Pentagon to dish out $600mn in contracts for ‘5G dual-use EXPERIMENTATION’ at 5 US military sites, including to ‘aid lethality’
9 October, 2020
The US military has partnered with more than a dozen companies for “large-scale experimentation” with 5G technology, including efforts to enhance the “lethality” of certain systems, in what’s slated to be a $600 million project.
Dubbing 5G tech a “foundational enabler for all US defense modernization,” the Pentagon announced the massive research initiative on Thursday, which will hand hundreds of millions to 15 private contractors to conduct testing at five US military installations.
“Today, the Department of Defense announced $600 million in awards for 5G experimentation and testing at five US military test sites, representing the largest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications in the world,” the Pentagon said in a statement, adding that it would bring together experts from several industries and disciplines.
Projects will include piloting 5G-enabled augmented/virtual reality for mission planning and training, testing 5G-enabled Smart Warehouses, and evaluating 5G technologies to enhance distributed command and control.
Firms selected for the project include telecoms AT&T, Nokia and Ericsson, intelligence and infotech contractor Booz-Allen Hamilton, the research wing of General Electric, GE Research, and a subsidiary of aerospace giant General Dynamics.
One effort spearheaded by AT&T at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada will apply 5G to “distributed command and control” systems in order to “aid in Air, Space, and Cyberspace lethality,” enhancing communications for mobile command centers in combat scenarios.
At Washington state’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, AT&T will also work alongside Booz-Allen and two other firms to develop 5G-enabled virtual reality technology for training, mission planning and even “operational use,” though the Pentagon provided no examples of the latter application.
The costly initiative will also see testing carried out at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, a Marine Corps logistics facility in Georgia and California’s Naval Base San Diego, where the companies will develop “smart warehousing” systems and work to integrate 5G cell networks with Air Force radars.
The rapid growth of 5G technology has stoked controversy not only among the conspiracy-minded, but in the realm of geopolitics as well. The Pentagon’s vast new project comes amid an ongoing spat between the US government and Chinese telecom Huawei over its 5G services, which Washington has banned outright while pressuring a number of European allies to do the same. US officials insist the company poses a threat to both privacy and national security, despite Huawei’s repeated denials that its systems are used for data theft or espionage on behalf of Beijing.
The year 2020 marks a milestone year for the general mobile market, as the number of active smartphone users will reach 3.5 billion or around 45 percent of the entire global population, says researcher Newzoo.
According to its new Global Mobile Market report, China will account for over a quarter of the global number of smartphone users in 2020. Regions like Central-Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America will steer much of that growth due to increasing smartphone penetration and improving (mobile) internet infrastructure in those areas.
The report showed that just under 200 million active smartphones will be 5G-ready by the year’s end, accounting for just five percent of the global number. That number will continue to grow, reaching 4.8 billion by 2023, with 42.7 percent of them compatible with 5G technology.
With the majority of mobile users playing games, there will be 2.5 billion mobile gamers by the end of 2020 and that number will also spike towards 2023. This year, global mobile game revenues will reach $77.2 billion, up more than 13 percent year-on-year. They are set to cross the $100-billion mark in 2023.
“5G has had some complications, but astronomical growth is coming,” said Newzoo, detailing that for 2020 and 2021, complications from Covid-19 challenged 5G’s mass deployment, “But the 5G revolution is still coming.”