Verizon Public Sector SVP: “For our public safety customers, this really continues this evolution of digital transformations”
Maggie Hallbach was recently named SVP of Verizon Public Sector and shortly after the carrier’s first anniversary of its frontline services and the announcement of a nearly $1 billion contract with the Department of Defense, she sat down with Wireless CPR News to share some of Verizon’s visions for a future C-Band enhanced network.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Prior to this appointment, you worked in business development for the public sector, so you come with very relevant experience. What are some of your goals in this new position?
We have some very exciting things going on right now at Verizon with regards to our C-band rollout and building 5G. 5G comes in many shapes and sizes, and as you know, we’ve launched our millimeter wave 5G and nationwide 5G. With C-Band assets, we have now extended Ultra Wideband. Combining that with mobile edge computing really brings us to that low latency promise.
The other area that we really focus on and that builds on [the C-Band] deployment is ubiquitous broadband. We were at the forefront of the COVID crisis, with many of our government agencies and school districts having to totally disrupt their operating model, so [we focused on] being able to provide millions of connections to students, government employees, and then work with agencies to make their enterprise services available to a remote workforce.
For our public safety customers, it’s really [about] continue this evolution of digital transformations. Thus, for a policeman, [it’s] the idea that a police cruiser is really a rolling enclosure or desk, with a reliable and secure broadband connection. We’re really excited about the promise of 5G mobility.
You mentioned C-Band, but let’s focus on that. How does C-Band, in particular, help deliver on some of these promises?
We want people to think of C-Band not always via a phone and instead think of the number of sectors and public workers who can benefit from it: industrial IoT, social workers, maintenance, transport. Think about the number of connections that occur in these fields.
With C-Band, we view highly available, highly secure wireless as an access method that truly empowers our agencies […] high-quality options for their remote workers, small branch offices, and even larger sites. As we move to the cloud, more and more applications and data will reside in places other than where the employee is. C-Band gives you a legitimate alternative to a wired connection and gives you the ability to connect securely wherever you are. The path [Verizon] consider[s] these deployments provide that connection whether you are a person, a sensor, or a machine that needs access to an enterprise application.
It’s expensive to deploy physical assets to a site, but when you can do it through wireless capability, it really becomes a legitimate alternative to a dedicated network.
Let’s take health care as a specific example. How could this highly available and secure connection provided by C-Band benefit the healthcare system?
Think of a connected healthcare system and how the patient with a long-term illness, like diabetes, can be steered, physically moving through a medical system, knowing how to check in, navigating the hospital, knowing when appointments start and stop, having the equipment and diagnostics that power clinicians who see the patient in a series of coordinated care across the entire hospital system. There are the types of use cases that we are currently working with in healthcare systems. Or think of a connected ambulance where you have a public safety professional on board. [C-Band connectivity is] capable of providing assistive technologies such as HoloLens visual technology to enable emergency physicians to support this onboard diagnosis and care.
I have closely followed Verizon’s work with the Department of Defense (DoD) and know that you have won several contracts with the agency. What can you tell me about the type of applications military and government use Verizon for?
It actually ties into some of the things that we’ve already discussed because we’ve made some innovations [for the VA with] remote healthcare, telehealth and leveraging the promise of 5G to support clinical environments. At Miramar, we’ve also been working on use cases where we can, again, go mobile. Be able to provide advanced mobile tactical environments where there may not be good cellular coverage.
We also secure the flight line with things like proactive maintenance, where we can anticipate issues on domestic aircraft before they even land to ensure you have the right equipment on hand. You can imagine that in hostile environments it is important to turn around quickly. This also has commercial applications. We’re very excited about the use cases we’re working on with the DoD, because we’re seeing immediate applicability in commercial environments, and so there’s great alignment there.
Finally, we see that it’s really important for the United States to stay innovative, and so a very close partnership with the DoD on R&D efforts helps ensure that we don’t create a gap between what other parts of the world are capable of doing and what we are capable of doing.
It’s hard for me to talk about these types of use cases that involve people’s safety and access to care without thinking about the digital divide in our country. As this support for healthcare workers and other frontline workers expands and improves through C-Band and other deployments, how is Verizon ensuring communities are not left behind?
It’s a good question and something Verizon has been committed to for years. I’ll start by saying that there are broadband availability deficits even in our densest urban centers. Whether we think of these dense urban centers or some of the most remote places in the country, and many of them being tribal lands, we think of the importance of being able to ensure two things: the availability , to ensure that we have made sufficient availability of these services; digital literacy because it’s something to deploy, but they also need to understand how to use it; and affordability.
In urban areas, recent work has been done on the challenges of multi-principle units regarding access to these buildings. A landlord may not give multiple vendors free access to enter that building. So while you might have the challenge in a remote area of running a network down a three-mile dirt road, in an urban center it can be just as difficult if you can’t run conduit from a Look down the street through the building.
[The digital divide] is truly a multi-faceted issue where everyone needs to lean into and commit to this mission of providing access, education and making it affordable. We work closely with our cities, states and federal agencies to ensure that we place our assets where they can serve the most people.