By Sandeep Shilawat, Vice President, Cloud and Edge Computing – ManTech

We are living in a time of incredible technological innovation in nearly every facet of our lives. In wireless technology in particular, innovation is driving change so fast that it can be hard to pinpoint or track exactly why a new wave begins. 

Sandeep Shilawat
Sandeep Shilawat, VP, Cloud and Edge Computing

First generation wireless, or 1G, involved analog devices. Then came 2G, and with it, the ability to text. Next came 3G, which allowed early web access and search capability. After that, we had 4G technology which disrupted everything prior – it brought about the app stores, enabled social media and on-demand video, and more. And with all this downloading we were doing, we needed a bigger and faster data pipeline. This brought about 4G-LTE, or long-term evolution, and this is where most of the U.S. is today – lagging nations such as China that have moved quickly to next generation 5G and today have ample infrastructure and resources to support a 5G environment.

What’s so great about 5G?

For starters, 5G offers incredible bandwidth, the maximum amount of data your connection can handle at any moment, and speed, the maximum rate you can transmit data up to 10 gigabytes per second – powering processing “at the edge” on devices, with Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) capabilities. Additionally, 5G delivers the kind of Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) that is required to power operational technologies like self-driving cars, where, for example, an outage at the moment a vehicle is navigating an intersection could be catastrophic. 5G also enables the kind of Massive Machine-Type Communication (MMTC) that smart devices require. It is estimated that these devices create 2TB of data at the edge. As the proliferation of these devices continues, and as we expand the Internet of Things (IoT), we need a technology to manage that communication.

To be clear, the U. S. is not totally missing out on the 5G revolution. We are accessing some 5G technology – self-driving cars, sensors, the IoT and smart devices have been in use for some time – but we are running it on optimized 4G-LTE infrastructure, for the most part. Clearly, this is not a tenable or sustainable solution for the long term.

Consider this: It is estimated we will need millions more 5G base stations to move completely to 5G. Consider, too, that while the Chinese government and Chinese companies have ample 5G resources and are encouraging others to use their infrastructure, the U.S. has enormous security concerns with doing the same. So, innovation in 5G will have to come in the infrastructure space as well as in the security space. Additionally, if history is any guide, we know that 6G is coming soon after and we do not want to lag further behind. 

This is why ManTech is working with industry and academia partners to accelerate the adoption of 5G technology within the defense industrial base and prepare for the wave of innovation that will follow it. We recognize the dearth in 5G skills and infrastructure and are collaborating on ways to address both. 

We’re active participants in the National Spectrum Consortium, which convenes leading technologists, engineers, scientists and more on 5G, 5G-based technologies and spectrum access and sharing. We’re part of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), which works to establish Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro region as a global center of excellence in security, autonomous systems, and data. And we work with CCI’s NOVA Node on cyber-related innovations that can secure our networks – including our 5G networks – from bad actors.

ManTech also works with multiple universities to shape curriculum, build skill sets and develop 5G and IoT-specific courses so that we can contribute to the talent pool within federal agencies, technology firms and systems integrators. In the Washington, D.C. area we partner with George Mason University on autonomous cars and smart cities, doing work which has critical and immediate applicability in government – especially within the DoD for things like smart warehouses or smart bases. We also work with Virginia Tech on 5G research and innovation. 

And last but not least, we are building our own 5G and IoT teams and have developed a lab where customers and partners can test and explore new solutions with us, and we can collaborate to accelerate how we bring innovations and new approaches to address our customers’ mission challenges.

While most consumers view 5G technology as a convenience that will make their devices perform better, we see it as a critical national security priority and an essential area of focus for the U.S. to maintain its competitive advantage in the world.

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