AT&T Announces Start of 5G Network Rollout at Tyndall AFB

AT&T will start bringing fifth-generation wireless networking to Tyndall AFB, Fla., in early 2020, the company said in a Nov. 21 release.

“AT&T is comprehensively rebuilding and modernizing communications infrastructure and capabilities across Tyndall,” the company said. “It is providing future-forward networking capabilities … to support augmented and virtual reality, [the Internet of Things], and a broad array of innovative technologies.”

The company is working under a $23.6 million, sole-source contract awarded Sept. 30, according to a spokesman. It will progress through a “rolling plan” based on how quickly the Air Force and other vendors are able to rebuild the base that was destroyed by Category 5 Hurricane Michael in 2018.

“AT&T plans to use existing [telecommunications] infrastructure where feasible and appropriate,” spokesman Bob Hallman said. “It plans to bring some infrastructure as well, e.g., tower infrastructure, if and when appropriate and necessary. As the rebuild progresses, it’s likely new infrastructure would be used to support placement of equipment as well.”

He declined to say when in 2020 the rollout would begin.

The Air Force also agreed to let AT&T manage enterprise information technology capabilities at the base, the company said. Broadly, USAF is looking into new ways of providing IT services to airmen through leases with commercial companies rather than buying and running them in-house. The service argues doing so will free up personnel who typically handle IT to work on cyber issues instead.

“Initial services include mobility, cloud access, unified communications, voice, broadband, Wi-Fi expansion, and an array of connected devices,” according to the release.

Airmen could one day use 5G to access the Internet from the flightline and transmit large amounts of data faster, which proponents promise would overhaul everything from military communications to telemedicine. The Air Force looks to install 5G infrastructure at bases across the US as the Defense Department launches its own effort at select facilities to explore the possibilities of next-generation wireless.

AT&T said it will also provide “FirstNet,” a nationwide public safety communications platform, to first responders and others to handle contingency- and disaster-response operations at Tyndall.

“Tyndall has already experienced the benefits of FirstNet,” the company said. “The AT&T team established temporary communications capabilities in support of Tyndall’s immediate storm response and recovery efforts using FirstNet network capabilities and devices.”