Oct 15 2020

Software-Defined Speed: The Future of Federal 5G

As 5G deployments expand, Dell Technologies Federal Systems experts explain the impact for federal government frameworks.

“Fast” is the word associated with 5G — promises of 10-gigabit-per-second transfer speeds remain popular talking points as 5G infrastructure expands.

But, says Cameron Chehreh, CTO and vice president of Dell Technologies Federal Systems, “the revolutionary aspect of 5G is the software-defined nature of the infrastructure. While most people associate this technology with getting more bandwidth or higher transfer speeds, this is driven from traditional telecom carriers.”

In other words, while improved speed is a beneficial byproduct of fifth-generation cellular networks, it’s not the main event. “It’s really about software and automation,” says Chehreh. “5G from the radio head down becomes extraordinary — we can hyperaccelerate innovation by building smart apps.”

For federal agencies and government initiatives, this shift to software-defined speed offers the potential to improve current solutions, expand operational impact and enhance overall security. Here’s how.

DISCOVER: Find out how to design the technology that meets your agency's unique needs.

Tech Helps Expand Access to 5G Networks

Dell has extensive experience building rugged, cloud-based capabilities that are often used by federal entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help first responders save lives and stay safe in the midst of unpredictable natural disasters.

“We can now deploy tactical clouds and complement them with 5G to help agencies like FEMA do better things, such as sending lightweight, hand-carried drones into disaster recovery environments to find survivors and protect first responders,” Chehreh says.

And that is just the beginning. Portable 5G, or Cell on Wheels (COW), also makes it possible to bridge the “digital divide” described in a June Government Accountability Office report by decoupling networks from the physical infrastructure of urban areas.

“It’s now possible to help people work anywhere, driving both productive and economic benefits for people who don’t want to live in cities,” says Chehreh.

What’s more, this move to mobile 5G couldn’t come at a better time; as pandemic priorities continue to evolve, both public and private enterprises need robust and reliable ways to support remote work at scale.

EXPLORE: Will the DOD construct its own 5G network? 

DOD Experiments with 5G Technology

While COWs are having a field day with in-situ support, what happens when established organizations — such as the U.S. military — look to upgrade existing infrastructure?

Chehreh is clear: “I think the government should be complemented on its strategy for 5G. Multiple organizations and agencies have really leaned into this technological area with optimism.”

The Defense Department launched a pilot program in October 2019 to establish four military bases as 5G test beds, and in June added seven more. Dell is focused on ensuring the DOD is provided U.S.-based technology and content to assist the 5G test beds at these sites.

“The focus is on expanding the use of augmented and virtual reality in systems,” he says, “to save cost on training and mission planning, along with developing smarter bases to improve logistics.”

5G is also expanding the impact of healthcare. “The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking at 5G-enabled hospitals to extend and expand telemedicine in a safe and secure manner,” says Chehreh, “along with a dual-use structure to leverage Pentagon-sponsored 5G to improve security.”

LEARN: How are the Marines working with Verizon on 5G experimentation? 

Security Solutions: Defending the Data

No matter the underlying network methodology, Chehreh makes it clear that “security is the paramount issue — as long as you have digital infrastructure, there are attacker opportunities.”

This is where the software-defined nature of 5G solutions really stands out, because “what you can do in a data center, you can bring forward into 5G,” he adds. “From software-defined firewalls with micro-segmentation to isolating workloads and deploying homomorphic encryption, you can use all these things in the 5G arena.”

In effect, this allows enterprises to take what’s working in their infosec infrastructure and repurpose it in 5G frameworks.

Instead of building defensive deployments from the ground up to account for new connective conditions, the logical separation of form and function makes 5G the ideal environment to deploy automated, AI-driven security tools capable of working with — rather than against — superior network speeds.

Why 5G Will Be a Game Changer

In a recent blog post, John Roese, CTO of products and operations at Dell Technologies, points out that most existing 5G “is at best an extension of the 4G environment, with legacy or traditional technology powering cellular networks for moderately faster speeds.”

In effect, this captures the edge of 5G benefits without delivering the core: software-defined frameworks that make it possible to design smart applications, integrate automation and deploy AI at scale to deliver an entirely new network experience.

For Chehreh, 5G technology comes with the potential for “profound and exponential impact,” driven in large part by cooperative efforts between cutting-edge companies like Dell and forward-looking federal organizations such as FEMA and DOD.

Chehreh puts it simply: “5G is a technology that will define a generation. It will allow exponentially more companies to innovate with open-standards, software-defined technology into the network infrastructure.”

From a federal perspective, it’s this software-first framework that offers the biggest boost — not for bandwidth capacity or data transfer rates, but the speed of 5G adoption across everything from disaster recovery to military operations and security at scale.

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