Dec 14 2021

2022 Tech Trends: Agencies Press Ahead on Network Modernization and 5G

Federal agencies are racing to upgrade to their network architectures as 5G wireless becomes more of a reality, experts say.

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted how many employers think about work — and the workplace — including in the federal government. Some federal workers continue work remotely, and some are on a hybrid schedule.

This digital shift comes amid an overall push to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure throughout government agencies. Experts predict that 2022 will see a major focus on these enhancements across the federal government.

Fewer than 40 percent of federal agencies have made the transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract to modernize the government’s telecommunications and IT operations, according to a report from the General Services Administration.

Just over 20 percent of agencies have achieved 50 percent of that goal, GSA’s monthly EIS Transition Progress Tracking report from November shows. By March 31, 2022, 90 percent of agencies’ telecom inventory must be off current contracts and moved to EIS, and 100 percent must be moved to EIS by Sept. 30, 2022.

But most agencies are not on track to meet those deadlines and will need to make up ground in 2022.

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Agencies Look to Modernize Network Infrastructure

EIS, the transformative contract vehicle that federal agencies can leverage to modernize their IT/enterprise/network infrastructure, replaces GSA’s legacy Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts as well as the GSA regional local service agreements for government telecommunications and infrastructure solutions. GSA is under a Congressional mandate to provide telecommunications services for the federal government.

To date, Verizon has been awarded more than 40 percent of EIS task orders that have already been funded by the government.

“We expect continued momentum in the federal government across the EIS contract vehicle, allowing companies like Verizon to help federal agencies modernize current legacy IT infrastructure,” says John Harris, executive director of Verizon Public Sector. “We also anticipate additional 5G announcements from federal agencies like the Department of Defense, where leaders are focused on implementing the department’s 5G strategy.”

EXPLORE: Follow these best practices for network modernization from a CDW expert.

Kyle Michl, chief innovation officer for Accenture Federal Services, says that in a survey of federal executives 87 percent agree that organization will shift from bring-your-own device to a bring-your-own environment concept, “which means you’ve got to provide and bring what you need to be successful in those environments,” whether you’re working remotely, in the office, or a mix of the two.

“I think that’s an important mindset shift,” he says.

EIS also allows federal agencies to take advantage of all the transformational technologies and services that Verizon delivers, including project management, professional services, network/security services and managed infrastructure expertise, Harris says.

Earlier this year, Verizon announced EIS awards with the Air National Guard, the Labor Department, Naval District Washington and Energy Department. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security have announced task order awards with AT&T for network modernization under EIS.

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More Agencies Will Move to Adopt 5G Wireless

In 2019, Verizon began operations with the Air Force to lay the groundwork for 5G at bases across the Southeast. Currently, Verizon provides 5G at seven Air Force bases and is in the process of activating 5G Ultra Wideband at Tyndall Air Force Base, the first Air Force installation that will get the superfast UWB wireless technology from Verizon.

More recently, Verizon was selected to provide 5G UWB across seven Air Force Reserve Command installations positioned throughout the United States.

As part of other enterprise transformation, Michl expects a shift to more data-centric operations, “putting computer and machine learning/applied intelligence at the edge coupled with that exponential increase in data.”

Christopher Copeland, CTO for Accenture Federal Services, says the enterprise transformation will lead to expanded deployments of 5G. This allows for decisions to be made in real time at the source.

EXPLORE: What will 5G networks do for federal agencies?

“Obviously, the network has always been a long-time critical component of any IT operation,” Copeland says. “I think cloud will continue to facilitate care in that network reimagining that’s going to support more virtualized networking.”

While the Defense Department has been leading the government’s experimentation with 5G, there are some civilian agencies that are using 5G in limited ways. For example, Veterans Affairs wants to leverage 5G to expand the use of augmented reality to aid doctors, enhance surgeries and care for veterans.

Gretchen Brainard, offering portfolio leader for government and public services customer and marketing at Deloitte, says she is excited about 5G driving decisions and the new capabilities it opens up for federal agencies in 2022 and beyond.

“They’ll be able to simulate an operating environment out in a war zone, using things like glasses and other peripherals that are not enabled by infrastructure that we have now,” she says.

“Things like 5G computing at the edge and analytics at the edge or AI at the edge is going to really start to take center stage,” Copeland says. “I think the key to being successful in this environment is embracing that culture of innovation, that this notion that changes the norm, that large scale events can occur and we’re going to need to be continuously prepared to react and pivot to them.”

RELATED: What do you need to know about software-defined networking?

Illustrationn by Ryan Olbrysh

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