Internaut: Four trends drive government network spending

Shawn P. McCarthy

Government expenditures on network and data communications equipment will nearly double, from $1.3 billion this year to more than $2 billion by 2008, according to new research findings from International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass.

Why are government offices preparing to spend so much more on their networks? Here are some of the reasons:
  • The Federal Enterprise Architecture is evolving toward service-oriented, re-usable components that work across multiple agencies and applications. Remotely hosted applications and Web services will demand more bandwidth, both inside and between agencies.

  • As travel budgets continue to drop, many agencies are turning to Web conferencing applications, which also require more bandwidth, routers and so on.

  • Voice over IP systems are slowly replacing traditional analog and early digital telephone systems. VOIP requires substantial bandwidth, whether on dedicated networks or on lines that carry other data traffic.

  • Government expenditures for desktop PCs are declining while buys of notebook computers rise. Many government sites are installing wireless network access points to accommodate the peripatetic notebooks, starting in conference rooms and moving out to other shared spaces.

IEEE 802.11x wireless networks are far simpler to install than wired nets. Many sites simply plug in a wireless access point and turn it on, ignoring the need for security configuration.

WiFi does have bandwidth and management shortcomings, but it's the fastest way to extend a network to new locations or people. Although WiFi is about 20 percent slower than a typical wired network, the evolving 802.11n standard could push the rate up to 100 Mbps, assuming access points have enough processing power to keep up.

Network administrators might need to replace their older WiFi hubs sooner than expected as data traffic grows.

And WiMax could affect all these predictions. The emerging IEEE 802.16 WiMax standard has a far longer reach than WiFi'up to 30 miles, although performance degrades with distance. WiMax could serve groups of government buildings with a single centralized tower for all networking. City governments could adopt it for quick connectivity for all residents.

At this point, we don't know the price of forthcoming WiMax equipment or how much more bandwidth might be needed for a centralized access point. WiMax has great potential to carry VOIP traffic. Agencies are likely to ramp up slowly, then make a large, sudden transition to WiMax if it works well.

These trends, taken together, will stoke spending for government networks in the years ahead. Every agency systems administrator should be alert to an increasing wireless workload and the need for new wireless skills.

Shawn P. McCarthy is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC of Framingham, Mass. E-mail him at [email protected].

About the Author

Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.


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