When you think of AT&T, the company’s work as a wireless giant probably comes to mind. That’s a perception that Jill Singer is working to expand upon.
As Vice President of National Security for AT&T’s Global Public Sector Solutions group, Singer has been busy deepening federal customers’ understanding of the telecommunications leader to include knowledge of its software-defined networking capability as well.
Think “greater control of services,” as Singer puts it, which allows agencies to add or change needs in near-real time, while minimizing the amount of hardware to run and manage networking. That capability is necessary, according to Singer, to help address an ever-increasing appetite for bandwidth among national security agencies.
From January 2007 to December 2014 alone, says Singer, the traffic volume on AT&T’s mobile data network increased 100,000 percent, while the video traffic on its network more than doubled. Growth for U.S. federal government agencies follows similar trend lines, she notes.
“One of the ways we’re managing that growth is by becoming a software company,” says Singer. “Now we are using software to … build a software-based network that runs on standardized hardware.”
Customers, in turn, can add capacity or deploy updates faster than ever before – something that agencies such as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have been waiting to hear.
In late 2015, DISA announced that AT&T was one of a handful of telecom companies named to a $4.3 billion Global Networking Services (GNS) contract. Between now and 2025, AT&T will help build a single global network that’s 10 times faster than DISA’s current network. The award “gives us an opportunity to provide the communications services that can help the Department of Defense provide military services both here and abroad,” says Singer.
Software-based solutions underpin AT&T’s focus in four key areas: the Internet of Things, secure cloud access, cyber security, and networking and mobility. “With mobility, cyber security, Internet of Things, and unified communications the whole portfolio of AT&T solutions and capabilities will be brought to bear for the national security community as we move forward,” says Singer.
In the case of IoT, AT&T can pair its networking and global SIM capabilities with network-connected sensors to help agencies track their assets and resources worldwide, says Singer. That capability has already drawn a hefty number of customers. To date, more than 1.9 million fleet vehicles and nearly 280,000 refrigerated shipping containers are connected – and monitored – by AT&T’s IoT capabilities.
In addition, AT&T offers a highly secure cloud access capability, called NetBond, which combines the control, security and perks of a private cloud with the cost-benefit and flexibility of public cloud services. “NetBond offers streamlined portal access to multiple clouds, improved network performance by as much as 50 percent compared to the internet and the enterprise-grade security of a virtual private network,” says Singer.
Meanwhile, in the area of cybersecurity, Singer’s team is focused on delivering security at the device level, as well as through the connectivity stage and with threat analysis, just as more than 107 petabytes of data cross AT&T networks every day. Finally, with network and mobility services, it’s critical, says Singer, that various means of communication – such as video conferencing, text and instant messaging – can be carried over both highly secure and reliable wire line and wireless services.
“Our job is to equip agencies with 21st-century solutions so they can meet their 21st-century challenges,” say Singer, whose own knowledge of those challenges is deepened by previous high-profile roles as CIO at the National Reconnaissance Office and as Deputy CIO at the CIA, as well as through current involvement in nonprofits and educational institutions such as University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and MissionLink.
On a personal level, Singer’s early grounding in science and technology were fostered at University of West Florida. At the time, she and fellow female graduate students made up just 20 percent of UWF’s systems analysis program. That statistic only fueled Singer’s drive. “I think it made me even more determined to push through, to not only prove to myself but to others as well – and to the girls behind me – we could do it,” says Singer, whose own company employs more than 20,000 females in STEM roles.
That sense of personal achievement — and collective mission — fuels the current national security mission to deliver a flexible, cost-effective networking solution, with software innovation as its backbone. “We are paving the way for the future,” says Singer, “of networking with our software-defined networking and IoT initiatives.”