U.S. Dept. of Defense
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DoD Fields 5G Network for First Responders

Nov. 5, 2021
Prototyping fixed and portable hardware into California’s 5G networks is helping to provide first responders, including the California National Guard, with emergency communications services.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) unveiled a year-long prototyping project in California to explore future military uses for fifth-generation (5G) cellular wireless networks. Working with private wireless networks, the DIU will use the emerging wireless networks for critical communications between first responders, including the California National Guard.

Motivated by the savagery of the state’s forest fires during the year (see figure), the DoD saw the need for more instantaneous voice and data communications between firefighters and National Guardsmen, and 5G networks appear to provide the infrastructure needed to reach beyond rough terrain and natural disasters. The 5G networks will provide cost-effectiveness compared to satellite-communications (satcom) networks and performance advantages compared to older two-way radios, with added geolocation capabilities.

A full mobile 5G network is not yet operational in California, but the DIU hopes to establish usable branches of the network where more needed, through carefully applied prototyping efforts. The DIU is partnering with the California Military Department to procure commercial citizens-band-radio private 5G equipment for the emergency deployments. In addition, Nokia Innovations, a business unit of Nokia America, will provide the DoD with enough portable cellular radios to blanket an area under emergency conditions.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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