Taking A.I.M. at EIS

Posted by Laura Stanton
on July 20, 2021

Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) transition

The transition to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is one critical path for agencies to evolve to more modernized and secure IT infrastructures and away from legacy technologies that are vulnerable to security risks — a high priority for this Administration. With the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, it’s important to remember that the transition to EIS is not about shutting down expiring contracts; it’s ultimately about the safety, security, and sustainability of the federal government’s IT infrastructure.

The most recent EIS transition milestone came and went on March 31, when agencies were expected to have disconnected at least 50 percent of their services from the expiring Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) 3, and Local Service contracts.

While the data illustrates agencies are making progress, with 55% of the federal government’s inventory remaining to be disconnected, there is still much work to be done. Therefore, we urge our agency partners to take A.I.M. at EIS:

  • Assess their status and accelerate their progress
  • Disconnect & transition their Inventory
  • Mitigate risk to ensure mission operations continue

Assessing status and accelerating progress

Less than two years remain before the Networx, WITS 3, and Local Service contracts expire on May 31, 2023. Though the September 30, 2022 deadline for 100% disconnect from expiring contracts is a little over 15 months away, we want to remind agencies that a lack of transition progress could result in service disconnection much sooner. Please assess your progress against several important dates that are outlined in the revised Project Plan for Closeout of Transition and accelerate actions accordingly:

  • June 30, 2021 – Agencies that are not transitioning to EIS will have services disconnected. On this date, agencies for whom GSA has provided a report for a price-only fair opportunity decision, but have yet to award the task order, will also be disconnected.
  • August 31, 2021 – Agencies that have not awarded any EIS task orders for their solicitations will be disconnected.
  • September 30, 2021 – Agencies that have not awarded EIS task orders for all their solicitations will be disconnected.
  • October 1, 2021 – GSA will no longer accept or process any exception requests for the expiring contracts (Networx, WITS 3, and Local Service Agreements). All new services should be ordered from the EIS contracts or other viable contracts.
Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions Transition Timeline with remaining milestone dates and upcoming Closeout Phases for 2021 June 30, 2021. Agencies that are not transitioning to EIS will have services disconnected. On this date, agencies for whom GSA has provided a report for a price-only fair opportunity decision, but have yet to award the task order, will also be disconnected .  August 31, 2021. Agencies that have not awarded any EIS task orders for their solicitations will be disconnected. September 30, 2021. Agencies that have not awarded EIS task orders for all their solicitations will be disconnected. October 1, 2021. GSA will no longer accept or process any exception requests for the expiring contracts (Networx, WITS 3, and Local Service Agreements). All new services should be ordered from the EIS contracts or other viable contracts.
Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions Transition Timeline with remaining milestone dates and upcoming closeout phases for 2021

The next major milestone for EIS transition is on March 31, 2022, which calls for 90% of services disconnected from expiring contracts. With less than 12 months to go, we urge agencies to accelerate progress, so as not to fall further behind.

Inventory: enhanced focus on disconnecting and transitioning inventory to EIS

Government-wide, we are behind the EIS curve. 11 of 17 large agencies and 15 of 25 medium-size agencies have yet to disconnect even 50 percent of their services as of March 31, 2021. Ultimately, missing transition milestones and continued reliance on expiring contracts risks disruption of critical services delivered to the public.

Mitigating risk to ensure mission operations continue

The more agencies fall behind the established milestones, the greater the risk to their mission. This not only leaves less time for transition-related activities ahead of the September 2022 milestone, but it will also increase the potential that agencies may be “stuck” waiting for disconnect and transition services to be rendered. In particular, agencies that delay their EIS contractor selection for replacement services may find themselves “in line” behind those that have already chosen a contractor and made transition progress. This further slows progress for disconnecting services from the expiring contracts and connecting new services.

The extended contracts expire on May 31, 2023 and there will be no extensions. We invite our agency partners to ask themselves “Will we complete transition on time?”. If your agency will not complete transition on time, contingency planning must start now.

