Pentagon Awards $600 Million to Spearhead 5G Experiments Across Five Military Bases

Monster Ztudio/

It’s only the beginning of an ambitious effort to test and scale the technology’s potential to strengthen the department’s capabilities. 

With sights set on steering on what it deems to be “the largest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications” on the planet, the Defense Department on Thursday announced $600 million in contracts to underpin experimentation and assessments of the next-generation wireless technology across five U.S. military bases. 

Months in the making, the awards are a portion of a broader strategic effort uniting U.S. service members with leading thinkers from industry and academia to push forward the Pentagon’s 5G pursuits. Pilots, prototypes and projects that encompass 5G-enabled smart warehoures, augmented and virtual reality, radar and more will be unleashed. 

“Through these test sites, the [Defense Department] is leveraging its unique authorities to pursue bold innovation at a scale and scope unmatched anywhere else in the world,” Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Kratsios said in a statement

The Pentagon previously issued four requests for prototype proposals that were open to members of the National Spectrum Consortium for this 5G-focused work, and the organization confirmed Thursday that most of these newly unveiled selections were made under an other transaction agreement between the organization and Defense Department. It marks what the Pentagon and NSC called “the first tranche” of awards for 5G-related prototyping contracts and others are anticipated to follow to drive further efforts at more military bases down the line. 

 The consortium’s Chief Strategy Officer Joseph Dyer called the work “the gateway to the development of an American-made 5G network.”

According to the Pentagon’s release, the test sites will be located at: Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia; Naval Base San Diego, California; and Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Utah, work will explore the potential of a dynamic spectrum sharing testbed, and Defense’s announcement also notes that the intent in Nevada “is to develop a testbed for use of 5G technologies to aid in air, space, and cyberspace lethality while enhancing command and control survivability.” The bases in Georgia and California will each house work with their newly selected partners to develop their own versions of 5G-enabled smart warehouses—one honing in on transshipment and another on vehicle storage. And efforts that’ll unfold at Lewis-McChord in Washington will aim to rapidly field a scalable, secure next-generation network to test out 5G-enabled augmented and virtual reality capabilities for mission planning, training, and operational use cases. 

The Pentagon’s release names 15 entities that were tapped to contribute to the experiments, and spotlights the prototypes and projects they are each individually spearheading through the initiative. They include: GBL System Corp., AT&T, Oceus Networks, Booz Allen Hamilton, GE Research, Vectrus Mission Solutions Corporation, Deloitte Consulting, Federated Wireless, KPMG, Scientific Research Corporation, Nokia, General Dynamics Mission Systems, Inc., Key Bridge Wireless, Shared Spectrum Company and Ericsson.

Of those selected, AT&T, Booz Allen Hamilton and GE Research were chosen to receive funds and provide capabilities for projects at more than one of the military bases.