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FCW : December 2012
Wireless broadband: Is it secure enough for agencies? Although mobility has become a pop- ular buzzword, the government s use of wireless broadband capabilities has been limited because of concerns about security and reliability. "Warranted or not, there s always been a stigma within government circles that somehow wireless con- nections can t be secured as well as a physically wired infrastructure," said Stephen Orr, a distinguished systems engineer in Cisco Systems U.S. Public Sector division. A number of converging develop- ments in technology, policy and cul- ture, however, are nally giving feder- al IT of cials more reasons to believe in the ability of wireless broadband to securely transform their operations. Speci cally, changes taking place in the wireless industry include the transition to the fourth-generation (4G) broadband infrastructure that will make data and video transmission lightning fast and much more secure. When combined with next-generation encryption standards being built into wireless networks, "there s going to be a lot more exibility for federal agencies in their options because there is now essentially no differ- ence between the security of wired and wireless networks," Orr said. Another factor driving government of cials to be more open to using wireless broadband is the growing use of mobile devices, which has federal employees and the general public clamoring to access govern- ment resources anytime, anywhere. And all of this comes at a time when the Obama administration is mandating that agencies rely more heavily on cloud computing and tele- work and pursue operational inno- vation through a more streamlined, open and citizen-centric approach to technology. "Wireless mobile networks have become much more intelligent than they ever have been," said Danny Johnson, director of public-sector marketing at Verizon Enterprise Solu- tions. "And that technology is really an enabler that forms a means for government to streamline operations, to build enhanced productivity into their operations and their business, and then ultimately provide a better user experience for employees and constituents." Why it matters It s not just security issues that have hampered widespread federal adop- tion of wireless broadband, said Brett Haan, a principal in Deloitte s federal telecommunications practice. Although the 3G broadband standard was better than its predecessor, it didn t give government workers as much capability as their agencies wired networks offered, and remote employees could do little beyond reading e-mail and browsing the Web. By contrast, 4G wireless broadband is completely IP-enabled and offers transmission speeds that are as much as 10 times faster than 3G technol- ogy, making the applications and serv- ices that could be provided "basically limitless," Johnson said. The possi- bilities include live streaming video surveillance, video chat, uni ed com- munications, team collaboration, tele- work, telemedicine, and machine-to- machine computing to enhance eet management, logistics, and physical and perimeter security. Moreover, 4G enables users to essentially stay connected all the time, Orr said. The public will have more opportunities to engage agency services using smart phones and tab- let PCs, while government employees will be able to use any mobile device to access applications and agency data, whether they are at home, at a local coffee shop or on the road to a client site. "Government clearly has a need to do more in terms of providing serv- ExecTe c h BY H.B. HATTER Commercial 4G services provide a wide range of capabilities, but old concerns about security and reliability linger 26 December 2012 FCW.COM
November 30, 2012