Mobility stymied in Pentagon by signal dead spots

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The spread of mobile devices throughout the Pentagon can face a basic obstacle: no signal.

Tom Sasala, chief technology officer for the Army Information Technology Agency, said during a Jan. 23 conference that in his underground Pentagon office, his cellphone "hits what I call about half a bar--just enough to tell it that it can connect, but not enough for it to actually do anything, so it's completely useless." He spoke at the 2013 Federal Mobile Computing Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon has deployed Wi-Fi to some common areas such as food courts, Sasala said, but devices attempting to connect to the Defense Department wireless network require Common Access Card-based authentication for the user to log on. That means there aren't a lot of users, Sasala said. His own iPad lacks a CAC reader, he added.

Spreading Wi-Fi around in the building is stymied by a ban on using appropriated dollars for commercial Internet access; Sasala said officials are investigating setting up a pay-for-usage model with carriers.

The need for rooms where secret information is discussed need not necessarily put a damper on Wi-Fi, he also said. Signal cancelers in those rooms can block signals coming through walls, and hot spots can be calibrated not to be too powerful. "There's lots of ways to mitigate this threat. Anyone who says 'no' is not being creative, and anyone who says 'no' is not being helpful," he said.

For more:
visit the summit website

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