The time for EIS transition action is now. Regardless if your agency is in the acquisition or implementation phase, know that GSA wants to actively support agency transitions. If your agency is struggling, GSA can provide services such as:

  • An inventory of complete services that need to be transitioned, including custom reports for your agency
  • Technical, acquisition, and ordering assistance, plus automated tools to directly assist agencies with expediting EIS task orders
  • GSA in-scope reviews of agency solicitations
  • Regular outreach to agencies’ Integrated Transition Teams to monitor transition progress and provide guidance

If your agency needs help with transition, please contact the IT Customer Service Center at 855-482-4348, or send an email to ITCSC@gsa.gov. We encourage you to reach out to your agency leadership. Include Chief Information, Acquisition, and Financial Officers in conversations on EIS transition, financials, and risk.

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The FedRelay Transition will Preserve Services and Improve Accessibility

Posted by Laura Stanton
on May 11, 2021

To ensure FedRelay customers experience improved access, enhanced service and no loss of coverage, GSA is working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to transition users to the FCC-administered Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS).

Like FedRelay, TRS offers a suite of telecommunications relay services that help individuals with hearing or speech disabilities communicate with government agencies and conduct official business.

GSA initiated the required market research to prepare for the next generation of FedRelay and determined that for the majority of relay services, TRS would deliver the greatest value while enhancing services provided.

TRS comes with the additional benefit of no cost to agencies. The FedRelay services that are not offered by TRS, Relay Conference Captioning and Video Remote Interpreting, are already available at lower pricing on the GSA MAS, Language Services SIN 541930.

The current FedRelay contract ends on May 15, 2021. Agencies who have current task orders can extend them an additional six months until November 15, 2021. To prepare for transition, agencies should ensure that their FedRelay accounts are current and address any outstanding invoices. Transition updates will be posted on the GSA FedRelay webpage.

Customers with questions and those who are ready to begin the transition process should contact the GSA FedRelay Program Office at federalrelayservices@gsa.gov.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Introducing the IT Vendor Management Office: a new government-wide collaborative effort to solve the toughest challenges in federal IT acquisitions

Posted by Vera Ashworth
on April 27, 2021

The last months have been a whirlwind of activity for the new government-wide Information Technology Vendor Management Office (ITVMO). We not only chartered the ITVMO, but have started working with several partner agencies and IT acquisition experts from across government to identify existing resources that can assist agencies with their buying decisions. The ITVMO brings together the most critical players in the federal IT acquisition landscape to solve challenges agencies and vendors face when buying and selling IT products and solutions.

Launched in October 2020, the ITVMO is a government-wide effort to amplify the benefits of managing vendor engagement in the IT Category to make IT acquisitions faster and more cost effective. The ITVMO serves as a trusted independent advisor and advocate to help agencies buy common IT goods and services. As a one-stop shop, the ITVMO will leverage government-wide IT procurement data, conduct market research, and develop shared agency acquisition knowledge to support agencies’ buying decisions.

There are many programs and initiatives across government that are interested in improving how government buys IT. The ITVMO is unique in that it is a collaborative effort amongst partners in Category Management (CM) with the most critical IT acquisition Best in Class (BIC) contract vehicles and associated programs including:

  • The General Services Administration (GSA);
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA);
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH);
  • The Department of Defense (DOD);
  • The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP).

Through this collaboration, the ITVMO will advance the goals of IT Category Management (CM) to improve how the government buys common IT goods and services and enable the government to act more as a single entity by sharing best practices and acquisition intelligence as well as eliminating the unnecessary duplication and redundancy that exists between federal agencies.

What’s Happening & What’s Next

One of the central drivers of CM is to mature federal IT acquisitions so that the government acts more like a single buyer rather than many independent agencies. By creating a space where some of the biggest and most impactful federal IT acquisitions programs and initiatives can collaborate and solve shared problems, establishing the ITVMO is a major step toward that goal.

The ITVMO is chartered and led by an Executive Steering Committee (ESC) comprised of several agencies including those with the largest IT BIC vehicles. The ESC determines the strategic direction and project priorities for the ITVMO to solve problems for agencies and vendors alike.

To identify shared challenges and opportunities throughout government, the ITVMO surveyed hundreds of IT and acquisition experts including the Chief Information Officers Council (CIOC) and the Chief Acquisition Officers Council (CAOC) as well as several communities of practices. The ITVMO team also conducted listening sessions with industry groups. The data and feedback gathered from across government is driving the challenges the ITVMO seeks to address in the near future.

