The US Department of Defense’s 5G-to-Next G Initiative, overseen by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, successfully demonstrated an advanced 5G network for logistics modernisation exclusively designed and built in the United States. The $90 million prototype – Smart Warehouse Technology Early Capabilities Demonstration – delivered high 5G speed downloads of 1.5 Gbps and sub 15 msec latency using 380 MHz of spectrum in the mid-band and mmWave.
Virtual reality applications
The prototype, once completed, will deploy in Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia, as a private 5G network and use up to 750 MHz of available bandwidth for higher performance.
High 5G speed and ultra-low latency capabilities, together with the specialised equipment built to handle them, will deliver significant enhancements in the operation of autonomous vehicles for inventory management, machine learning for inventory tracking, and augmented/virtual reality applications for improved workforce efficiency in warehouse operations in support of the DOD.
Prototype 5G network
Designed to comply with DOD specifications for zero-trust architecture for native security and secure connectivity with other networks, the prototype 5G network is built on the next generation of Open RAN standards. These standards and the approach to network design recognise the increasingly ubiquitous presence of connected devices in the Internet of Things era and their growing risks to the security of systems and networks.
“Advanced telecommunications are critical to the U.S. economy and our way of networked warfighting. The Initiative is a major DOD program that is intended to ensure U.S. leadership in 5G and beyond”, said Dr. Joe Evans, Principal Director of DOD’s 5G Initiative.
$500 million DOD investment
This prototype is the first progress demonstration in the first round of 5G projects, a more than $500 million DOD investment in advanced 5G technology. This also includes a second smart warehouse project at Naval Base Coronado in California, a dynamic spectrum-sharing project at Hill Air Force Base in Utah and an augmented reality / virtual reality training project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
The DOD’s 5G Initiative consists of three “thrusts”:
- Accelerate – to stimulate the use of 5G technology through experimentation and advanced prototyping of dual-use applications;
- Operate Through – to develop technology to secure 5G and enable the secure use of non-secure networks;
- and Innovate – to perform the research and development necessary to win at 6G and beyond.
“This is a unique opportunity to apply the latest 5G technologies to a traditional but mission critical support area for our warfighters. Warehousing and logistical support is the lifeline for the Marine’s Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. A tremendous amount of planning, preparation and continuous execution is applied to ensure the necessary materiel is pre-positioned around the world and available at a moment’s notice to support our Marines. 5G technologies deliver the fidelity, speed and security needed to accomplish this mission,’ said the prototype’s program manager, John Larson, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic.