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.

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*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.

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Way Beyond Wireless: Planning for 5G

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on July 30, 2019

Every generation of wireless technology has enabled new business models, increased our connectivity, and changed our lives in unimaginable ways. 5G is poised to do the same. 5G enabled devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) will allow huge numbers of sensors and devices to gather incredible amounts of  data and transmit the data at remarkable speeds over wide distances. We are going to see a new wave of information enabled in government and industry. Instead of your phone or laptop acting as the processor, it will sit inside the edge of the 5G infrastructure. This will allow things like driverless vehicles and telemedicine.

5G will provide the digital infrastructure that will shape the quality of life of most of the earth’s population. Yes, it will load web pages and play videos on your phone 10 to 20 times faster than 4G. Mobile devices will spend less time processing data, which will consume less power, which will result in extended battery life. But these are little advances compared to what is possible.

The true potential is how the technology can quickly transfer data between devices in lots of different ways. That ability means it will replace cable and WiFi networks in homes, offices, campuses, military bases, and even whole cities.

What does 5G mean for government?

Because it enables the IoT, 5G is one of the more important emerging technologies. Thanks to 5G’s flexibility, every level of government will use 5G as IoT enters the public sector. Consider these applications:

  • Replacing outdated telecommunications and network technology in public buildings and facilities. 
  • Allowing for advanced automation and security processes at logistics centers and the nation’s ports. 
  • Supporting augmented and virtual reality (VR) applications in our national laboratories. 
  • Monitoring regional and interstate entities power grids to keep pace with fluctuating demands.
  • Providing traffic control and managing fleets of self-driving vehicles in cities.

U.S. policy considers 5G a strategic national asset, and the legislative and executive branches are actively working to reallocate spectrum for its use. The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) is developing standards and testing 5G technologies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is focusing on cybersecurity threats unique to 5G. Recently, the White House issued an executive order to proactively create and secure commercial supply chains in a 5G future. 

How can my agency get 5G?

We are uniquely positioned to fulfill our customers’ needs and help prepare for 5G implementation.

GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract and Schedule 70’s SIN 132-53 Wireless Mobility Solutions both cover 5G services and infrastructure. Alliant 2 GWAC and Connections II cover infrastructure only.

What’s next?

We’ll be explaining how 5G works, how it will be deployed, and the steps we’re taking to deliver it to our customers. We’ll soon release a white paper outlining our approach to 5G implementation.

On October 3, we’re hosting a 5G Technology Customer Event, where we’ll address how 5G makes concepts like network slicing and edge computing possible. Email wireless@gsa.gov to get on the invite list.  

Join the conversation on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn.

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GSA Replaces Expiring FSSI Wireless BPAs with Newly Enhanced Wireless SIN

Posted by Bill Zielinski
on February 25, 2019

It is now even easier to purchase wireless services through Schedule 70.

The newly enhanced FSSI Wireless program is now available to replace the FSSI Wireless BPAs, which expired in November 2018. Due to the success of the original FSSI Wireless program, we’re continuing to offer this solution to our customers. It’s the same FSSI Wireless program you knew and loved, just better!

In this new FSSI Wireless program, agencies will be able to purchase mobility services directly from Schedule 70 using a newly developed RFQ Generator tool on the Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) page in the Acquisition Gateway. The intuitive web-based tool supports customer ease of ordering against the schedule. The RFQ Generator tool helps users input voice and data requirements into a downloadable RFQ template for schedule vendors. 

The project is part of GSA’s continued work as a contributing member of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) MSCT. The MSCT is a cross-government group that fosters effective collaboration and advancements among government IT acquisition professionals.  

11 Service Categories

  • Wireless Carrier Services
  • Other Mobility End-Point Infrastructure – Mobility infrastructure
  • Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)
  • Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
  • Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS)
  • Telecom Expense Management (TEM)
  • Mobile Application Vetting
  • Mobile Threat Protection (MTP)
  • Mobile Identity Management
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and
  • Other/Mobile Services

Features and Benefits

The purpose and benefits of updating SIN 132-53, Wireless Mobility Solutions are:

  • Address the federal government’s growing need for advanced mobile solutions to include security, mobility management, application development, application vetting, and integrated services.
  • Enhance IT Schedule 70 offerings under SIN 132-53 for increased convenience and rapid access to commercially available wireless and advanced mobility solutions.
  • Provide industry partners the opportunity to differentiate their mobility solutions from other IT-related offerings.
  • Meet the needs of government agencies to make strategic decisions and bring the full value and benefits of mobility category management to government.
  • Organize and categorize mobility solutions in a manner that simplifies and standardizes the acquisition of these solutions that lowers the total cost of ownership for agency customers.