ITVMO Customer Segments

The ITVMO’s primary customers are the programs and offices responsible for making buying decisions at each agency, and the vendor community. On January 27th, the ITVMO hosted an Open House for agencies to provide an overview of the ITVMO’s mission and services, and to answer any questions from the community. More information about the ITVMO Open House, including a video recording of the event, is available to government employees.

Based on customer feedback, the ITVMO is working on several products and services that will be made available to agencies in the near future, including:

  • Continuing a Small Business Webinar Series developed in partnership with the IT Government-wide Category and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council Small Business Alliance so agencies and vendors can learn how GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service Multiple Award Schedules Program will allow agencies to more easily procure IT products and services from small businesses.
  • Vendor Profiles that provide agencies with pricing information, specific vendors’ terms and conditions, and best practices for negotiating with that vendor.
  • Deep Vendor Intelligence crowdsourced from IT acquisition experts from across the federal government participating in integrated project teams (IPTs).
  • A Technology Life Cycle Assessment to provide agencies with insights into buying emerging technology and updating existing systems and services to meet evolving needs.
  • A deep dive and review of current Cost Avoidance Methodologies used by IT BIC acquisitions vehicles. The ITVMO is working closely with GSA’s IT Category to provide recommendations on how to improve the accuracy and reliability of cost avoidance methodologies and the underlying contract data.

If any of the above interest you, we would love to connect with you. Please feel free to reach out to the ITVMO inbox at itvmo@gsa.gov.

Coming Soon…

The ITVMO recently launched the first of several IPTs made up of the federal government’s foremost experts in working and negotiating with specific IT vendors. The IPTs will produce recommendations and strategies that can be shared and leveraged throughout government.

ITVMO - Integrated Project Teams

On May 12, 2021, The ITVMO will also host an Industry Day intended for our industry and vendor partners to learn about the mission of the ITVMO and the best way to collaborate with the ITVMO and federal IT acquisitions staff.

Finally, the ITVMO will soon launch our website to share the ITVMO’s latest updates and activities, post relevant templates and resources, and direct users to the relevant information to meet their IT acquisition needs.

Additional insight can be found on our ITVMO MAX page, and you can sign up for our newsletter. If you have any questions or general inquiries, please feel free to reach out to us at the ITVMO inbox at itvmo@gsa.gov.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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FY20: Exceptional Work in an Exceptional Year

Posted by Laura Stanton
on March 30, 2021

The Numbers Are In – Biggest Year on Record for GSA ITC!

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Information Technology Category (ITC) recorded more than $30 billion in business volume across its portfolio. For context, this accounts for nearly a third (33%) of the $89 billion total that was spent on IT across all federal agencies in FY20.

Accordingly, this past fiscal year proved to be a record year in other categories as well:

  • IT spending through the Multiple Award Schedule accounted for an impressive $18.1 billion of the $30 Billion total, bolstered by its $12.7 Billion in new obligations. In FY20, MAS IT impressively posted 18% annual growth in new obligations.
  • On the Small Business front, ITC accounted for $7.1 Billion in utilization from Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), Schedules, and Telecommunications
  • ITC issued a single award via its telecommunications branch to the tune of $2.5 Billion, using the Enterprise Infrastructure Service (EIS) Contract. The award was made on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, and over the lifetime of the contract, the agency estimates it will save more than $700 million.
  • ITC accounted for more than $2 billion in savings and cost avoidance to their customers

FY20 Efforts in Review

The 2020 Fiscal Year drove change through every part of our lives. COVID-19 spurred dramatic change in government work culture and led to rapid technological adaptation across all agencies. A good deal of ITC’s increased business volume can be attributed to agencies transitioning to mobile-friendly technology. However, this unprecedented spending is also due to agencies acknowledging that GSA is a solid partner as they make big IT changes and choices about how to invest. We’re out front and focused when it comes to customer service, agile response to emergency needs, and delivery of mission-enabling and emerging technologies.

In 2020, customer agencies turned to GSA’s schedules program, assisted acquisition services and governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWAC) to fulfill pandemic-driven requirements as well as regular demand for products and services. Our success embodies the trust that federal agencies have put in us and our ability to address elements that our customers most care about:

  • Speed of acquisition
  • Assistance with mobile-friendly technology adoption
  • Technical and market expertise
  • Data transparency
  • General customer service

Agencies have turned to and relied on us to ensure their mission continuity and transition to a more untethered workforce.

