Network Connectivity Options for Powering Digital Government and Enterprises

As public and private sector organizations digitally transform to support remote work, more convenient constituent services, the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), smart city projects, and other initiatives, they’re finding traditional wireless network mediums don’t always meet the latency, security or other needs of modern use cases. They also are struggling with the cost and complexity of on-premises network operations centers (NOCs) that can draw time and resources away from business-critical work.

The good news is the recent spate of broadband and infrastructure funding makes this an ideal time to improve and simplify the delivery and security of network services and technology. Forward-looking organizations are embracing end-to-end connectivity solutions such as private wireless networks to simplify, enhance and expand network capabilities. These strategies are essential for keeping pace with the technology changes and emerging needs of this time.

Managed services and end-to-end network services providers also are critical, simplifying network operations, alleviating the burdens of in-house management with solutions such as NOC as a service (NOCaaS), and enabling organizations to accelerate innovation and the delivery of new services.

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Complexity Around Every Corner

Large enterprises and municipalities need to evaluate new network solutions to address a range of challenges when implementing, managing, and securing their networks.

  • Distributed networks: To enable remote work, digital constituent services, intelligent automation, smart cities, and other use cases, organizations increasingly rely on IoT, edge computing, and hybrid and distributed cloud networks—in addition to their on-premises network infrastructure. Each type of network solution has unique financial, performance, access, security/compliance, and other implications that increase networks’ complexity and administration. In addition, because a multitude of endpoints connect to the distributed network, the attack surface becomes broader and more complex.
  • Piecemeal solutions: As organizations work with multiple vendors to build best-of-breed networks or add network components to accommodate growth and new use cases, they often end up with gaps in their solutions. For example, enterprises may work with one communications service provider (CSP) for a network solution, find another vendor to manage it, and yet another to help add specific applications. They also may need to arrange services to support the backhaul (transmitting a signal from a remote site or network to a central one, as in a wide area network) if their CSP doesn’t have the wired network to support it. Implementing and managing these disparate pieces on their own intensifies the IT burden, raises costs and increases the risk of errors, poor performance, and downtime.
  • Staffing and skills shortages: Organizations of all sizes are in an uphill race to recruit and retain sufficient IT talent to meet their basic networking needs. The network value chain requires disparate knowledge and skill sets related to network equipment and tools; network design, deployment, and management; and the equipment and applications that sit on top of the network. If an organization wants to deploy a private wireless network or other nascent, rapidly evolving network solution to enable modern use cases, expertise is even more limited.
  • NOCs and solution sustainability: Once a network is deployed and operational, organizations need to manage alerts and warnings, update and patch equipment, answer customer calls and perform other management tasks that help ensure network health and long-term viability. The time, money, and expertise required for an organization to properly implement and manage a 24/7 NOC to perform these tasks don’t always exist in-house.

Strategies for Simplifying and Enhancing Network Capabilities

Many organizations are turning to private wireless networks to address business challenges and enable connectivity for modern use cases that otherwise would not be feasible.

Private wireless networks are custom-built wireless connectivity solutions that “hive off” the existing network to help organizations meet specialized connectivity needs not adequately addressed by traditional network mediums alone. These heterogeneous networks typically combine multiple wireless spectrum options (e.g., long-range radio [Lo-Ra], 4G cellular, citizen broadband radio service (CBRS), WiFi, microwave, or e-band) to augment or expand—rather than replace—existing networks. The combination of options depends on use case requirements for network coverage, latency, security, cost, and other factors.

Private wireless networks propel modern use cases. Public and private sector organizations use private wireless networks to:

  • Extend WiFi network connectivity
  • Expand coverage for large areas that a wireline network cannot cover (e.g., wilderness settings where drone footage helps monitor wildfire activity or video analytics are used to keep park visitors safe)
  • Dedicate bandwidth for business-critical use cases requiring high reliability
  • Support low-latency edge computing
  • Expand connectivity for IoT devices and asset tracking
  • Maintain seamless connectivity for mobile use cases (e.g., enabling company visitors to continue to use their mobile devices without introducing risk into the company’s network)
  • Control access to resources
  • Achieve cost efficiencies when it’s too expensive to build a fiber network
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Wireless Network Paves The Way for Smart City Park

The City of Las Vegas implemented a private wireless network to expand connectivity in a large public park, enabling video analytics for security and parking lot management. The video analytics solution required high-bandwidth connectivity to upload the massive volume of data generated by four cameras positioned in strategic areas. However, the cost of building out fiber throughout the park would have prevented the project from moving forward. Working with Cox Communications, the city was able to design and implement within three weeks a private wireless network solution for uploading video data with minimal latency. The low-cost modular solution is highly reliable and scalable, allowing the city to accommodate growth and new use cases over time.

