The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. 

Mar 26 2020

Energy Department and Verizon Partner on 5G Development

The wireless carrier and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will explore 5G wireless use cases for government.

5G wireless networks that government agencies can use are no longer theoretical. The Defense Department plans to conduct 5G tests at four military bases, with the first experiment expected to take place at Hill Air Force Base in Utah involving spectrum sharing.

Nonetheless, many of the benefits and use cases for 5G in government are still hypothetical. They include the U.S. Postal Service leveraging high data rates and expanded bandwidth to more precisely track drivers and packages, the Defense department sending information to warfighters more quickly and the Department of Veterans Affairs beaming data-rich, high-resolution images wirelessly from the imaging room to a doctor working on another floor. 

To kickstart 5G deployments in government, an Energy Department lab announced earlier this month that it would partner with Verizon to explore and test how 5G can be used by agencies. The lab is expected to open by the end of the second quarter, according to Nextgov

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which focuses on advanced mobile communications research and development, will install Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network at its lab in Richland, Wash. The lab will collaborate with Verizon Business to “develop 5G applications that can benefit everything from chemistry and earth sciences research to the needs of first responders,” according to a Verizon press release. 

“They can take the smartest people in government that work for PNNL and really ideate and, with their folks on R&D, collaborate with us to explore how 5G can really transform the work that the federal government does,” Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of federal sales at Verizon, tells FedScoop.

How 5G Can Be Used in Government

The most noticeable difference to end users regarding 5G is the upgraded speed. 5G can deliver data speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G LTE and cut latency to milliseconds. (Latency is any kind of delay that happens in data communication over a network.)

5G also enables far greater network density than 4G networks. “While an LTE tower can handle about 2,000 simultaneous connections, 5G specifications call for a minimum of 1 million connections per square kilometer,” Mark Zannoni, a smart cities analyst and former research director of smart cities and transportation at IDC Government Insights, has told StateTech

Scott Godwin, general manager of corporate partnerships and alliances at PNNL, says the lab and Verizon “plan to explore how cybersecurity will underpin 5G for critical infrastructure and how 5G will drive transformation in the protection of endpoint devices, advancement of artificial intelligence, the science behind autonomous systems” and related Internet of Things applications. 

PNNL will advise federal sponsors on how 5G could impact their operations and infrastructures when deploying the new wireless technology, according to the statement. PNNL researchers and corporate partners will evaluate how Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband’s speeds, increased bandwidth and low latency can enhance machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality apps used in fields ranging from public safety to computing and analytics.

“They’re going to help us ensure that we are designing, deploying and operating the most secure 5G network that the industry can deliver,” says Maiorana in describing to FedScoop PNNL’s planned work with Verizon.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory/Flickr, Creative Commons

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