5G technology has been around since 2019, but the United States government has not quite yet deployed it at scale or mastered its implementation. Experts argue that the main roadblock lies not in the technology itself, but in the culture of the federal landscape.
Now, drastic cultural change is needed to get the country back on track with 5G and out in front of its competitors. Panelists at the ExecutiveBiz 5G forum shared their insights into why we’re behind and what we can do to regain our technological lead on the global stage.
“DOD hasn’t fully realized the capacity, the capabilities of 4G. So the issue isn’t so much, ‘How do we figure out 5G technology?’ It’s really on the transformation side. How do you use wireless to transform operations and to achieve better, faster, cheaper within mission lines, within logistics, within maintenance, within shipyards and automation factories?” asked David Simpson, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and current partner at Deep Water Point.
“That’s where the deficit is — I believe it’s in setting the transformation goals in each of those areas to then begin to realize the kinds of efficiencies that come from robotics and from AI, that needs the big data fueled by wireless at the edge that 5G ultimately affords,” the admiral added.
Panelists at the in-person event agreed with Simpson that a broader vision of how 5G will fit into missions is lacking from federal agencies’ plans to implement the technology.
Going down to the operational level though, Jeff Harman, president and CEO of Oceus, said 5G users and operators are not receiving the education and training they need to effectively put 5G into practice. 5G, he said, does not solve every problem an enterprise faces, but it’s most helpful in mission applications.
“I think the struggle of mission applications is talking to the individuals that understand their mission, but really don’t understand how 5G works,” said Harman. “An enterprise IT individual is very astute, but may not have the understanding of telecom. That disconnect in [making] the technology consumable to those individuals in that middle layer, I think is our biggest challenge.”
At the most basic level, Harman said the individuals running mission profiles don’t have a grasp on what 5G is and how it works, and many times, they view it as similar to a wifi data network.
“I think overcoming that, giving them the tools to consume it, to train on it, to understand how to apply it is your biggest adoption hurdle. If we don’t give a great education to the individuals that have to use it we’re doing ourselves a great disservice,” Harman explained.
For Venkat Iyer, chief solutions architect of One Illuminate, our biggest 5G challenge is that we didn’t harness it early enough nor did we implement it at a meaningful scale.
“We should have been really, really plugged into 5G when we saw it coming,” said Iyer, noting that he used the past tense in his remark. Some of our competitors and adversaries — countries like China and Russia — have moved beyond 5G and are already doing 6G, Iyer shared.
These adversaries “brought in the culture, which the admiral was talking about, of accepting,” Iyer said. “You have to go along with the new things coming in and go head in. You have to accept it. You have to learn to swim.”
Admiral Simpson warned that cultural barriers within the federal government and a pervasive lack of willingness to embrace new ideas, processes and technologies will be detrimental to 5G adoption and ultimately, to our position in the intensifying global power competition.
“My biggest concern is that we will miss the transformational potential of 5G and approach it with an incrementalism that will never realize or not realize fast enough the opportunities to achieve better mission outcomes,” said Simpson.
Rajesh Persad, manager of energetics manufacturing and operations within the NSWC Indian Head Division of the Naval Sea Systems Command, also joined the conversation to talk about how 5G can enable advancements in artificial intelligence through large language models.