GSA’s Mobility Team continues its work to increase savings in the mobile space through the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI). GSA customers saved on average up to 30% in 2017 through FSSI Wireless. To replace the BPAs, GSA’s Mobility Team worked with the MSCT to develop a Request for Quote (RFQ) generator that agencies can use to procure wireless services in a flexible, simple way.

The MSCT looks to give agencies the tools they need to implement cellular service plans and devices more effectively and efficiently through:

  • Unified acquisition: Consolidates the number and variety of dispersed wireless contracts to reduce life-cycle management costs and drive better volume discounts.
  • Improved information management: Simplifies service plan management and enables centralized access to standardized usage data to easily identify opportunities for cost savings.
  • Center of excellence: Uses best practices and collaboration across agencies and the entire community of stakeholders to optimize performance and increase value.

We couldn’t be more proud of the work our GSA Mobility Team is doing with the MSCT. This collaboration really sets the bar for cross-agency/industry engagement and will make a real difference in the day-to-day mobile operations of government.

To learn more, please visit the Wireless Mobility Solutions (132-53) page on GSA.gov.

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GSA’s Enterprise Mobility Program Continues to Drive Agency Benefits and Savings

Posted by Kay Ely
on March 6, 2018

By Kay Ely, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category

GSA continues to help shape governmentwide IT acquisition through our strong industry partnerships and collaboration with agencies across government. The operating principles of “Standardization, Simplification, and Savings” guide how we talk about, develop requirements for, and buy mobile products and services.

One of our more productive efforts is the governmentwide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT). This cross-government group fosters effective collaboration and advancements among government IT and acquisition professionals through a membership base of almost 200 agency and 80 industry participants. Through the MSCT, we’re working with these stakeholders to improve and streamline how the government buys mobile technologies.

Established in 2015, the team consists of the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State, as well as the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Shaping Governmentwide IT Acquisition

The MSCT’s mission is to advance adoption of mobile technology to support an agile and evolving government workforce. MCST helps government agencies learn from each other how to most effectively meet their missions and do their work securely, anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

The MSCT gives agencies the tools they need to implement various aspects of mobility more effectively and efficiently through:

  • Unified acquisition: Consolidates the number and variety of dispersed contracts to reduce life-cycle management costs and drive better volume discounts via existing government-wide solutions.
  • Improved information management: Simplifies management and enables centralized access to requirements, standards, and data to easily identify opportunities for cost savings.
  • Center of excellence: Uses best practices and collaboration across stakeholders to optimize performance and increase value.

GSA worked with the MSCT to build a library of resources available to government agencies. These new resources help federal buyers address a broad scope of mobile technologies and capabilities to include:

  • telecommunications expense management (TEMs)
  • virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI)
  • mobile device/enterprise mobility management
  • mobile identity management
  • mobile backend, and
  • mobile threat protection

Each resource includes a technology definition, service overview, and buying guidance that can be used for education, solution design, and acquisition support. Consolidating these resources will help agencies develop a mobile strategy that supports their purchasing.

GSA’s Contracts Drive Savings and Growth

GSA’s Mobility Team continues to increase savings for buyers in the mobile space through the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI). On average, GSA customers saved 26% in 2017 through FSSI Wireless solutions.

To drive more savings across the mobile category, we’re extending the FSSI Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) for six more months to November 2018.

This extension will help government agencies finalize their agreements this fiscal year.

As we plan for the next generation of buying tools for the wireless space, rather than develop a replacement for the current BPAs, GSA’s Enterprise Mobility Program is working with the MSCT to develop a Request for Quote (RFQ) engine that agencies can use to buy wireless services through existing contracts in a flexible, cost-effective, smart, and simple way.

