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Command and Control is Big Business: Understanding 5G's Impact on Command and Control Military Applications

Gary Schluckbier


Command and Control (C2) occur at all levels of war across land, sea, air and space domains.

As technology continues to advance, C2 is expanding to incorporate computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance and cyber (C5ISTAR) technologies. With these advancements, fifth-generation wireless technology plays a critical role in the optimization of leading military applications.

The Department of Defense's (DoD) Innovate Beyond 5G program is tasked with maximizing the potential of 5G technology in relation to C2 applications. After all, C2 is "big business," and 5G Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) technology could exponentially increase the potential of military applications to assist with combat training, operations, intelligence programs and more.

Let's take a look at how the latest and next-gen mobile technologies like 5G are being utilized by the DoD — and also outline some of the challenges that may be slowing down the adoption and implementation of these technologies.

Unlocking RAN Holds the Key to a NextG Future

The accelerated commercialization of Open RAN technologies in the U.S. could hold the key to advancing network architectures and security protocols as we currently know them. However, RAN is traditionally vendor-locked; made up of integrated telecommunications infrastructures composed of base stations, routers and other infrastructure components that enable wireless communications.

The challenge, as outlined by the DoD, is: "…[establishing] a prize competition aiming to accelerate the adoption of open interfaces, interoperable components and multi-vendor solutions toward developing an open 5G ecosystem while also increasing the domestic industrial base of innovative wireless companies."

As such, the DoD is teaming with the National Spectrum Consortium to produce whitepapers that champion ideas to help accelerate the development, manufacturing and testing of 5G Open RAN tech. The goal here is to identify and overcome obstacles for emerging or existing companies and accelerate the commercialization of Open RAN, effectively unlocking the future of next-gen communications.

The sooner that we can disaggregate RAN tech, the faster companies can pursue innovation on advanced 5G network architectures. Even with the aggregated RAN tech, 5G-powered innovations are still being explored by the DoD. These breakthroughs give us a peek into what's truly possible in a NextG future.

Below are a couple of examples of current explorations and innovations.

Investing in 5G and Beyond

Thanks to funding from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, or  OUSD(R&E), C2 is looking to 5G for cutting-edge communications technology advancements. With this funding, the DoD is already leveraging both 5G and NextG wireless technologies for military C2 applications, including:

Open 6G

This new industry-university co-op effort aims to launch 6G systems research on Open RAN networks (with a $1.77 million investment). Taking advantage of 6G military applications could improve integral functions of war, such as:

  • Battlefield communication.
  • Improved location services.
  • Equipment development.

Massive Multi-Input/Multi-Output (MIMO)

IB5G and Nokia Bell Labs are working on a MIMO project from MHz to GHz. Massive MIMO is being used for warfighters to increase resiliency and throughput for wireless tactical communications. The project aims to scale MIMO tech across different bands and bandwidths for DoD applications and is supported by a $3.69 million investment.

Spectrum Exchange Security and Scalability

Increasing user demand has presented an increased need for spectrum-sharing technology. In response, Zylinium Research invested $1.64 million to develop Spectrum Exchange — a network service appliance that's capable of receiving, scheduling and allocating spectrum resources.

How 5G Tech Can Help Save Lives

The DoD has issued a Request for Prototype Proposal (RPP) for a 5G-enabled Augmented Reality (AR) training platform. This 5G tech could help save a significant amount of lives by providing our warfighters with more quality military care by:

  • Accommodating multiple trainees under one trainer or facilitator.
  • Enabling 5G AR telemonitoring for medical procedures, which would allow streamlined communication between a centrally located medical specialist and their protégé in a remote location.

By leveraging the communications capabilities of 5G in tandem with AR for military training, personnel have remote access to the best possible training staff for the job as well as streamlined access to cutting-edge programs, regardless of where they're stationed.

Security Solutions that Support 5G and NextG Technologies

With the increasing implementation of advanced 5G network architectures for military applications, there's an evolving need for capable security solutions that can provide spectrum awareness and 5G signal detection and decoding while being Open RAN-aligned.

Epiq Solutions is committed to providing 5G and NextG solutions DoD applications. Epiq Solutions' Flying Fox Enterprise is built to accurately detect, identify and locate wireless security threats. Epiq Solutions' Skylight software 2G - 5G scanner runs on our industry leading Software Defined Radios (SDRs) and integrates seamlessly with other SDR applications.

Contact Epiq Solutions to learn more.

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