Local government key to 5G for feds

As advanced 5G wireless services spread out from large metro areas in the coming years, telecom carriers advise federal agencies with far-flung locations to work with local governments to get connected.

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Local governments and federal agencies looking to get connected with emerging 5G wireless services have no better partners than each other in getting carriers' attention in more remote locations, according to service providers.

"Look around for neighbors" Timothy Johnson, Sprint's vice president for IoT business development, told FCW at the DC5G conference in Washington.

Large federal agencies with offices in remote parts of the country can help attract investment in 5G infrastructure such as cell sites and fiber lines. Likewise, he said, local governments can help federal agencies by sharing common interests in access to the infrastructure, as well as facilitate installation details, such as permitting.

5G rollout, said Johnson, is in its infancy across the U.S. and carriers are just beginning to get infrastructure in place to serve metropolitan areas. "Everyone will see 5G eventually," said Johnson, but rural areas could wait up to five years. That's where partnerships can help.

"The analogy I use" for 5G deployment "is that of the U.S. interstate highway system installation in the 1960's," Johnson told FCW. Emerging 5G services and infrastructure, he said, "is a whole new day" for telecommunications services and their users -- one that requires innovative thinking and local/federal government collaboration to bring the services to some communities and federal offices.

"Most of 5G's density is across cities," said Daniele Loffreda, state/local government, education & healthcare industry at Ciena. "Some rural areas are still at 2G and 3G," he said.

Healthcare delivery, he said, is an emerging, effective application for the wireless technology that cuts across federal and local agencies and facilities, turning up shared interests.

However, carrier investment in the fiber cable backhaul lines to support the wireless service, as well as the cell equipment to receive wireless transmissions aren't cheap. Installing the infrastructure requires carriers to do cost analysis that may not immediately work for rural and remote locations.

"The reality in some areas, said David Young, vice president, public policy at Verizon in a panel at the conference, is that some are very expensive to serve."

Public-private partnerships, he said, can be important in getting the infrastructure.

5G infrastructure, he said, can benefit both local and federal customers in those areas. Local governments, with their infrastructure permitting and zoning roles, can also be a critical part of federal agencies' remote offices getting access to the services, he said.

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