We’re proud that federal agencies are getting great savings and results through the FSSI Wireless solution. We’re also thrilled with the work our GSA Enterprise Mobility Program is doing with the MSCT. The MSCT has set the bar for successful and productive cross-agency and industry engagement, demonstrating that government-industry partnerships and collaboration across agencies can help federal agencies meet their mission in government’s day-to-day mobile operations.

Want to know more? Visit the MSCT website.

Have questions or want to provide feedback? Contact wireless@gsa.gov.

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

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OMB Marks More GSA Tech Solutions as “Best in Class”

Posted by Kay Ely
on October 30, 2017

GSA’s Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) received some exciting news at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017: five more of GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) and one Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA) based on IT Schedule 70 SIN 132-53 have been designated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as “Best-in-Class” (BIC).

BIC designations signal to the acquisition community that these vehicles meet rigorous category management performance criteria and confirm that we’re offering solutions and processes necessary to meet government’s IT requirements not just today, but well into the future.

The six new additions to ITC’s BIC offerings are all pre-vetted, governmentwide contract solutions supporting the governmentwide move to mature, market-proven solutions:

With these additions, GSA has a total of eight BIC IT offerings—our Government-wide Strategic Solution (GSS) Laptop/Desktop and IT Schedule 70’s Hardware & Software SINs were part of the first group OMB recognized in the IT category.

We see these new BIC designations, as proof that GSA is developing the programs and contracts that will shape and lead future IT category management efforts. What’s more, they’re evidence that we use taxpayer funds efficiently and productively, enabling our customers to better fulfill their missions.

BIC Benefits

How does BIC benefit government agencies?

BIC contracts are recognized as being “good-for-government” purchasing solutions which should be used by all agencies. To be named BIC, contract vehicles must satisfy five key criteria defined by OMB:

  1. Rigorous requirements definitions and planning processes
  2. Appropriate pricing strategies
  3. Data-driven strategies to change buying and consumption behavior (i.e., demand management)
  4. Category and performance management strategies
  5. Independently validated reviews

BIC GWACs

Alliant, Alliant SB, and VETS 2 GWACs offer fixed-price, cost-reimbursement, labor-hour, and time-and-materials task order types, providing greater flexibility in procuring a broad range of IT services. These solutions provide access to new and emerging technologies designed to help government agencies meet their mission requirements. Our BIC GWACS can also help agencies save between 4 percent and 19 percent on average. Again, GSA expects to award the second iteration of Alliant and Alliant SB (Alliant 2 and Alliant 2 SB, respectively), by the end of the calendar year.

BIC BPA

Our FSSI Wireless BPAs are based in GSA’s IT Schedule 70 SIN 132-53, which improves the procurement and management of wireless services across government. And the good news is that the market opportunity for government wireless services is currently estimated to be $945 million annually.

Going Forward

These BIC designations let agencies and industry know we are meeting our own high standards of customer service and acquisition expertise. Whether they are using contracts officially recognized as “Best-in-Class” or another solution, our customers and partners can expect the same quality and excellence in all of our products and services. As I wrote in an earlier blog, “We believe a BIC designation is not the end state, but rather an important milestone on a journey to help agencies improve their buying strategies.”

Learn more about GSA’s BIC designations on Acquisition Gateway.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to join the conversation.

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Working Hard to Improve Security, Safety, and Quality of Life for Americans

Posted by Mary Davie
on February 9, 2017

This blog post is part of a seven-part series reviewing the Acquisition Gateway and IT Category data, trends, expertise, and advocacy that GSA’s ​Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) organization offers to support other agencies’ missions.

(Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Telecommunications Services. Gavino is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements.)

ITC’s Office of Telecommunications Services provides a wide variety of offerings to federal, state and local governments which includes voice, video, data, managed network services, call center services, mobile and wireless, satellite services, last mile connections and much more. Because of our partnership with industry and our robust solution sets, we are able to provide government agencies seamless access and support, thus achieving shared value and expanding the benefits of modern technology. We’re continually transforming and enabling improvement to the security, safety, and quality of life for our nation and its citizens.

