Enterprise Mobility & the Connected Worker Blog

Athonet Acquisition by HPE Inc. Signals Continued Development of Private Wireless Market Ecosystem

by Rowan Litter | 6/7/2023

Athonet Athonet

Just before the start of Mobile World Congress Barcelona in late February, HPE Inc. announced the planned acquisition of Athonet, a leading provider of private wireless mobile core solutions. This acquisition provides HPE with a complete portfolio of private wireless solutions for enterprise customers and communication service providers (CSPs).

Many emerging solution providers in the private wireless space have been acquired by larger infrastructure players. In 2022, Intel acquired Ananki, a software-defined private 5G provider aimed at serving Industry 4.0 use cases. Ericsson, one of the largest solution providers of private wireless has made a string of acquisitions that bolster its portfolio. The most notable acquisition was of Cradlepoint in 2020; since then, the Cradlepoint unit acquired Quortus, a private wireless core provider, in 2021, and more recently, Ericom, a provider of Zero Trust cybersecurity solutions, in April 2023. As this market continues to evolve, acquisitions and partnerships are creating opportunities for increased collaboration while shaping a playing ground for heightened competition.

Athonet was one of the first vendors to recognize the potential for cellular networks in the enterprise, creating value that would lead to its success and acquisition. Karim El Malki, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Athonet, commented on the company’s early success.

“Compared to previous cellular technologies, the market for 5G is with enterprises rather than consumers. Athonet has an early mover advantage because we understood this trend very early, building a product fully in-house and deploying our first Private 4G networks in 2011, before there was even a name for them.”

Independently, Athonet boasts private wireless enterprise deployments across the entire globe, with key focus in the U.S. (on the CBRS market), Germany, United Kingdom, France, and India. The company’s reach also extends across industry, including over 450 customer deployments in education, smart cities, public safety, hospitality, retail, energy, defense, and manufacturing. In addition, Athonet has shown the ability to serve a wide variety of use cases for customers, no matter where they are in their private network deployment. With a 5G-SA and CBRS start kit offerings, customers can quickly roll out a private network with enhanced coverage and security. For more complex application needs on top of the enterprise private network, tailored solutions can enable push-to-talk and push-to-video over cellular, reliable and secure IoT two-way communications, easy-to-deploy video surveillance, AR and VR applications, and data visualization.

The addition of Athonet to HPE’s GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform addresses a key aspect of the enterprise network deployment challenge, which is integration and simplification: primarily, integrating private wireless with Wi-Fi, through HPE’s Aruba Wireless portfolio, enabling a seamless and complete network offering. Integrating private 5G with Aruba Central simplifies deployments for administrators to manage networks on a single platform and combine all costs into one monthly operating expense subscription. El Malki noted the anticipated need for enterprises to have both Wi-Fi and private networks working together in the long term.

“It isn’t surprising that many of our customers also use Wi-Fi and have added a Private 4/5G layer to their enterprise networks for business-critical communications. In the future, our customers will need integrated wireless and wired communication platforms and we expect to be perfectly positioned to support them.”

This new structure will make it easier for HPE’s channel partners to pursue small and medium-sized enterprises, who are looking for network deployments that won’t overhaul resources and be a headache to manage.

HPE’s acquisition of Athonet marks several growing trends in the private wireless market ecosystem. The first is the shift of network infrastructure providers to selling directly to the enterprise, as opposed to telco operators. The second trend is the increasing trend of successful independent mobile network core providers to be scooped up by larger infrastructure providers. These providers are attractive to acquisitions due to their focus on an agnostic platform, meaning their core can be scalable and open to any application, network architecture, radio, and API; this approach enables the creation of tailored solutions to customers across a wide range of industry verticals. As we continue to observe the competitive landscape of the private wireless market develop, core solution providers similar to Athonet and Quortus will be prime targets for acquisition.