In FY20, ITC launched the Information Technology Acquisition University (ITAU) to make it easier to learn about GSA’s products, IT solutions available through GWACs, MAS, and more. ITAU is a digital training platform for emerging technologies, their acquisition, GSA-specific contract training and more.

Additionally, ITC enhanced the Cloud Information Center, the GSA-curated federal resource hub for all things cloud, continuing to place valuable cloud computing resources in the hands of agencies.

These resources are ways that GSA is meeting the rise in demand for virtual access to our subject matter experts and more online learning platforms.

Looking Forward

In FY21, GSA is doubling down on emerging technologies as the way of the future. The 8(a) STARS III and Polaris government-wide acquisition vehicles will have Artificial Intelligence offerings (Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation, Natural Language Processing), edge computing and more. As the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) effort ramps up and Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) principles are emphasized, GSA will continue to prioritize security as a core tenet of acquisitions.

As my Deputy Assistant Commissioner Keith Nakasone likes to remind me, agencies are coming to GSA to leverage our IT expertise and the buying power of the government. They want to know that the products they’re adding to their IT footprint aren’t jeopardizing their networks. To that end, the CMMC level can be designated as needed at the task order requirement level. Large contracts such as the 2nd Generation Information Technology (2GIT) hardware/software Blanket Purchase Agreements, have SCRM built in as a key operational component. Ultimately, GSA understands it plays a crucial role and has a considerable responsibility for an agency’s IT health.

Going into FY22, ITC will continue to provide the tools needed to successfully modernize while prioritizing cost-efficiency, expediency, and security. Leveraging Best In Class (BIC) contracts is one way. Taking advantage of online resources like ITAU and the CIC is another. Give your agency a reason to acquire with confidence — work with GSA for your next IT acquisition.

As always, follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.
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EIS Endgame – The Next Phase of the Government’s Transition Off Expiring Telecommunications Contracts

Posted by Laura Stanton
on February 22, 2021

“Often, greater risk is involved in postponement than in making a wrong decision.”

Harry Hopf, a business consultant of the early 20th century, said these words, and many project management gurus probably have them hanging decoratively on their (now home) office walls.

This quote sums up our advice to agencies as we approach the next milestone guiding the governmentwide transition off GSA’s expiring Networx, Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 3 (WITS3), and Local Service Agreement contracts. In this post, we will explore why the transition should be at the top of everyone’s mind and what to expect from GSA as we close it out.

Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions timeline with milestone dates.

Time Is Running Out

By September 30, 2022, 100% of agencies’ telecom inventory must be off the expiring contracts and moved to GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program.

The transition, at this point in time, presents an opportunity for your agency to take control of its own destiny. Agencies have seen upwards of 30% savings over current costs and will benefit as they transition their services. They don’t have to worry about exponential cost increases or operational disruptions due to services left on expired contracts. They are free to implement their modernization plans, confident that the technologies and services they plan to introduce are secure and in-scope.

GSA Positions Agencies for a Successful Transition

Some agencies are still in the process of contractor selection. We understand that pandemic mission priorities have taken precedence and want to reaffirm our availability to support agency transitions. If your agency is struggling with the acquisition phase, GSA is here to help! Key services include:

  • An inventory of complete services that need to be transitioned, including custom reports for your agency
  • Technical, acquisition, and ordering assistance, plus automated tools to directly assist agencies with expediting EIS task orders
  • GSA in-scope reviews of agency solicitations
  • Regular outreach to agencies’ Integrated Transition Teams to monitor transition progress and provide guidance

Disconnect Before You’re Disconnected

March 31, 2021 is the next major transition milestone, when 50% of legacy services must be disconnected. At the current rate, the government is not on track to meet the September 30, 2022 milestone for completion. Reliance on expiring contracts risks disruption of critical services delivered to the public.

We made that fact plain in a January 27 letter to all our agency partners and outlined remedies for any agency in jeopardy of missing the milestone dates. In particular, we want agencies to be aware that as of October 1, 2021, GSA will no longer accept or process any exception requests for its expiring contracts.