We enhance security by providing the communications services that connect law enforcement resources with information locally and worldwide to counter crime and terrorism. We also support the safety of our men and women in uniform, humanitarian relief, disaster-response, and counterterrorism efforts through satellites. And the telecommunications service we provide also improves government’s ability to respond  anywhere and anytime through mobile devices (i.e., tablets and wireless smartphones); enhances patient health care for veterans and aging population; supports farmers and ranchers; tracks wildlife and diseases; and ensures food safety and inspections.

A Look Back at 2016

We’re always trying to improve, and here are a few ways:

Simplifying, Standardizing, and Buying in Volume

The Category Management (CM) approach to simplify, standardize, and make use of volume to streamline enterprise-wide telecom is the focus of Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). CM helps us adapt our solutions as the industry changes and as agency needs change. For example, we’re being less local and more global to ensure agencies adopt security and unified communication technologies that comply with best practices.

Managing Telecom as a Subcategory

We are managing Telecom and all of our offerings in IT as a comprehensive portfolio and have technical, functional and acquisition experts to help agencies buy in a more efficient way and improve mission delivery.

Engaging Agencies and Industry

In 2016, GSA continued to engage agency and industry partners to shape the upcoming EIS, which will replace Networx and local and regional telecom services. We formed the EIS Infrastructure Advisory Group (IAG) to define priorities share best practices, plan for transition and ensure the final EIS solution meets government’s needs.

Optimizing Telecom Use and Spend

Because of our strong partnerships with agencies, GSA’s telecommunications program is recognized as “the government’s telecommunications program,” and as a result, we are able to aggregate and leverage more than $2 billion in annual spend and document over $675 million in savings.

Providing a Range of Purchasing Options

We recognize that ease of use is critical for our agency customers so we offer a range of purchasing solutions across our IT and telecommunications contracts — everything from self service through delegated procurement authority … to monitoring contract service level agreement achievement … to providing advice and consulting to providing fully assisted services.

Enhancing Agencies’ Understanding of Telecom Purchases

Telecom has been managed as a category for a while. Because of standard service definitions and contract terms in contracts like Networx, agencies can make “apples to apples” comparisons around services. This makes it easier for GSA and other agencies to make comparisons between suppliers and to get the best value for their purchases. And, because of the data we collect on purchasing, GSA can clearly see purchasing trends which shape future contracts (e.g., EIS, etc.) and our discussions with agencies and suppliers. We continually refine this data driven approach to supplier management to get better value for agencies and taxpayers.

Here is what we have seen over the past 10 years. Demand for bandwidth has increased at a compound annual growth rate that exceeds 30 percent, but our normalized costs for the bandwidth has decreased. Part of this is simply an industry phenomenon. Bandwidth is getting cheaper; however, part of this is due to our data driven approach to our interactions with suppliers. We expect bandwidth to be “cheaper by the dozen” and we have an approach to ensure this is the case. Further, most agencies are modernizing their networks through increased bandwidth demand, especially via Ethernet services. For instance, enterprise network services are migrating towards 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet; our Networx extensions focused on this migration and Ethernet is an EIS required service.

The increased demand for these services drove purchasing up 10 percent on Networx in 2016, which further lowers telecom costs, especially for Ethernet services. The availability, performance, and price of Ethernet services will remain important for years to come. In 2017 and beyond, EIS is on target to continue lowering costs for government.

2017 Telecom Priorities

Our biggest priority in 2017 is to continue to collaborate across government and industry, and begin the transition to EIS.

The EIS Transition Challenge Government-wide

GSA and agency partners are preparing for the EIS awards so transition can begin and be completed by 2020. All agencies using Networx were required to submit Agency Transition Plans, which were due in fall 2016. We are excited to continue to work with industry and agency partners to take advantage of new solutions and new technology.

Mobility Savings and Enhanced Management

Mobile services are also in the spotlight in 2017. Five wireless service plans — three data and two voice plans — represent more than 90 percent of federal government’s purchases of mobile services. Standardized buying forces competition to focus on price and quality since many features and requirements are the same (Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) customers paid 26%  less in 2016 than in 2012 because of this simple standardized strategy). In 2017, the government-wide Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) will drive further savings as FSSI-W growth continues and the MSCT defines the next-generation mobility program.

