Mike Bristol

Unified communications surpasses everything over IP

New standard is fully integrated IP-based infrastructure

The long-term evolution of unified military communications is a perennial topic among systems integrators. It’s at the heart of Defense Information Systems Agency’s driving mission and is featured prominently in a number of the military’s new technology and communications solutions contracts, such as the Future Commercial SATCOM Acquisition strategy, including the Custom Satcom Solutions indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract.

Why? Because our nation’s last-line protectors must have the most advanced, secure and reliable communication tools and support available. Military communications tend to lag three years behind commercially available technologies. Our children often have better, quicker and more integrated communications than our troops — a technology gap DISA is working to close. These contracting vehicles are designed to allow the Defense Department to purchase a wide spectrum of modern systems, services and support that enable total communication solutions.

Unified communications means much more than everything over IP. Today’s standard is a fully integrated, satellite, IT, cellular, wireless, IP-based infrastructure that enables anyone anywhere to reach anyone else anywhere else using commercial carrier-grade, highly secure handset technology.

Systems integrators with a rich, deep history of commercial experience and expertise, along with direct hands-on experience with demanding military customer requirements, are leading innovations in unified communications. With valued thought leadership in both private and public sectors, these companies are rapidly transforming once-lofty ideas into reality at commercial speed. What they are doing is making it possible for every warfighter to have a handheld device with reliable cellular service that connects to a globally managed network that uses satellites to cover the gaps in the terrestrial-based infrastructure. Satellites facilitate links back to the Internet or carrier, transmitting secure IP-based voice, video and data communications between the warfighter and his or her command base, as well as providing instant communications to higher-level headquarters.

Among other technology advancements, commercially available systems such as Internet Routing in Space are making this all possible today. IRIS, the world’s first space-based Internet routing platform, significantly increases bandwidth availability and reduces latency for land, sea and airborne platforms using standard off-the-shelf Cisco-based IP routing best practices. IRIS-type innovations are a significant part of a total, end-to-end communications approach, providing DISA with the latest in managed satellite services, wireless communications systems, highly seasoned constant global support and information assurance. These new innovations allow users within remote, tactical and mobile sites to engage in communications in a seamless, secure manner, resulting in the same kind of user experience as that of a garrison-based, fixed-site participant.

Selecting the right systems integrator is imperative on the road to unified communications. Some of the larger defense contractors may have the resources but will not necessarily command the nimble responsiveness and entrepreneurial agility that can deliver new innovations in a timely manner when battlefield situations demand immediate access to the latest technology. A total communications solutions provider with deep background in both the commercial and military sectors brings these qualifications to the table: They understand that anybody/anywhere unified communications means more than just everything over IP. It means IP plus IT — and all the necessary end-to-end logistics, information security and assurance, and field and network support that are required through a system’s life cycle.

DISA's leadership in the adoption and implementation of unified communications will extend far beyond the military community. Systems solutions proven to be successful for DOD missions inevitably are adopted by federal civilian agencies as well. Unified communications for the warfighter foretells an entire technology and cultural shift for the U.S. government.

For this shift to take hold, agencies must join forces with systems integrators that possess the thought leadership, end-to-end solutions, experienced personnel and qualifications to make unified communications a reality.

About the Author

Mike Bristol is senior vice president and general manager of the Government Solutions Group at TeleCommunication Systems.

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