This is all part of GSA’s plan for the Closeout of Transition to EIS, which details the phased approach we will employ to complete the disconnection of services from the expiring contracts. The objective is to get agencies to transition themselves, with our support, and avoid unilateral disconnection. For those left with services on expired contracts, there will be no viable way to reinstate them. GSA will be unable to help.

Act Now

If your agency needs help with its transition, please contact the IT Customer Service Center at 855-482-4348, or send an email to ITCSC@gsa.gov. We encourage you to reach broadly across the CXO community in your agency. Include Chief Information, Acquisition, and Financial Officers in conversations on transition, financials, and risk.

For more resources on this topic, visit our EIS Transition page. Here you’ll find the GSA Transition Handbook, the GSA Project Plan for Closeout of Transition, the Transition Progress Tracking Report, and much more.

As always, follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Can Your Network Adapt to Current and Future Demands? With SD-WAN, It Can!

Posted by Laura Stanton
on January 14, 2021

How adaptable is your network?

Think back on how your organization worked through the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you’ll have your answer.

Having a Modernized Infrastructure Paid Off

Agencies with modernized services such as Ethernet-based networks and software-based IP phones were able to operate with minimal disruption as their workforce shifted to full time telework. They took advantage of scalable bandwidth to quickly meet increased network requirements without the need for physical or onsite changes. This agility is one of the many advantages of modern infrastructure and cloud deployed applications. IP Voice users similarly kept making calls regardless of their physical location, and those with Unified Communications leveraged capabilities such as chat, conferencing, collaboration tools and presence applications to keep their workforce on mission.

SD-WAN Integrates and Orchestrates Your Network

IT leaders are actively seeking to implement a new networking technology called Software Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN). SD-WAN can securely connect your headquarters, data centers, branch offices, and remote workers with numerous cloud-based services. SD-WAN can enable Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) use cases, segment users and applications, and play a role in Zero Trust Network architectures.

SD-WAN Is Now a Managed Service Under EIS

We recently added SD-WAN to our Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract. SD-WAN is ideal for improving network performance since it increases visibility and control enterprise-wide. It saves money and increases performance by allowing the use of different types of internet connections such as broadband internet, 4G/5G wireless internet or high-availability Direct Internet Access based on availability and need. It can even be incorporated with existing Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) circuits for critical applications.

SD-WAN Features and Ordering At-a-Glance

Our team created four new use cases for SD-WAN, Ethernet, IP Voice and Traditional TIC to show key info as a handy reference. These single-page infographics highlight the technologies we see driving modernization, the business value those technologies can offer you, and our implementation recommendations. We also offer supporting documents such as in-depth savings analyses, service guides, and whitepapers.

Software Defined - Wide Area Network graphic
SD-WAN Modernization Use Case pictured above. Download the PDF version.

In a GSA analysis of SD-WAN, medium-sized agencies can achieve a cost avoidance of 42%. Our SD-WAN Overview and Ordering Guide lays out everything you need to evaluate SD-WAN and acquire it on EIS. How’s your network able to support the ever-expanding use of cloud services? Utilize the numerous GSA resources to assist your organization to modernize with SD-WAN.

For additional information on what IT modernization could look like for your agency, please contact your designated GSA representative or call 855-482-4348.

Visit the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions page to learn more and use our IT Solutions Navigator to find the vehicle that’s right for you.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Reach the last mile with Connections II

Posted by Laura Stanton
on September 24, 2020

In today’s high-tech world, finding the right contract vehicle can mean the difference between getting a task done efficiently and tediously searching the procurement landscape.

Much can be said for an existing contract with a pre-vetted pool of qualified industry partners and efficient ordering procedures. Agencies can depend on Connections II, whether focused on present needs like supporting the demands of a 100% mobile workforce, or future goals, like using 5G networks to coordinate a galaxy of devices.

Opportunities like this do not last forever. In this post we will take a look at one of our proven contracts that is now entering its final phase. Agencies that act now can realize some serious savings!

Connections II is a global, multi-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. This contract makes it easy and cost effective for government agency officials to find, acquire, and implement network infrastructure solutions, including:

  • Infrastructure design, installation, and implementation.
  • Professional services to support existing networks.
  • Upgrading network equipment, standards (including IPv6), and systems.
  • Transition planning and integration services.
  • Customized client-specific systems.

