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GovConExecutive Exclusive Interview: Doug Smith of EFI

Doug Smith of Ericsson Federal Inc. (EFI) spoke with GovConExecutive about EFI’s plans to expand into the US Federal Sector and expand 3G wireless network access to rural areas, EFI’s impressive array of wireless capabilities and products, and his tricked-out Harley.

GovConExecutive: The president has committed $7 billion to expand rural broadband access. How does EFI plan to compete for those funds?

Doug Smith: We are working with our partners, which is our fundamental strategy for approaching the market. Ericsson Federal is the leader in broadband technologies – both wired and wireless – and to reach those very rural areas, wireless is the way to go, either 3G or 4G wireless. We are both the global and domestic leader in that technology and are trying to bring that technology to bear with partners. We have the capability to – and we do it all the time – with the larger providers servicing the United States, and we design, engineer, construct and operate these networks and of course provide the underlying broadband technology to partner companies that deliver the services to these rural areas.


“Current DoD programs…will deliver 1 megabit per second sometime in the middle of the next decade at a tremendous cost. We’re working to bring capabilities that are 100 times faster today at a much lower cost using modified commercial technologies.” -Doug Smith


GovConExecutive: Do you plan to expand 3G access to remote areas as well?

Doug Smith: Yes. A lot is underway, and it is happening globally. We did a 3G network in Australia in ten months and covered 90% of the population. Here, AT&T Wireless is rolling out 3G, and they are multiple years into it. Multiple carriers are deploying 3G technologies and many of those are deploying into rural areas. I think more interesting for our space, we are looking at private 3G networking solutions for the government on federal properties and serving the remote areas at the border for CBP and DHS. We are working to bring innovative 3G broadband solutions to cover remote federal properties as well as the civilian properties.

GovConExecutive: How do Ericsson’s products aid disaster relief efforts in the U.S.?

Doug Smith: We have a very unique product in that area called QuicLINK: a 3G “network in a box”. Essentially, we have been working with FEMA, National Guard units, and other clients and some of our partner companies here in Washington, D.C. to bring QuicLINK solutions to bear. QuicLINK is very small and portable, made for DOD environments as well as emergency preparedness environments. When a network has been wiped out – in fact, Katrina was where we first used QuicLINK – we can roll a new network in on vehicles and have it up instantly.

GovConExecutive: CIO Kundra posits the need for ground-up, built-in network security. How do Ericsson’s products provide hardware based protection from malicious infiltration?

Doug Smith: That is a really good question. There are extensive standards and activities around cyber security and network security in general. Picture it as a wedding cake or a pyramid of security requirements built in to networking products, both at the hardware layer for the traffic so no one can come onto a wireless network pretending to be someone else, as well as on the back-end of the networks in the core, protecting it from malicious interference. There are extensive capabilities built into our products, but we also offer a greater degree of security hardware, as well as software for government customers that go over and above what commercial networks require.

GovConExecutive: CTO Chopra wants to bend the cost curve of services using IT. Why are Ericsson’s services more cost effective?

Doug Smith: We’re a four-year-old business, and we are working to bring commercial and sometimes modified commercial broadband technologies to fit the government’s needs. It is kind of what IT went through many years ago, when the government built a lot of custom computer resources and storage and so forth, and eventually they switched to COTS technology. Today, whether it’s on the enterprise side or the mission side, the government is looking for broadband wireless capabilities just like the commercial marketplace. They are looking for what you may have at home, Verizon FiOS for example, and the underlying technologies that make that work. Our government agencies need that, whether they are on bases or in their office buildings or in remote and dangerous places, like Afghanistan and Iraq. That is what Ericsson Federal is about. We are about bringing modified commercial broadband technology to bear both in the enterprise and mission space of the government.

GovConExecutive: What’s the focus of your federal strategic planning for the coming years?

Doug Smith: I think there is a huge wave of common understanding in the federal government right now to drive commercial technologies into the mission space as well the enterprise space. We spend about $15 billion a year as a country on trying to solve communication needs for the mission space for our forces around the world. Frankly, our country can do a better job of it. Current DoD programs that were designed many years ago to bring wireless capability to our strategic assets around the world, will deliver 1 megabit per second sometime in the middle of the next decade at a tremendous cost. We’re working to bring capabilities that are 100 times faster today at a much lower cost using modified commercial technologies. Ericsson Federal is demonstrating that for Defense Department customers this summer, and those demonstrations today will be 10 times faster than what these big programs will have in the next decade – and growing to 100 times faster in coming years, all with reduced program risk and cost. We are positioning in front of the wave of demand that the new administration is pushing: using more commercial technologies instead of custom building equipment.

GovConExecutive: To elaborate on that, what direction do you see the public-private partnership in both implementing and securing American networks?

Doug Smith: Technology is advancing rapidly and the competencies needed to stay abreast of that are pretty sophisticated. I think it is going to be difficult for the government to build within what all of the technology companies do. I think these companies provide a very valuable service to the government. There may need to be more government oversight and involvement in establishing requirements. Imagine IT if you had a very slow data link versus an optical data link, or a very slow wireless versus your iPhone link. That’s the difference that we enable together with our partners.

GovConExecutive: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Doug Smith: I drive a fully tricked out Harley Davidson Softail Deuce.

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