Preparing for the Promise of 5G in the Federal Government

By Toné Mason, Senior Analyst

5G is here – still in its infancy, but here. The 5G that we hear about in day-to-day life is marketed for the general public: Faster phone service, quicker download times, seamless streaming. It’s a race to see which provider can get the service to your city first and which has the best new 5G-enabled phone.

The real promise of 5G, however, is the intelligence that it can enable and the lives that can be saved or enhanced by that intelligence. The biggest customer for intelligence enabled by 5G is, of course, the federal government. 5G can grow and reach its full potential through various applications in our government, heading ultimately towards real-time actionable information for virtually seamless decision-making.

Low latency and high bandwidth are the two most important things that are arriving with 5G. Low to near non-existent latency will allow for millisecond response times, reliable transmissions and multi-access edge computing. The increased bandwidth provided by 5G will be important in enhancing security measures and data encryption with minimal impact on network throughput speeds. Increased bandwidth also will lend itself to the further growth of the internet of things (IoT), allowing that technology to reach its full potential as well.

In fact, 5G promises to enhance most of the technology that we use today, from drones to robotics. This enhancement in turn will allow for improved warfighting capabilities or even improved emergency health care in the field, giving our soldiers access to the best surgeons in the world through remote medicine.

While all these possibilities are very real, as noted at the beginning, 5G is in its infancy. There are multiple aspects to be resolved before 5G can get where it’s going. Current limitations include:

  1. Accessibility. To access the amazing download times promised by 5G, you need to have direct line of sight. Speeds diminish as barriers block the signal. Additionally, you need to be near a 5G enabled node, and 5G supported technology is in limited supply for now.
  2. Technology is not fully developed. Upload speeds, even with direct access to nodes, are still only comparable to 4G speeds (peak 4G speeds, yes, but 4G speeds nonetheless). It is not entirely possible yet to upload high quality video in seconds or stream high resolution VR in real time.
  3. 5G Hardware. The building out of hardware that can handle the speeds and the low latency of 5G needs to be further developed. The sheer capability of 5G is enough to overheat some hardware and draw large amounts of electrical power. The hardware, therefore, needs to be further developed before the technology can be as reliable as federal applications demand.

The promise of 5G is thrilling and close, but there is still work to be done. If you work in this market segment, it’s incumbent on you to plan and to create innovative methods that will utilize the full capability of 5G as the supporting technology grows past its infancy.

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About Toné Mason
Toné Mason is a Senior Analyst on immixGroup's Market Intelligence organization. She has a B.A. in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. Prior to joining, Toné was a Business Development Intelligence Analyst at Chenega Corporation and previously a Research Analyst at Deltek working on their GovWin product.

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