 6 and 5G Technologies

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) company announced in March 2020 the launch of a new service called Aruba Air Pass.

Aruba Air Pass is a service which enables seamless roaming of users between cellular networks and a private Aruba Enterprise WiFi network.

Air Pass is built on the technical foundations of Passpoint, a standard introduced by WiFi Alliance to auto-authenticate mobile devices which are entering WiFi networks. Passpoint is supported by all major mobile operating systems like Android, iOS & Windows. Passpoint standard helps mobile service providers to enable other services like WiFi calling, which is another technical foundation of Aruba Air Pass.

WiFi calling is widely accepted by many mobile service providers in many countries. It helps users to place calls and send text messages using a WiFi network. WiFi calling operates on the principle of VoIP, where voice is sent over data networks as data packets.

Passpoint helps a user by constantly looking out for Passpoint enabled hot spots and securely roams into it based on previously supplied credentials if available.

Therefore when subscribers from a participating mobile service provider enter the coverage area of a participating private Aruba Enterprise WiFi Network, they will be able to seamlessly roam and access the WiFi network as a guest user while being connected to the services of the mobile operator.

Aruba Air Pass Network Architecture
Fig: Aruba Air Pass Network Architecture (Image Credit: Aruba Blog)

Cellular network access inside buildings is a major issue across the world. Buildings with vast indoor areas across multiple floors and a large user base poses big challenges to cellular coverage. Implementation of mitigating services like small cells or DAS (Distributed Antenna Service) costs extra.

Under this situation services like Aruba Air Pass is a cost effective solution for Enterprises to provision cellular services for their guests through their existing WiFi network. The mobile service providers too will be able to enjoy continuous touch with their subscribers. Stuart Strickland, a technologist with Aruba, says in his blog that  “Aruba Air Pass adds a globally-accessible, secure authentication hub to aggregate and scalably manage control-plane signaling between participating venues and mobile operator partners”

This service is expected to help various business verticals like Hospitality, Health care, Retail, Education, Corporate etc. All these venues can greatly save on their DAS/small cell expenses and leverage their existing WiFi network with pre-negotiated roaming contracts with mobile operators for enabling Aruba Air Pass.

From a user point of view, they get uninterrupted voice calls inside the buildings without worrying about indoor cellular coverage. The user will be able to roam seamlessly into participating Aruba WiFi networks in any part of the world.

Aruba says that when Aruba Air Pass is used along with Aruba Air Slice, which is their radio resource management technology, a carrier grade quality of service can be guaranteed to the subscribers over WiFi 6 networks. This will help telcos to extend 5G services into the Enterprises without any fall in standards. High end video calling, VR/AR, mobile gaming and other data and latency intensive real-time application usage would become possible. “The combination of Aruba Air Pass with Aruba Air Slice gives telcos the ability to extend the reach of their 5G networks into the enterprise while economically improving the overall end user experience,” says Jeff Lipton, vice president of Strategy and Corporate Development at Aruba.