All without the need to create a new contract.

After many years of service, Connections II is approaching the culmination of its period of performance. However, task orders in place by January 18, 2021 can extend for up to five years.

Why Connections II?

With Connections II, you’ll have access to convenient, one-stop shopping to meet agency needs for labor, equipment, and solutions to support telecommunications, networking and network-centric applications at the LAN, building, campus, and enterprise level.

Save Time and Money

Use the inter-agency contract to reduce agency costs and acquisition time, allowing your agency resources to focus more on mission-critical operations. Strong competition means competitive prices. Additionally, your agency may be eligible for tiered pricing.

Integrate Your Enterprise, Worldwide

Connections II helps federal agencies integrate building and campus networks as part of a global infrastructure transport telecommunications solution. It also supports traceability of equipment sources to aid in managing your supply chain.

Get Full-Service Contractor Support

Contractors help agencies determine requirements and support their business goals. Incidental construction is permitted, including integral trenching, wall repair, related electrical, and HVAC.

Access Pool of Qualified Contractors and Small Businesses

Customers have access to a highly qualified set of 19 pre-qualified/pre-selected contractors. You’ll also have the choice among 9 small businesses for making socioeconomic set-asides.

Enjoy Flexibility

As a Connections II customer, you’ll have access to multiple types of task orders. You can choose between self service or GSA-assisted task ordering. Choose from priced contract line item numbers (CLIN) or add unpriced items (anticipated and expected) that are within scope. You can also set your own timelines.

Get Expert Help

Our team understands your technical needs. We have documented sample statements of work (SOWs) and other helpful information on our Resources page. We’ll walk you through the options available as your acquisition strategy develops.

Enable Transition

While the window for Connections II is closing, the door to Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) is open wide. Included among the resources we offer is a SOW dedicated solely to managing the transition of services from one platform to another or from an old contract to a new contract. Agencies can update their infrastructure using the services provided under Connections II and smooth the way for their transitions to EIS.

For assistance anytime, please contact ConnectionsII@gsa.gov. Ask us how your agency can realize savings and reach the last mile with Connections II!

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Public Sector 5G Strategy Series – Part 1: Technology

Posted by Laura Stanton
on June 16, 2020

The Wheel Is Turning

If you’ve scrolled through social media or watched live TV lately, you’ve likely seen an ad for 5G. If you find yourself wondering why there is so much conversation about 5G –you are not alone. Is it worth all of this attention?

We think so. 5G is set to revolutionize the world’s telecommunications infrastructure, paving the way for even greater use of autonomous devices and expanding the number of interconnected devices in the Internet of Things (IoT).

In October 2019, GSA held its first public event about 5G, where government and industry experts gave us a compelling look at the rollout of next generation networks, discussed how they’ll support IoT applications, and outlined the steps necessary to secure this new hyperconnected future.

Going forward, we’ll be sharing a series of posts outlining how we expect 5G will drive change across government, and what agencies should do to prepare. 5G means different things to different people, so our “5G for Government” strategy is best visualized as a wheel composed of six core concepts:

  • Technology
  • Standards
  • Security
  • Policy
  • Acquisition
  • Use Cases

This post will look at the evolution of the technology enabling 5G, and more importantly, the types of devices, applications, and services that will soon depend on it.

New Tech, Same Trends

The first cellular telephones hit the market in the mid-1970s and offered wireless voice calling over an analog network. In the early 90s, this first generation cellular technology, using analog telecommunications standards, transitioned to a 2G digital network, allowing both voice and data to travel wirelessly between devices.

3G and 4G gave us mobile internet and streaming video, respectively, leading to the rise of the smartphone and entirely new industries, such as mobile application development and cross-platform analytics.

Remember when you couldn’t open an email attachment on your phone or send a photo—let alone a video—over a wireless network? When did that change?

Most people could not tell you which network generation enabled what feature, only that devices became faster, applications more data dependent, and new services arose as capabilities increased.

The same will be true for 5G, but due to its engineered flexibility and vast capacity for high-speed data transfer, the changes will come sooner and reach far beyond communications.

