Pentagon Seeks Pitches for 5G-Enabled Virtual Reality Projects


The Defense Department released the third of four requests for 5G prototypes to test at military bases.

The Defense Department recently revealed it’s working with the National Spectrum Consortium through an other transaction agreement to strategically test and pioneer applications of fifth-generation wireless technology at four domestic military bases. 

The agency outlined its aims in December to publish four separate requests for prototype proposals that solely the consortium’s more than 300 members would be eligible to respond to. Each RPP would encompass different military installations that NSC members could support to help Defense officials experiment with emerging 5G use cases.

Since then, and over the last couple weeks, the agency rolled out three of the four requests—and the most recent launched Monday. Upon that release, a consortium spokesperson offered Nextgov a brief update on the requests published so far, a glimpse into what’s to come and details around the ultimate aims of the effort. 

“There has been significant progress since December,” the official said, noting that all but one of the RPPs have been published, with deadlines for responses set in late April. “This is a huge step in the right direction in terms of technology development related to 5G,” they added. 

Contracting through OTAs usually enables federal entities to create prototypes with nontraditional partners at a pace that’s much more rapid than that of procurements that follow Federal Acquisition Regulations. In this light, Defense aims to accelerate advancements across a few areas in the 5G landscape. Through the collaboration, the department provides NSC with RPPs to share with its members, who then prepare appropriate proposals as they see fit. While only the consortium’s members can apply to participate in this work, there’s generally a low barrier for entry and interested entities who want to do business with the Pentagon can usually join without any difficulties. 

The official explained that each of the requests launched so far are similar in that they all ask for specific prototypes of testbeds, network enhancements and applications for each of the different projects that themselves vary by use case and location.

“Down the road, we hope it opens the doors to widespread use of 5G within the government and commercial sectors,” the official said. 

The first two RPPs on the effort that Defense released to NSC members enveloped a call for 5G prototype proposals around technology developments for “smart warehouses” to be created at both Naval Base San Diego, and the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia. In the announcements for each, Defense said the “intended outcome” would be to produce a “5G-enabled smart warehouse [on each base] that can not only improve the efficiency and safety of current processes, but also serve as a proving ground for testing, refining, and validating emerging 5G enabled technologies.”

The third RPP, unveiled this week, encompasses a soon-to-come military installation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state for augmented and virtual reality-focused prototypes for 5G testbeds, networks and applications. The ultimate aim of this request, Defense said, is to  “advance 5G-enabled technologies to improve training and readiness.” 

“This is the first step of technology development—the collaboration to develop these products,” the official said. “We are moving in the right direction, but there is much more to be done.”

The fourth and final of this first set of RPPs will focus on dynamic spectrum sharing and should be published soon. Pending available funds, Defense also aims to potentially add new opportunities every quarter.

“The goal here is that the U.S. continues to be a leader in 5G, that armed forces have technological edge and we as a country continue to lead in technological development,” the NSC official said.