Demands for Bandwidth, Security, and Satellites

Bandwidth demands and security capabilities will continue to grow in 2017, and we’ll also launch a new Commercial Satellite Custom Commercial SATCOM Solutions (CS3) contract.

In all these areas, we partner with agencies to find the best telecom infrastructure solutions to meet mission needs.

Learn More about Telecom Solutions

To find out more about available tools, best practices, and telecom solutions, select Telecommunications and Network Services on GSA’s website and visit the Telecommunications Hallway on the Acquisition Gateway.

Please follow ITC on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT. Visit all the IT Hallways on the Acquisition Gateway for more information on the IT category and subcategories.

 

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Navigating the Future of Mobile Services

Posted by Mary Davie
on December 15, 2016

(This blog post reflects my perspective as the government-wide IT Category Manager)

Today, the federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on mobile services. An agile and evolving federal workforce is driving an ever-increasing need for agencies to have the ability to meet their missions, and do their work securely anywhere, anytime, and on any device in order to serve U.S. citizens.

Fast-changing mobile technology and increased demand are putting pressure on agencies to determine how best to acquire, maintain, and manage mobile resources. So government needs a mobile plan that looks ahead. And that’s just what the Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) aims to accomplish.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Category Management Leadership Council (CMLC) set up the MSCT to develop and implement a government-wide strategic plan to increase efficiency and drive savings related to acquiring government mobile services. The cross-agency team looks at how agencies can best navigate the future of mobile services. OMB, GSA, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State lead the MSCT.

While they’re taking input from agencies across government and industry, the MSCT has already accomplished several goals, such as establish strategic objectives, prepare mobile device guidance, make plans for a mobile brokerage feasibility study, incorporate industry partners’ insights and expertise, and are taking on mobile reporting and data management.

MSCT Roadmap and Guidance

OMB’s August Mobile Services and Devices memo (M-16-20) assigns several responsibilities to the MSCT, and the first three are now complete. Documents from these tasks are posted on the Telecommunications Hallway in the Acquisition Gateway.

1. Mobile Services Roadmap – The MSCT published the roadmap so agencies can develop mobile tools and solutions that will conform to Category Management principles and best meet agency and user needs. It focuses on general-use needs similar for most agencies (also known as core commodity services). It also identifies another primary needs segment that requires customizing based on agency and mission. This second segment focuses on mobile applications and complex mobile solutions such as security and ID credentialing.

2. Mobile Device Procurement and Management Guidance – This guidance helps agencies select, procure, manage, and dispose of mobile devices. It focuses on what agencies can do to more efficiently manage devices, reduce costs, simplify processes, improve contractual terms, and meet government green initiatives.

3. Mobile Services Brokerage Model Feasibility Study: Project and Implementation Plan – This document explains how the MSCT will conduct a feasibility study for possible use of a brokerage approach to agency mobile acquisition efforts. Typically, smaller agencies have fewer in-house resources. The brokerage approach could support them by providing external support. MSCT’s goal is that no agency be left behind while improving management of mobility government wide.

MSCT Strategic Objectives

The MSCT has three primary objectives:

  1. Standardization – Define a common set of plans, devices, terms, conditions, and other mobility attributes that apply across contractors and agencies to drive competition based on quality and price.
  2. Simplification – Make it easier for agencies to acquire and manage mobility services and devices.
  3. Savings – Further reduce costs for wireless carrier services and other mobility category services.

Insights from Industry Partners

MSCT solicited and incorporated industry partners’ insights and feedback. In response to the RFI issued earlier this year, wireless carriers, systems integrators, and technology leaders gave their list of priorities:

  • Simplify core product offerings to reduce complexity and cost
  • Support ancillary service offerings and have flexibility to use open market offerings to streamline procurements
  • Have standard terms and conditions that require less negotiation and have already been validated across the federal government
  • Use self-service ordering, service options, and a suite of templates to increase speed and quality of fulfilling orders and responding to bids
  • Allow the ability to add new services to contracts in days and weeks, rather than months

Common Data Structures, Enhanced Data Collection

The MSCT is also tackling mobile reporting and data management. Billing records contain data to assess if agencies are overpaying or under-using mobile resources. Sharing data will strengthen our ability to make intelligent and informed decisions at the agency level and government-wide. In the future, we will focus on data quality and accuracy to help the IT category deliver strategies that maximize value and savings for the government.

