Public-private collaboration can be a key factor in 5G success
In many aspects, federal agencies and firms from the communications technology sector are worlds apart. When these worlds collide, it can lead to great things.
The creative nature of the industry, combined with strict requirements of government use cases, can inspire innovative solutions or, in certain cases, even create new product categories or business models. Therefore, collaboration between communications service providers (CSPs), vendors and the government can often be equally fruitful for all parties involved.
Andy Asava, EVP of Global Networks at Infovista, believes it is the industry’s responsibility to encourage this mutually beneficial public-private collaboration in the light of the emerging 5G revolution. Government agencies can greatly benefit from 5G technology and, in return, provide vendors and CSPs with useful insight, allowing them to improve their 5G products and services.
Best of Both Worlds
There is a long-standing history of knowledge-sharing and mutually fruitful cooperation between government agencies and communications technology companies. One of the leading examples can be the Internet and cellular networks. The federal government laid the groundwork for both of them, and they ultimately went on to revolutionize the commercial marketplace. We can observe continuous partnership between the government, CSPs and wireless vendors on cutting-edge communications solutions.
Another example mentioned by Andy Asava of Infovista is spectrum clearing. In order to transfer their wireless assets from Band 66, the U.S. Army required a unique range of technologies, as well as an industry partnership. To establish the most efficient way to clear interference, they needed both special instrumentation and the ability to collect and act on data in real-time. The technology developed by industry experts for this purpose originated from the commercial realm, but had to be modified to comply with Defense Department requirements.
Asava also brings up the concept of mesh networking. Developing mesh-based communications networks, which had to meet rigorous government requirements regarding security and reliability, required a lot of diligent work from vendors. They ended up having to revise the whole life cycle of mesh network coverage design, analysis, and monitoring. Through this process, they developed a set of best practices which they could then use to drastically improve mesh products for the commercial market.
This intertwinement is equally beneficial for both sides. It allows the federal government to introduce leading-edge communications technologies faster and at a lower cost. On the other hand, the communications technology sector is able to verify whether their most inventive ideas comply with government requirements, including unwavering security, high resiliency, durability, and scalability. Undertaking efforts to meet these requirements often results in massive benefits for the firms and their clients.
Adapting commercial technologies to the complex and multifaceted government technology environment is a massive challenge. By doing that, however, vendors give themselves an edge over their competitors, as this solution can easily be used to support enterprise consolidation and M&A activity in the commercial sector.
Getting Ready for the 5G Future
The EVP of Global Networks at Infovista further reinforces the idea that as companies are looking to the future of 5G networks and services, the public/private partnership is fundamental in integrating 5G into stringent government network environments. Not only that, but it can also possibly solve some of the largest challenges facing 5G deployment.
Andy Asava also raises some very important questions – what is the best way to introduce massive MIMO and beamforming technologies? How can we meet the unique requirements of higher-propagation RF frequency bands, such as mmWave? Where will more accurate 3D modeling be necessary? By adapting 5G to the strict requirements of government agencies, companies can find answers to these questions, as well as many others.
Coincidentally, the segments where federal agencies need support most urgently –massive MIMO, network slicing, spectrum sharing, and spectrum clearing – also include some of the areas where sellers and CSPs are looking to advance commercial 5G business cases. It can be done by helping the government solve these challenges.
There are a number of areas where Andy Asava of Infovista believes public/private collaboration could prove particularly beneficial for 5G:
- Scaling complex 5G use cases: In Asava’s opinion, vendors and CSPs must implement more robust models for areas such as network slicing, shared spectrum and assets, and spectrum-as-a-service. Integrating all the aspects of these complex use cases, particularly in government environments, constitutes a major challenge. Learning how to introduce these models for government will presumably allow CSPs to support enterprise and commercial use cases in a much more effective way.
- Securing 5G services: Implementing the most robust security and threat defense mechanisms possible is a prerequisite for all wireless technologies working in confidential government or military environments. By cooperating with government agencies, the entire industry can observe and learn from government models for tactical communications and mobile cybersecurity. There are rigorous requirements in place with regard to, among others, rogue base station detection, end-to-end encryption, and transport communication security. By adapting their products to meet these requirements, industry players can develop strict security best practices for the commercial space.
- Supporting IoT use cases: Cooperating with the government brings companies a means for testing new use cases involving massive IoT connectivity for numerous devices. This way, they can also learn new techniques for managing connectivity at scale more efficiently.
Bringing Two Separate Worlds Together
The fact that numerous gains can be generated from public/private collaboration is beyond doubt. Sadly, we are not experiencing as much cooperation as we could.
While CPS and vendors continue to cooperate with the government on individual projects and transactions, there is no knowledge transfer. There should be a forum for continuous, regular exchange of technology ideas and lessons learned, both among public and private shareholders. The lack of such forum is particularly acute in the United States, where government agencies are less directly involved with technology vendors and CSPs than in other countries, and not as open to the concept of sharing ideas and technology.
So, what solution to this problem does Andy Asava suggest? In his opinion, industry working groups such as MITRE would be perfect for knowledge-sharing conversations. Forums such as the MITRE 5G Security Working Profile Group can be used by all parties involved to discuss the unique challenges regarding 5G services that the government is currently facing and come up with new strategies to combat them.
By collaborating, companies can help the government exploit the 5G revolution to its advantage. In the process, they are more than likely to discover new opportunities to make 5G as effective and economical for everyone as possible.