Federal IT leaders see 5G on the horizon but most aren't ready for its arrival

71% of survey respondents are looking for hardware, software, and endpoint upgrades to support 5G connectivity.

5G (5th generation) communication technology concept. Smart city. Telecommunication.

Image: metamorworks, Getty Images/iStockphoto

IT leaders in federal agencies know that 5G will change how they operate, but only 46% say their current infrastructure can handle the new connectivity. CommScope released the "Is Your Agency 5G Ready?" report on Monday. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents plan to or have already adopted 5G. Only 6% of respondents have already deployed 5G, with 14% piloting the service and 62% evaluating or planning to pilot 5G. Seventy-one percent are looking at hardware, software or endpoint upgrades to support 5G.

The 200 decision makers in the survey also said that keeping network traffic on-site was a top priority. Eighty-three percent of respondents wanted mission critical traffic to stay on-site and 64% said all traffic should stay on-site.

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Chris Collura, vice president of federal business for CommScope said federal agencies should consider private LTE networks, private 5G networks, or a migration from one to the other to ensure flexibility and scalability during the 5G infrastructure buildout.

"There is no single approach to 5G and no one-size-fits-all 5G solution," Collura said in a press release.

Collura also said in the report that CommScope is using Citizens Broadband Radio Service as a stepping stone to 5G connectivity in a project for a current Department of Defense client.

The study also found that:

  • 32% of respondents hope that 5G will make it easier to share information securely
  • 83% believe it is very/somewhat important for mission-critical traffic on the agency network to remain on-site 

CommScope recommends that federal agencies include these components in a base level 5G infrastructure:

  • Small cell sites across campuses connected with fiber
  • An internal building-distributed antenna system
  • A data center to support the 5G-new radio core
  • Tower sites to transmit data to and from a device to the wider network 

The white paper also recommends that agencies ask these questions before choosing a vendor:

  1. What is the ultimate use case of the network?
  2. What do we need to be able to do and who do we want to give access to?
  3. How much flexibility to develop custom solutions and control over the network and security do we need?
  4. What skill sets do we need to operate and maintain the networks?
  5. What's the initial capital expenditure for a private network vs. a public one?

Market research firm Market Connections conducted the survey on behalf of CommScope from April 23 to May 13, 2020. Two hundred federal government decision makers involved in wired or wireless network and communications infrastructure solutions participated in the blind online survey. All respondents had some knowledge of 5G adoption within their agency. Respondents included: 

  • 56% from a federal civilian or independent government agency 
  • 40% from a defense, military, or intelligence agency
  • 3% from the federal judicial branch
  • 2% from the federal legislature

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica is an independent journalist and communications strategist. For more than 10 years, she has covered health and healthcare with a focus on innovation and patient engagement. She led AIR Louisville, a three-year digital health project focused ...