Continuing to Collaborate

The MSCT is ready to work with agencies and industry in fiscal 2017 to improve and streamline mobility acquisition. Want to know specifics? Read the Strategic Roadmap.

Have questions or want to provide feedback? Contact wireless@gsa.gov.

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

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Agency Mobile Resources at the Ready following OMB Memo

Posted by Mary Davie
on September 7, 2016

Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of telecommunication acquisition solutions that provide government agencies the ability to meet their diverse set of telecommunication requirements. Acquisition solutions include Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions – EIS (the future replacement for Networx), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative – Wireless (FSSI-W), and the Federal Relay Service.

Many of you are aware that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Mobile Services and Devices memo on August 4, 2016. The intent is to vastly enhance acquisition and management of mobile services and devices across government.

Resources and Tools Are Available to Help Agencies

Agencies saw an early draft of the memo and now that it’s final, it’s a great time to review resources available to support every agency in achieving the goals set forth by and in the spirit of the OMB memo.

Leverage Government-wide Acquisition Strategies – Resource number one is the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution. It gives agencies a variety of service plan and device options from leading national wireless carriers. Information about the program and how to order is available on the GSA website.

Another resource is GSA’s Wireless Economic Model downloadable Excel-based spreadsheet to give agencies a rough order of magnitude concerning your estimated costs and savings when using new wireless service plans. In addition, a Wireless Guide is available to help agencies move from existing contracts and carriers with step-by-step instructions. You can also access a User’s Guide, FSSI Wireless Ordering Template, and ordering instructions. For more resources and templates, visit the Enterprise Mobility Resources web portal.

Optimize Plan Pricing and Device Refresh Schedules – When it comes to OMB’s directive to optimize pricing, the GSA mobile solution has a strong three-year track record of success in optimizing plans and cost savings. About 85% of defense and civilian cabinet-level agencies are using FSSI Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs), achieving a government total $29 million savings compared to prior rates since the May 2013 FSSI-W award. Agencies that have moved to the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution find average cost savings of 27% compared to previous wireless service costs. These agencies pay on average $14 less per unit per month. As a reminder, the BPA published prices differ from the actual service prices agencies have negotiated when using the FSSI-W BPAs so please check with us to get prices paid information when you are making comparisons. You’ll find that it’s hard to beat the prices we’ve achieved for the features in the service plans offered.

Carriers include devices at no cost with service plans and users have a choice of devices with each service plan. In accordance with OMB’s guidance, previous generation devices are typically equally capable of meeting government requirements and can be acquired at significantly lower prices. Agencies also have the option to buy service plans for government-furnished equipment (GFE) and user-owned devices.

Scheduling device refreshes is flexible too. No-cost device refreshes happen based on commercially available cycles of 10 to 20 months, although agencies can determine a refresh schedule that works best for their users.

Baseline Agency Usage and Quarterly Reports – Once an agency uses the existing Government-wide GSA mobile solution, the built-in requirements for carriers to provide usage reports will assist in agency quarterly reporting. These reports can help agencies to analyze usage and optimize mobile service levels, including identifying and terminating unused (or zero-use) devices and services. The pooling option for data and minutes saves dollars for agency customers by allowing agency high-volume users to leverage purchased and unused minutes and data from lower volume users.

Optimize Agency Requirements – The OMB memo also addresses actions agencies must take to consolidate contracts, track and improve inventory of mobile devices, and pool mobile services to avoid overage charges. Depending on size, agencies using the existing government-wide FSSI mobile solution can choose to consolidate wireless contracts at the bureau level and then into one enterprise-wide agency contract. Smaller agencies might fully consolidate initially without phases.

Reach Out for Personal Assistance

For more assistance, GSA has an Enterprise Mobility Team that is happy to help with any questions you have or support you need. You can contact us toll-free at (855) ITaid4U (482-4348), or contact our Enterprise Mobility Team directly through kelly.adams@gsa.gov, richard.jones@gsa.gov or jon.johnson@gsa.gov.

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

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