Pentagon names 7 new military sites for 5G testing

The Defense Department has selected seven new military installations to conduct 5G testing and experimentation in several areas including augmented reality, wireless connectivity, and spectrum sharing.

The Defense Department has selected seven new military installations to conduct 5G testing and experimentation in several areas including augmented reality, wireless connectivity, and spectrum sharing, officials announced June 3.

At Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, tests will focus on shipwide and pier connectivity; at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, tests will focus on aircraft mission readiness; at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, testing will probe augmented reality and training,

The National Training Center at Fort Irwin and Camp Pendleton in California and Fort Hood, Texas will test wireless connectivity. Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma will focus on bi-directional spectrum sharing between DOD communications systems and 5G.

Requests for proposals are expected to come this summer with plans to stand up the new test sites this fall, Joseph Evans, DOD's technical director for 5G, told reporters June 3.

The experiments, now across 12 sites, are on a three to four year timeline but capabilities that could theoretically be handed off could emerge around the two-year mark, Evans said during an AFCEA DC event on 5G earlier June 3.

The Pentagon began driving toward 5G connectivity last year when it opened a dedicated shop to handle strategy in August 2019, then later releasing its first set of test sites and a request for more prototypes later that year. DOD finalized its 5G strategy in May.

Speaking at an AFCEA DC virtual event June 3, Evans said focusing on communication between 5G and DOD communications systems was a key priority that could feed into the Defense Department's Joint All Domain Command and control (JADC2) plans to interconnect communications between DOD systems across the military services.

"5G will be one of those things that we consume, as part of the department, that will be a part of our comms structure and one of our comms capabilities," said Frederick Moorefield, Jr., DOD's deputy CIO for command, control, and communications (C3), during an AFCEA DC online event June 3.

5G is a move towards "ubiquitous connectivity," Moorefield said, especially as DOD's need for wireless access increases. But it's reliant on spectrum and one major question: "how do we share the airwaves with 5G and 6G and 7G and what's coming."

Moorefield said that DOD wants to collect data on specific systems, cyber vulnerabilities to help determine whether a technology like 5G is deployable through the new pilot programs. That data will then be used to create 5G standards, he said.

"Those same capabilities that we used to protect ourselves from are getting integrated onto the base. So now we have to figure out from a technology perspective how do we enable that spectrum sharing in real time," Moorefield said.

But there have been national security concerns and operational concerns around 5G and spectrum use, particularly how commercial use of adjacent frequencies could interfere with DOD GPS systems. While DOD is looking to drive development and adoption of 5G for military purposes, it has fiercely defended its own spectrum holdings from what it sees as encroachment from commercial providers.

In May, top defense officials along with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, National Telecommunications Information Administration, and the Commerce Department, condemned and called for the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its decision to let wireless provider, Ligado Networks, use a low-power terrestrial nationwide 5G network in the L-Band -- which is adjacent to bands used by the Global Positioning System.

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site. 

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