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The US DoD announced the award of $600 million (€510 million) for 5G experimentation and test at five US military sites on 8 October. This represents the largest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications in the world. Each installation will bring military, industry and academic experts together to advance 5G capabilities. Projects will include piloting 5G-enabled augmented/virtual reality for mission planning and training, testing 5G-enabled ‘Smart Warehouses,’ and evaluating 5G technologies to enhance distributed command and control.

The Department of Defense is at the forefront of cutting-edge 5G testing and experimentation, which will strengthen our nation’s warfighting capabilities as well as US economic competitiveness in this critical field. Through these test sites, the Department is leveraging its unique authorities to pursue bold innovation at a scale and scope unmatched anywhere else in the world. Importantly, today’s announcement demonstrates the Department’s commitment to exploring the vast potential applications and dual-use opportunities that can be built upon next-generation networks,” commented Michael Kratsios, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), WA: the objective of this project is to rapidly field a scalable, resilient, and secure 5G network to provide a test bed for experimentation with a 5G-enabled Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) capability for mission planning, distributed training, and operational use. Industry partners include:

GBL System Corp’s Samsung-based 5G testbed will use the mid-band spectrum to provide high capacity, low latency coverage at JBLM and Yakima Training Center;

AT&T will develop a system to allow use of 5G connectivity with present training devices;

Oceus Networks will develop and field a COTS-based 5G handheld called Tough Mobile Device-5G (TMD-5G) for the field training environment;

Booz-Allen Hamilton will deliver an Army-owned, multivendor prototype for combat-like training using AR/VR technology in 5G-enhanced training locations based on an open systems architecture.

Naval Base San Diego CA: this project aims to develop a 5G-enabled Smart Warehouse focused on transshipment between shore facilities and naval units, to increase the efficiency and fidelity of naval logistic operations. It will also create a proving ground for testing, refining, and validating emerging 5G-enabled technologies. Industry partners include:

• AT&T will quickly deploy (within 9 months) a network based on commercially-available equipment to support 4G and 5G using the cellular spectrum in both the sub-6GHz and millimetre-wave bands;

GE Research 5G-enabled applications will support real-time asset tracking, warehouse modelling and predictive analytics;

Vectrus Mission Solutions Corporation applications will provide industry-leading capabilities for inventory management, network security, robotic material moving, and environmental sensing;

Deloitte Consulting LLP will support a wide array of applications including Autonomous Mobile Robots, UAS with autonomous drones, biometrics, cameras, AR/VR, and digitally tracked inventory.

Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) Albany, GA: the project will develop a 5G-enabled Smart Warehouse focused on vehicular storage and maintenance, to increase the efficiency and fidelity of logistic operations and to create a proving ground for testing, refining, and validating emerging 5G-enabled technologies. Industry partners include:

Federated Wireless leverages open standards and an open solution to provide a testbed with both indoor and outdoor coverage, supporting a growing segment of the US 5G equipment market;

• GE Research will support real-time asset tracking, facility modelling and predictive analytics;

KPMG applications will create an integrated, automated, and digitized process for equipment and product movement throughout the warehouse;

Scientific Research Corporation (SRC)’s 5G-enabled offering will demonstrate automated management and control of warehouse logistics, asset and inventory tracking, environmental management, and facility access control.

Nellis AFB, NV: this effort will develop a testbed for use of 5G technologies to aid in air, space, and cyberspace lethality while enhancing C2 survivability. Specifically, a 5G network will be employed to disaggregate and mobilize the existing C2 architectures in an agile combat employment scenario. AT&T will provide an initially fixed then mobile 5G environment with high capacity and low latency to support the connectivity requirements associated with the mobile combined air operations centres.

Hill AFB, UT: this project addresses the challenge of enabling Air Force radars to dynamically share spectrum with 5G cellular services. It will develop sharing/coexistence system prototypes and evaluate their effectiveness with real-world, at-scale networks in controlled environments. The objective of this effort is to develop effective methodologies to allow the sharing or coexistence between airborne radar systems and 5G cellular telephony systems in the 3.1-3.45GHz band. Industry partners include:

Nokia’s testbed includes traditional as well as open standards architectures including high-power massive multi-antenna systems;

General Dynamics Mission Systems will develop and field a novel coexistence application that includes independent tracking of radar signals to support the radio access network in mitigation actions;

• Booz Allen Hamilton’s approach utilizes artificial intelligence to provide a complete coexistence system with rapid response to interference;

Key Bridge Wireless will demonstrate an adaptation of an existing commercial spectrum sharing approach for the 3.1-3.45GHz band as a low-risk solution to the coexistence issues;

Shared Spectrum Company's approach aims to maintain continuous 5G communications via early radar detections and 5G-enabled Dynamic Spectrum Access;

Ericsson’s novel approach employs the 5G infrastructure to provide the required sensing coupled with Machine Learning and 5G-enabled spectrum aggregation.

5G communications technology is a foundational enabler for all US defence modernization programmes, and vital to US national and economic security. DoD’s efforts focus on large-scale experimentation and prototyping of dual-use 5G technology that will provide high speeds and quicker response times, connect many more wireless devices than current wireless technology, and enable leap-ahead capabilities for the US military.

The announcement builds on DoD’s previously-announced 5G prototyping efforts and is part of a 5G development roadmap guided by the Department’s 5G Strategy. It represents the first tranche of awards on 5G experimentation and testing, with additional sites to be announced in the future.


Hill AFB is one of the five sites chosen by DoD for extensive 5G test and experimentation. (Image: US Air Force)

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