Agencies Can Harness the Power of 5G Networks
Defense and civilian agencies need to protect and serve citizens in a hyperconnected world. To that end, agencies view the 5G cellular network as an integral component for powering next-generation capabilities such as artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, IoT devices, 4K video streaming, and AR and VR. Moving beyond 4G, 5G will transmit data at high rates, enabling faster and more reliable decision-making.
A recent Market Connections survey of federal agencies’ 5G plans revealed that nearly three-quarters are evaluating hardware, software or endpoint upgrades to support a 5G initiative. More than two-thirds will use it for data analytics, and over half will use it for IoT and AI.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department wants to use the power of 5G for low latency, higher speeds and ubiquitous connectivity for people and systems across the defense enterprise. The military has offered its bases as testing grounds for U.S companies. In 2021, the DOD will be exploring 5G use cases across 12 test bed sites, ranging from 5G-enabled smart warehouses, AR/VR training and testing of dynamic spectrum access.
5G is expected to make its true rollout later as radio spectrum and 5G-enabled devices become more available. Now is the time for federal agencies to prepare their infrastructure for 5G.
Wi-Fi 6 and 5G Can Coexist in Government
While there has been a lot of coverage of 5G, there has also been considerable conversation around another emerging wireless technology, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are built on similar foundations and will coexist in federal networks.
Agencies will explore interoperability and security capabilities to ensure the technologies work together to optimally support secure federal networks. According to many network experts, the two are indeed complementary, with Wi-Fi 6 more suited for indoor environments, such as large meeting rooms or temporary locations that need high bandwidth.
Supporting higher speeds and density, Wi-Fi 6 extends the usefulness of Wi-Fi as a faster and cheaper alternative to cellular data. Solutions built around the new Wi-Fi 6 standard will deliver the fastest wireless performance and connect more devices simultaneously, giving agencies increased bandwidth and faster internet speeds to handle the massive amount of data they store and maintain.
Open RAN Will Be a Driver of Innovation
Another emerging cellular technology to watch in 2021 is Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN). Open RAN is a new paradigm where cellular radio networks comprise hardware and software components from multiple vendors operating over network interfaces that are truly open and interoperable.
Traditionally, RAN equipment has only been procured from a single vendor. This became a limitation with 4G when radio systems transitioned into two separate hardware subsystems, digital and radiofrequency, each with its own proprietary interface. Wireless carriers did not have the option of mixing RAN equipment between vendors.
Open RAN will drive innovation by encouraging the growth of an expanded supply ecosystem. It will also reduce capital costs and single vendor lock-in through open interfaces and commodity hardware platforms. The technology will continue to play a significant role in accelerating the rollout of 5G infrastructure by enabling equipment interoperability.
The Value of Wi-Fi as a Service
Agencies will continue to turn toward a Wi-Fi as a Service approach in 2021, taking the burden of network management and maintenance off the agency, allowing their managed service provider to handle these issues.
Government agencies already are reaping the benefits of “as a service” delivery models across the technology landscape. Adopting this model for networking and Wi-Fi ensures that network components remain up to date and eliminates reliance on legacy hardware. Agencies can redirect their focus from purchasing, owning and managing equipment to concentrating on mission delivery.
2021 will be the year of wireless modernization and expansion. Network connectivity is a necessary requirement to make that happen.