Wi-Fi: Looking at the next as-a-service offering in government

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlaAAAAJGMwYWI1Zjc0LTRhNTUtNDU2Mi05YmFkLTMyMzQ1MTMzNzE2OA Chris Collura February 9, 2021

It’s been a long time since Federal IT departments got their first taste of managed services, and it wasn’t long before word got out about the positive return on investment that managed services can provide. The positive impact translated into as-a-service offerings for seemingly every technology category – software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and then the all-encompassing IT-as-a-service. So, what’s the newest category of managed services? Wi-Fi-as-a-Service.

Wi-Fi-as-a-Service is showing up in a wide variety of federal RFIs and RFPs, with agencies from the Justice Department and National Archives to the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security looking to take advantage of managed services for their wireless networks.

One prime example is the Veterans Health Administration who included Wi-Fi-as-a-Service in an RFI for the wireless networks across 278 hospitals. Each hospital has an internal network and a separate guest network. The internal network alone has 130,000 access points. The request was to provide details on how to combine the two networks at each hospital into a managed services program.

The VA has a long history with a variety of managed service offerings, including laptops-as-a-service. Like all the other managed services, it’s a good move for agencies to get out of the business of managing network infrastructure themselves. Under a Wi-Fi-as-a-Service model, the service provider takes over the existing network(s), or stands up a new network, and then provides management services for a recurring monthly, quarterly, or annual fee. For agencies, their efforts can then be keenly focused on initiatives like IT modernization, enhanced cybersecurity, or advanced data analytics capabilities, instead of maintaining Wi-Fi networks.

Obviously, it’s not in an agency’s best interest to keep buying equipment that is obsolete nearly as soon as it’s fielded. What they end up with is outdated, patchworked systems that become an IT burden. Taking the commodities-based approach of managed services allows agencies to free up staff members for mission-critical work. A successful managed Wi-Fi partner will not only host the core network and deploy onsite devices (such as access points) but will also own the guest/user experience – from onboarding devices to portal design to troubleshooting and 24/7/365 support.

CommScope can help develop the requirements and specify equipment for the government agency or its federal integrator/service provider partner and may also host and manage the solution, including the design, deployment, and integration into other systems, an important consideration for the agency.

Wi-Fi-as-a-Service makes it unnecessary for government IT managers to predict the future of specific hardware and software capabilities. It removes the requirement to look beyond the current configuration, and instead leaves that up to the managed service provider. Under a Wi-Fi-as-a-Service contract, the service providers are responsible for managing any hardware obsolescence issues and performing the required tech refresh on existing equipment, while ensuring the performance of the network. This is clearly a winning strategy for the government agency.

Industry research released earlier this year suggests that the overall Wi-Fi-as-a-Service market will top $6 billion by the end of 2020. Despite Wi-Fi-as-a-Service being a relatively new concept, government agencies would be well-served to take advantage of the cost and efficiency benefits that this approach offers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

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Chris Collura

As vice president of Federal Sales for CommScope, Chris Collura is responsible for unified networking and infrastructure sales, as well as systems engineering teams serving the world's largest purchaser of information technology – the U.S. federal government. Collura has 30 years of experience in infrastructure and networking in the federal space, including with Ruckus Networks (acquired by CommScope in 2019), Lockheed Space Operations Corp., Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, WellFleet Communications and Palo Alto Networks. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he worked as a radio communications analyst, computer security officer, LAN systems manager and application programmer.