End-To-End Solutions to Propel, Sustain and Simplify Private Wireless Networks

Organizations can accelerate their private wireless network initiatives and help ensure their long-term viability by choosing end-to-end solutions managed by a single service provider.

As opposed to vendors who provide point solutions or services, an end-to-end service provider designs, deploys, and manages the private wireless network and all spectrums within it, as well as endpoints or applications sitting at the end of the network. End-to-end managed services are critical, especially at this juncture in the use of private wireless networks, where few, if any, state and local government IT teams have the technology, processes, expertise, or hands-on experience needed to manage these types of solutions. They allow organizations to quickly take advantage of specialized networks even if they do not have the internal resources or capabilities to do so.

Because all network components are provided and managed by a single source, end-to-end solutions also can reduce complexity and improve security. Organizations can gain clearer visibility into their network environment to make better decisions regarding risk reduction, business impacts, and opportunities for refinement. Procurement and network admin teams only need to interact with a single vendor, enabling them to build stronger partnerships and streamline the time spent procuring technology, learning vendor tools, and business processes, and managing and interacting with vendors.

Achieving Peak Network Performance and Minimizing IT Incidents

Like any other network, once a private wireless network is deployed and operational, it must be monitored and managed to minimize downtime and ensure business continuity. Network downtime can be very costly in terms of dollars spent in recovering the network, lost productivity, loss of confidence in the network or the government organization, and in worst-case scenarios, potential loss of life or property (e.g., when a medical sensor on a patient at home loses connectivity or a real-time traffic monitor fails to transmit information about a major accident).

NOCaaS is a relatively new type of managed service that fits within an end-to-end private wireless network solution and helps organizations achieve optimal network performance and uptime more easily and reliably. NOCaaS is especially useful for managing complex networks. It lets organizations offload the technology and staffing burdens of network management to a service provider whose core expertise is network management. The solution acts as a force multiplier, freeing IT teams from time-consuming NOC tasks so they can turn their attention to innovation and higher-value activities advancing the organization’s mission. It also ensures organizations have the proper guidance to prioritize and address network issues effectively.

The main tasks of a NOCaaS are the same as in a traditional NOC: monitoring network circuits, sensors and other devices and managing incidents when they occur. Depending on the specific services engaged, a NOCaaS can provide ongoing support to the organization’s network administrator, take over the admin function entirely or step in as needed.

NOCaaS staff optimizes network components to operate reliably, securely, and at the targeted service levels. They also perform call center functions to support individual users or IT teams when Tier 1 incidents occur. For government organizations without their own call center, this support is vital to resolving issues quickly and minimizing downtime.

Because the NOCaaS provider’s core service is network operations, it can invest more heavily than other organizations in getting the best staff, training, and tools and then pass economies of scale on to its customers. NOCaaS staff is immersed in network operations and routinely handle incidents. Their best practices and incident response plans are highly developed and well-documented, allowing them to identify and mitigate issues faster. They also can act as another set of eyes on the network, seeing potential areas of risk, recommending better ways to configure components, providing post-incident insights, and helping the organization keep track of changes to the network during large-scale restructures and expansions.

Moving Forward

Industry leaders recommend the following practices for organizations ready to expand and augment their network capabilities:

  • Start with the end goal, not the technology. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is choosing technology before understanding the problems they’re trying to solve. To make the best use of investments and achieve long-term business and technology goals, organizations can start by clarifying their pain points, prioritizing the challenges they want to solve, and then looking for the best technology to address those challenges.
  • Consider security from the start. As the enterprise network expands, the job of protecting many disparate components, systems, and users becomes even more complex. To better control complexity, proactive organizations assess how network additions and changes will impact the organization’s security posture, create a plan for addressing risks and build security into the solution design as early as possible.
  • Look for proven expertise. As with any rapidly advancing sector, the network communications field is full of misinformation and misconceptions. It’s important to ensure managed service providers have proven expertise in operating emerging solutions such as private wireless networks and NOCaaS. The right vendor also will be able to verify its history of meeting service-level agreements for availability and performance, clearly define its incident response procedures and response times, and have a demonstrable commitment to ongoing research and innovation.

Poised for Innovation

Technology advances, IIJA funding, and sheer necessity are driving large enterprises to expand and enhance their existing network infrastructures to accommodate new use cases and prepare for future trends.

Private wireless networks combine multiple spectrums to enable complex network operations traversing the macrocosms and microcosms of today’s enterprise. Using these networks, organizations can flexibly address specialized use cases, accelerate solution delivery and avoid the costs associated with building out fiber.

NOCaaS is an important strategy for keeping complex networks up and running. By alleviating the burden of in-house network management and leveraging experts with expertise in managing large, complex networks, it helps ensure uptime, reduces complexity and keeps organizations nimble in the face of unprecedented change and innovation.

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