Commercial wireless communications technology is quickly becoming part of the U.S. Army’s networking solutions at remote field sites. Remote field sites such as the St. Paul District at the Big Sandy Lake Dam and Recreation Area in McGregor, Minn. are often underserved in terms of networking communications speeds, even when using fiber-optic technology, with significant investments typically required to boost networking communications performance. But as the Army Corps of Engineers at Big Sandy recently learned as part of a pilot program at St. Paul, performance upgrades are possible by switching to 4G and soon 5G wireless network technologies, without major costs to taxpayers. Big Sandy was one of six Army Corps of Engineers field sites across the country that was recently upgraded to 4G wireless technology with significant improvements in performance as a result.
Upgrading the performance of these remote sites is often difficult because of lack of communications network infrastructure. Nick Glatz, St. Paul District information technology chief, notes that cellular communications technology can be a big boost to military as well as civilian users, by transitioning field sites to 4G and eventually 5G. “The Corps will remain a world class organization that delivers the program by improving network connections in a world of increasing connectivity,” he said. “Additionally, this program can lower costs so the Corps can continue to be a good steward of taxpayer money.”
Network communications upgrades for remote field sites can involve investments of $350,000 per year or more per site, with about 200 additional remote field sites having been identified as in need of upgrades. But by leveraging cellular communications networks and partnering with commercial wireless service providers, the Army Corps of Engineers can benefit from the performance levels made possible currently by 4G LTE cellular technology and eventually 5G cellular wireless technology while also reducing operating and infrastructure costs.