FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Nearly 90% of federal agencies are planning to adopt 5G, according to a new study released by General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), a business unit of General Dynamics. But agencies also face several challenges, including budget and cybersecurity concerns.

The research study, Enterprise to the Edge: Agency Guide to 5G, surveyed 500 officials from civilian, defense, and intelligence agencies to analyze the progress the federal government is making to deploy 5G capabilities, the benefits and challenges agencies are expecting, and what mission impacts it will have. Of the 500 officials surveyed, 40% work at federal civilian agencies, 40% at defense agencies, and 20% at intelligence and homeland security agencies.

According to the research study, most federal agencies have begun their 5G journeys and understand its impact.

  • Findings show 89% are planning to adopt 5G, with 44% already piloting or deploying 5G.
  • As agencies establish 5G mission objectives, 23% expect that 5G will be highly impactful to their strategies in 2023, with that impact tripling within five years to 69%.
  • More than half are making 5G an investment priority in 2023.

Digging deeper, the research found that federal agencies plan to use 5G in two general categories: networking and connectivity, and mission-enabling applications.

  • In the near term, 77% of respondents said they planned to adopt 5G technology for improved network capability. Platform connectivity — connecting IoT devices to the enterprise — is second at 61%. Smart infrastructure — enabling intelligent decisions at the edge — ranks third at 50%. 
  • Over the long term, agencies are planning mission-enablement use cases. Command and control — taking an action quickly with low-latency data processing — ranks at the top (41%). Logistics and manufacturing — managing supply chain processes — is second at 28%.

“Many agencies are still developing use cases and identifying the enabling technology that will make 5G transformative for them,” said Ben Gianni, GDIT’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. “But they know their 5G future is coming. Agencies that identify their primary mission outcomes and relevant 5G uses cases will be better positioned to deploy the optimal 5G solution cost-efficiently and with minimal risk.”

The data also showed that agencies are anticipating myriad challenges with implementing and managing 5G technology: 91% cite costs and budget as a top concern, 87% are concerned about increased cybersecurity risks due to an expanded attack surface from more remote devices, and 83% identify integrating 5G capabilities into the rest of the organization as a challenge.

While budget remains a concern, agencies are starting to make 5G a priority. Overall, 58% say 5G will be an investment priority in the next 12 months, with that number growing to 79% in the next 3 years.

“The move to 5G is significant with enormous potential, and it is crucial to keep the bigger picture in mind,” said Shuaib Porjosh, director for advanced wireless at GDIT. “Investing in 5G is not only an imperative for today, as previous networks, like 3G, are decommissioned, but it is also an investment in the technology of the future. 6G is not far behind 5G, and the sooner agencies can position themselves to take advantage of those opportunities, the more effective they will be at driving value from the technology.”

The research will be discussed in a public webinar on Nov. 30 with GDIT experts. The study was commissioned by GDITs Digital Consulting Practice and fielded in October with Market Connections, an independent research firm.