Why 5G Is Different

Since 5G is still new to the market, what we can say about its current technology is limited. Indeed, many experts will tell you that 5G was designed to support applications and services that are still largely confined to a laboratory setting. For now, when we look at the technology, we can only compare it to what’s currently on the market, but when we do, it becomes apparent that we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Changing Devices

Take the smartphone, for instance. Right now, a phone on a 4G network downloads data at approximately 12-36 megabits per second (Mbps). A 5G enabled phone clocks in at 50 Mbps at minimum. Phones on the fastest commercial networks can reach 1,000 (1 gigabit) per second, and average speeds are expected to exceed 10 Gbps as the technology matures.

How does it reach these speeds? 5G transmitters use higher frequency radio waves, some in or near the millimeter wave band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Bandwidth is much more plentiful there, which greatly increases the capacity and speed of data transfer. Instead of a single cellular antenna, the 5G phone contains multiple receivers, allowing it to process all this data over multiple streams, in parallel. You could liken it to filling a glass of water from the bottom up, and the top down, at the same time. 

Smaller, More Flexible Networks

Like their predecessors, 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells. While conventional cell phone towers are hundreds of feet tall, millimeter wave antennas are only a few inches long. Though an individual antenna may only cover a small area, multiple antennas can work together as phased arrays to beam data straight to the user. This technique, known as beamforming, is one of many ways that 5G networks can be optimized to improve performance while it serves huge numbers of devices.

Open To Innovation

Small but mighty, 5G networks could be used to provide general home and office internet connections. A technique called network slicing could be used to segment a larger 5G network into highly customizable “slices,” managed and operated independent of the infrastructure owner, tailored to unique business needs. When used in conjunction with software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), 5G could replace outdated cable connections in government offices, campuses, and military bases.

Edge computing is another exciting concept made practical by 5G. This technique involves creating a cloud-based IT service environment at the edge of the cell, leveraging its unique properties and raw power to move computational workloads physically closer to the user. Theoretically, sophisticated edge computing could eliminate the need for physical hard drives and bulky device components, as the actual computing would occur in the cloud and beam compiled data directly to a screen or user interface. Battery sizes would shrink, ushering in new opportunities for wearable and drone technology.

Hypercharged wireless internet and robust cloud computing are just the start. The high data rate and low latency of 5G are envisioned as opening up many new applications in the near future. The use of data-heavy virtual and augmented reality applications in healthcare and research is one promising example. Another is 5G’s facilitation of fast machine-to-machine interactions in the coming Internet of Things . For example, computers in vehicles would continuously communicate with each other, sensors on the road, and real-time, artificial intelligence) generated directions using 5G. This is the kind of “smart grid” cities will have to deploy to support self-driving cars. Over time, communication capabilities and computing power will combine and extend across networks and devices, and information and computing power will be instantaneously available. This will encourage a wave of innovation in applications, services and functions built to run on the new infrastructure. 

Lightning speed, expanded capacity, and massive connectivity are the defining characteristics of current 5G networks and enabled devices. These conditions are ideal for emerging technologies to take root.  

More than that, 5G is widely expected to be a defining stage in the global evolution of IT in general, affecting almost all parts of industry and society. In subsequent posts, we’ll take a look at the standards on which it will all be built and explore the security considerations around its deployment. 

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Until then, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

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Registration Open for Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS): Path to the Future Sessions

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on June 3, 2020

GSA’s EIS Path to the Future online series will focus on sharing best practices that will help federal agencies prepare for EIS transition activities.

Be sure to attend if you are a:

  • CIO/IT staff member
  • Contracting Officer
  • Contracting Specialist
  • Financial staff member
  • Program manager
  • Project manager
  • Telecom staff member
  • Transition executive or manager

You can sign up to attend some or all of the sessions listed below. Attendees will earn one Continuous Learning Point (CLP) for each session attended – up to six for the series. Your GSA support team will be available to answer your questions during the event.

The sessions:

Tips for Proposal Evaluation
Wednesday, June 10
2 to 3 p.m. (ET)
Join us to hear from DOI about how they sustained their EIS task-order award after a GAO protest and the lessons they learned that will benefit all agencies.

Trusted Internet Connection (TIC) 3
Wednesday, June 17
3 to 4 p.m. (ET)
In this session, you’ll learn from GSA and DHS/CISA what’s expected of agencies to protect their networks. Discover what is available to help your agency meet security requirements using EIS. We will discuss how solutions can be packaged to provide the security you need now and will need later.

