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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GSA, Customers, and Vendors Meet in Texas for 2019 ITC Acquisition Summit

Posted by Keith Nakasone
on October 1, 2019

This August, we brought nearly 300 representatives from government and industry together for our 2019 IT Acquisition Summit. Collaborative events like this are critical to our success in supporting agency missions across government.

We met in Fort Worth, home of GSA’s Greater Southwest Region 7, which spans Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. We used a human-centered design approach to generate open communication and collaboration between GSA and our industry partners. Learning through use-cases and sharing information helps us better understand the challenges and constraints both government and industry have.

The summit was held in coordination with the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC) and moderated by its president, Tom Suder. During the first day, attendees heard from various GSA and industry representatives on popular topics such as cybersecurity, mobility, 5G, emerging tech, and IT modernization. 

Dennis Shingleton, member of the City Council and mayor pro tempore, opened the summit with a boisterous Texas-style welcome.

I moderated the kick-off session with panelists Bill Zielinski, Assistant Commissioner of the IT Category; Anahita Reilly, Chief Customer Officer of the Office of Customer Experience; and Dominic Sale, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Operations for Technology Transformation Services. They discussed GSA’s approach to IT modernization, category management, and shared services.

An afternoon panel from the Mobility Services Category Team discussed the 5G rollout, how it will shape public-sector adoption of Internet of Things applications, and its implications for supply chain security. Allen Hill, director of the Office of Telecommunications, opened the session, and Sam Navarro, program manager of the Enterprise Mobility Program, moderated the panel. Representatives from AT&T, Verizon, MetTel, and T-Mobile discussed the state of mobile technology and how consumers of 5G determine the new ways they will use the technology.

Our summit concluded with opportunities to attend one-on-one sessions with GSA acquisition professionals and an interactive use-case workshop.

We plan on hosting the IT Acquisition Summit again in 2020 — slated for Washington, D.C. The open communication and collaboration in a focused setting foster the type of game-changing ideas we need to continue enhancing IT acquisition for the whole of government.

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.

*Photographs above by James Wronski, Carahsoft

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GSA Leading the Way for 5G

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on September 26, 2019

In July, we gave you a first look at the possibilities of 5th generation wireless technology (5G) in the public sector.

Commercially, 5G devices will deliver voice, video, and data to consumers with unparalleled efficiency for broadband mobility. Providers will upgrade their networks, manufacturers will develop new types of devices, and industry will market products and services around connectivity and mobility.

For the government, a 5G future is more complex since we’ll be tasked with making these technologies useful for everyone. That’s why we’re publishing a white paper on 5G — watch for that after our 5G Technology Customer Event on Oct. 3.

What’s Next for Government 5G

As new technology comes to market, we work with agencies and industry to pair the right wireless solutions to mission needs — focusing on wireless solutions security and cost efficiency.

Schedule 70 SIN 132-53 shows the robust capabilities we bring to the government market:

  • Wireless Carrier Services
  • End Point infrastructure
  • Mobility as a Service (MaaS), a.k.a Device as a Service (DaaS)
  • Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
  • Mobility Backend as a Service (MBaaS)
  • Telecommunications Expense Management System (TEMS)
  • Mobile Application Vetting
  • Mobile Threat Protection
  • Mobile and Identity Management
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

10/3 GSA 5G Event

To learn more about the possibilities of 5G, join us on Oct. 3 at the GSA 5G Government Symposium. We’ll cover:

  • how 5G can help agencies meet their mission,
  • the challenges facing government as we implement this new technology, and
  • how 5G will integrate into today’s networks.

View the agenda. Join us online or in person.

Stay Tuned to 5G

For our next 5G post, we’ll explore how unlicensed and lightly licensed spectrum could affect campus networks.

Until then, 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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