This article originally appeared in Government Technology Insider.
Recent successful demonstrations of a private 5G network at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Albany, Georgia, showed that the benefits of 5G for military logistics modernization and warfighter readiness will be realized in the form of private networks.
According to Thomas Rondeau, Principal Director for FutureG & 5G for the Department of Defense, who observed the April demonstrations: “Achieving a pre-production, state-of-the-art private 5G network built solely by U.S.-based companies is an important milestone in advancing U.S. 5G competitiveness and gives the U.S. Military a key strategic advantage that can be replicated across mission-critical DoD facilities to accelerate warfighter readiness.”
As 5G and private wireless technology advance, the integration of 5G and 5G-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) applications holds tremendous potential for supporting the modernization of our military bases and enhancing warfighter readiness. The deployment of 5G networks and IoT applications is already revolutionizing communication, logistics, training, and security, ultimately helping to strengthen military capabilities, both in-theater and at home.
Let’s first “set the table” about the enhanced communication and connectivity enabled by a private network. One of the main benefits of private networks over public 5G networks is the ability to customize the network to meet specific requirements. Greater control over coverage, capacity, connectivity, and overall performance allows tailoring the network’s features to suit specific needs.
Critically important to our military is the superior security and privacy features offered by a private network. Traffic in private networks is kept within the enterprise, reducing exposure to external threats. Private networks also offer greater reliability as they are built and managed for a specific purpose or set of uses. This results in fewer interruptions and a better quality of service compared to a public 5G network, where resources are shared among many users.
Even lower latency than public 5G, the improved collaboration enabled by greater speed and reliability, cost control, and integration with IoT, represent other benefits of a private network.
Regarding IoT: The Albany demonstrations showed the power of private 5G-enabled, IoT-driven logistics optimization. By deploying IoT sensors and devices, personnel gain real-time visibility into supply chain operations. This enables efficient inventory management, timely resupply, and predictive maintenance of equipment, reducing downtime and improving mission readiness. The combination of 5G’s high bandwidth and low latency enables real-time tracking of assets, enhancing security and reducing the risk of theft or loss.
At Albany, real-time robotics providing route optimization, maintenance, and analytics for autonomous forklifts, robots, and guided vehicles were on display. Smart security cameras were used to stream and store video footage for asset tracking, staff authentication, and arrival/departure tracking to ensure facility security. Connected equipment including sophisticated conveyance systems with scanners and other IoT-enabled devices helped optimize inventory and asset management and provide input for operations heat mapping.
5G and IoT applications can also offer enhanced security measures for bases. IoT sensors and cameras can be integrated with 5G networks to create robust surveillance systems. Real-time data analysis and machine learning algorithms can identify potential security threats. 5G’s network slicing capabilities allow for the creation of secure, isolated communication channels, safeguarding sensitive information and protecting against cyberattacks.
What makes private 5G the differentiator in bringing the promise of 5G to bear for our military? Access to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is facilitating our military’s efforts with private wireless in a number of important ways:
- Shared Spectrum Model: CBRS is divided into three tiers: Incumbent Access, Priority Access License (PAL), and General Authorized Access (GAA). The military can acquire PAL licenses, granting them higher priority access to the spectrum, allowing the establishment and operation of private wireless networks with reduced interference and increased reliability.
- Network Control and Security: Establishing private networks in the CBRS spectrum enables exclusive control over the communications infrastructure, allowing for customized configurations to meet specific operational requirements.
- Flexibility and Interoperability: CBRS offers a flexible platform for testing and deploying emerging wireless technologies, such as 5G, without the need for extensive frequency coordination. The interoperability of CBRS devices and infrastructure also allows for seamless integration with existing military systems.
- Mission-Critical Capabilities: Private wireless networks powered by CBRS can be used for mission-critical applications including command and control, surveillance, secure communications, autonomous systems, and other military-specific use cases.
The integration of CBRS-based 5G and 5G-enabled IoT applications holds immense potential for military base modernization and enhancing warfighter readiness. Military-industry collaboration on 5G continues to ramp up, showing the significant acceleration of the deployment of 5G use cases across branches.
While these advancements are remarkable, we have truly only begun to scratch the surface of what private 5G makes possible for our military.
Improved communication, optimized logistics, advanced training, and enhanced security are just a few of the benefits that private 5G provides, ultimately strengthening the capabilities of our military and ensuring preparedness for future challenges.