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6/14/2011
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DISA Considering Central Management Of 1M Mobile Devices

The IT services arm of the DOD wants to set itself up as a mobile virtual network operator to securely manage and push data out to potentially 1 million department smartphones and other devices.

The IT services arm of the Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking advice for how to set itself up as mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to manage myriad devices across the department.

The move by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)--which, according to a request for information (RFI), aims to support at least a million subscribers--underscores the military's growing use of smartphones among its personnel. DISA posted the RFI on FedBizOpps.gov.

The RFI outlines in detail the services DISA aims to set up as an MVNO, including management of smartphones and other endpoint devices. DISA hopes to receive feedback on the validity of the program it aims to set up and seek advice from the industry-particularly existing MVNOs themselves-on the steps, resources, and time necessary to establish such a network.

The DOD currently has no such centralized mobile management provider or network, nor does one mobile service provider have the entire contract for the military, DISA spokesperson Laura Williams said via email. Different branches of the military and DOD offices contract with local service providers and a variety of different mobile carriers are currently being used.

The MVNO would extend enterprise unified communications through data services to the devices connected to it, while the enterprise network uses the link to provide encrypted voice over IP (VoIP), according to the RFI.

Security is naturally a key aspect of the virtual mobile network. DISA plans to segregate and isolate MVNO subscribers from the enterprise PSTN and the global Internet, as well as localize particular handsets to restrict services on them, according to the RFI. The network also should support the Secure Unified Communications Signaling and the Secured Unified Communications Media protocols.

Other technical requirements DISA is exploring for the virtual network include centralized management and deployment of device firmware and OS updates; dedicated backhaul connectivity to federal data centers that host unified communications services; the deployment of MVNO picocells or femtocells in areas of low network coverage; and enforceable quality of service measurements for ensuring packetized voice quality over the network.

The federal government in general has increasingly explored the distribution of mobile devices to employees, and the military in particular has been an early adopter of this practice. The Army currently has a number of mobile device programs ongoing that are testing the use of smartphones both in combat and classroom situations, including Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications, Relevant ISR to the Edge, or RITE, and the Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P.

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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