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Pentagon: 5G tests to begin at four US military bases

The Pentagon. (Senior Airman Perry Aston/Defense Department)
November 04, 2019

The Department of Defense announced Thursday it will begin testing the fifth generation of telecommunications technology, referred to as 5G, at four U.S. military bases.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Naval Base San Diego, Calif.; and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., have all been selected “for their ability to 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,” according to the press release.

The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it will kick off a “large-scale” effort to explore various applications of 5G technology in the coming months.

These large-scale explorations include:

  • 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.
  • Smart Warehouses to leverage 5G’s ability to enhance logistics operations and maximize throughput.

5G will provide users internet and data speeds a minimum of 10 times faster than current networks and theoretically could be up to 100 times faster. Thus, the creation of 5G technology is a top priority to many major powers across the globe, including the United States and China, which by some expert accounts is ahead of where the United States is in its current capacity.

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“This is really part of a bigger strategic push,” the department’s deputy undersecretary for research and engineering, Lisa Porter, said on a call Wednesday with reporters. “We have to acknowledge that together we need to work that out—industry needs access to spectrum, DOD needs access to spectrum. It’s essentially a call to action, saying ‘let’s get serious about figuring out how to do this together.'”

The technology will undoubtedly bolster economies around the world and help military use. Economically, $500 billion is at stake for who gets there first.

Today’s cell towers cannot transmit 5G data, so an entire economic infrastructure of towers must be installed, and China’s infrastructure alone is much larger than the United States.

The San Diego Tribune outlined a few examples of 5G’s practical use and what it means for the future.

“With 5G, connected power grids could tap cloud computing to create artificial intelligence algorithms so when a tree falls on a line, the grid automatically adjusts to minimize outages and heal itself.

“5G connected cars could sync to stoplights and other infrastructure to improve traffic flow, while vehicles automatically track the movements of other cars and pedestrians nearby to help avoid accidents.

“Factories could leverage 5G to more easily reconfigure equipment to produce different products — boosting efficiency and lowering costs. Connected assembly line robots could instantly reposition an off-center part. Massive cranes at ports could adjust on the fly to the weight of cargo being loaded on ships.”

The Pentagon will get feedback from industry after it releases a draft request for proposal in November. The final solicitation is expected to come out in December, but has already consulted the telecom industry on the initiative, Porter said, and officials used their input to inform the program’s initial design.