Transition Closeout
Thursday, June 18
2 to 3 p.m. (ET)
As government agencies move to the EIS acquisition vehicle, legacy telecommunications contracts will expire. GSA will limit the use of its legacy telecommunications contracts and freeze all future growth on those vehicles. Extended use of these contracts is limited to agencies who are making sufficient transition progress to be 100% off the expiring contracts by September 30, 2022. The Networks Authorized User List (NAUL) will be updated to remove users in phases, which is expected to begin in summer 2020. In addition, GSA will stop processing any new Networx/WITS contract modifications and any new LSA implementation orders on October 1, 2020. Join us for this session to ensure that your agency is positioned well for the future and will avoid disruptions in service.

EIS Ordering
Wednesday, June 24
2:30 to 3:30 p.m. (ET)
After your task order is awarded and you’ve developed your implementation plan with your EIS supplier, it’ll be time to begin the ordering process. This interactive discussion will review who should be involved, what information needs to be conveyed, and how an agency begins the process. GSA will share all of this – and more – to help you expedite your ordering process.

Rules and Tips for Awarding EIS Contract Modifications Prior to Awarding Task Orders
Wednesday, July 15
2 to 3 p.m. (ET)
This session will cover the authorization of orders, Network Site Codes (NSCs) not in the traffic model, requesting status of vendor submissions (modifications) that affect your task-order award(s), and modification priority.

Solutions to Modernize your Enterprise Network
Wednesday, July 22
2 to 3 p.m. (ET)
During this session, we’ll discuss advancements in network technologies – such as software-defined networking and managed security services – and how your agency can leverage these technologies as part of your EIS modernization plan. We will also explore the as-a-service model common with cloud computing and its applicability to network services.

On the registration page, check the boxes for each one-hour event you would like to attend. You must have a .gov or .mil email address to register.

Sign up for some or all of the sessions today!

For more information, visit our pages for EIS and the EIS transition. Members of the media who would like more information or to attend should contact us at press@gsa.gov.

GSA is here to help! If you have questions about EIS or the EIS transition, please contact your telecom agency manager.

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

To get updates for this blog, please sign up on the right-hand side of the page where it says Sign up for Blog Updates.

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GSA Supports Government Readiness

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on May 14, 2020

In these tough times, we know how hard agencies are working to continue the good work of government. You don’t have to go it alone – GSA is here to help.

Our solutions make it easier to get mission-critical supplies and services to address the needs of first responders on emergency frontlines. They also provide access to the tools and technology necessary to keep the government running.

Addressing changing environments: continuing operations in an emergency

GSA’s contracts are set up for the quick acquisition of computers, software, mobile devices, cloud and virtual network solutions, cybersecurity, identity management, and health IT solutions.

As federal, state, local, and tribal agencies address the unique challenges presented by a pandemic, GSA will be here when needed as a trusted partner – in the middle of an emergency and in preparation for the next one.

Expedited support services for agencies

GSA is offering expedited support to agencies, including market research services to identify companies that can respond to emergency-related requirements and providing assistance on telework IT requirements as well as expediting requests for GWAC Delegation of Procurement Authority (DPA).

How can my agency get help?

GSA is uniquely positioned to fulfill agency needs and help them implement lasting enterprise solutions to enable modern capabilities.

GSA has several solutions set up to help right away:

  • GSS Laptop and Desktop Blanket Purchase Agreements
  • Wireless Mobility Solutions
  • Cloud / Virtual Solutions / Network Services
  • Cybersecurity
  • Identity Management (PIV/PKI)
  • Health IT Products and Services

Read more about these solutions in our Emergency IT Solutions 2-pager.

What’s next?

Contact us if you need help finding solutions during this crisis. Our Response Solutions Team is ready to assist you in making the right procurement decisions for your mission.

Contact info

For prompt support with emergency IT requirements, contact GSA’s National Customer Service Center:
Call: 855-482-4348
Hours for live chat and calls: Sunday 8 p.m. – Friday 8:30 p.m. CST
Email: ITCSC@gsa.gov

Please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

To get updates for this blog, please sign up on the right-hand side of the page where it says Sign up for Blog Updates.

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