Communications is a critical part of any military efforts and links must be reliable, secure, and without delays. Defense/aerospace designers have typically led the way with technologies for advanced communications systems, such as active antenna arrays and software-defined radios (SDRs). With 5G cellular wireless networks, they are about to see some of those technologies come back in commercial form, in support of systems that will wirelessly connect billions if not trillions of people and things to the internet and each other.
Of course, it was DARPA that developed the internet, initially for military use, and it’s the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that announced interest in integrating 5G technology and systems into their own future communications strategies, namely their Defense Next Generation Information Communications Technology planning. Industry partners well-versed in 5G technology are expected to be busy when the DoD’s requests for proposals (RFPs) are made public.
The DoD is working closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other government organizations on how to make use of the many advanced technologies and wide chunks of frequency spectrum enabling 5G wireless systems. By working with the DoD-sponsored National Spectrum Consortium, for example, the DoD has received design inputs from a wide range of 5G equipment suppliers as starting points for military systems employing 5G technology.
The same applications that are attractive for commercial and industrial 5G applications, such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for smart homes and smart cities, may provide smart warehouses or even smart training grounds for military troops. The instant internet access via high-speed data links at mmWave frequencies supports fast data transfers, for example, between surveillance UAVs and their controllers. Military specifiers will also benefit from the commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) availability and pricing that 5G will bring to mmWave components, as new frequencies and spectrum open new vistas for military system designers.