DOD Launching 5G Experiments to Improve Training, Logistics

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Lisa Porter addresses the Defense Innovation Board at its quarterly meeting at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C., March 21, 2019. DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

The Pentagon is rolling out an experimentation and prototyping campaign that will look at using 5G networks to provide augmented and virtual reality tools for mission planning and training, to manage warehouses and military logistics, and to learn more about sharing parts of the wireless spectrum with other users.

A draft request for proposals that use new commercial technologies to further military network objectives is due out in November, with the final version expected in December—though that could be derailed if Congress does not pass a 2020 defense spending bill. Officials plan to publish new opportunities for industry about every three months if funds are available, and will hold an industry day before putting out the final RFP.

Lisa Porter, the deputy under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said on an Oct. 23 call with reporters the Defense Department wants to explore each of the use cases before turning to the matter of leasing 5G infrastructure at still-undisclosed bases.

Those installations will “provide streamlined access to site spectrum bands, mature fiber and wireless infrastructure, access to key facilities, support for new or improved infrastructure requirements, and the ability to conduct controlled experimentation with dynamic spectrum sharing,” DOD said in a release.

The first round of opportunities includes: “establishing a dynamic spectrum sharing testbed to demonstrate the capability to use 5G in congested environments with high-power, mid-band radars,” “integrating augmented reality and virtual reality into mission planning and training in both virtual and live environments on training ranges,” and pursuing “smart warehouses to leverage 5G’s ability to enhance logistics operations and maximize throughput,” according to the release.

Officials are choosing projects that will also benefit commercial industry, which is leading the push toward 5G networks that are expected to be faster and more secure. The initiative comes as the Air Force is taking its own steps to spread 5G to bases one region at a time.