DOD’s Smart Warehouse-Enabling 5G Network is Officially In the Works

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An initial demonstration should occur this summer, an official said.

Deployment of the private 5G wireless network that will underpin the Defense Department’s experimentation with an array of cutting-edge technologies through its forthcoming smart warehouse testbed officially kicked off.

Federated Wireless—the prime contractor tapped to help DOD transform its Marine Corps Logistics Command warehouse operations in Albany, Georgia—shared new details about the fresh 5G pilot in a press release Wednesday.

“It’s underway. We were under contract in December and we have a first demonstration of this scheduled for the May timeframe,” the company’s Vice President of Federal Sal D'Itri told Nextgov Tuesday. “So, that's how quickly we've been able to move.”

The Pentagon’s ambitious aims to unleash, prototype and explore next-generation wireless technology at specific military installations first came to light in 2019. The base in Georgia, which D’Itri referred to as a global hub for all Marine Corps Logistics Command operations, was selected as one of DOD’s initial, “Tranche 1” sites. To facilitate the development of necessary infrastructure and resources for those, the agency is putting up a collective $600 million.

D’Itri detailed what Federated Wireless and other, newly named subcontractors the company selected will provide in this Georgia-based rollout—and offered a look into the emerging, 5G-enabled technologies expected to eventually be put to the test. Specifically, the network will leverage both the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, or CBRS, shared spectrum and millimeter wave spectrum to produce a robust, private wireless network. On top of leading the effort, Federated Wireless will provide the spectrum access system.

“When you can have access to the shared spectrum, you can really start building out the 5G private enterprise network with the flexibility that you're looking for to meet the needs of the applications, and you're not hemmed in by spectrum in terms of now determining how your applications, how your network is going to perform,” D’Itri explained. 

Multiple U.S.-based companies including Amazon Web Services, Cisco, JMA, Vectrus, Perspecta Labs and Capstone Partners were also selected by Federated Wireless to support the work, the release noted. The deployment will harness Cisco’s virtualized 5G and 4G packet core servers and other components of its zero trust architecture, as well as JMA’s end-to-end radio access network, or RAN solution, D’Itri said. Logistics and security support from Vectrus and Perspecta Labs will also be provided, and Capstone Partners will provide expertise relevant to deploying internet of things applications on the network.

Insiders are already starting to plan, design and bring the overall system together, D’Itri confirmed, noting that the initial, working deployment is slated to unfold this summer.

“We're going to stage a first demo demonstration of the solution at our headquarters in Arlington, and then move the solution to the Marine Corps facility in Albany later this year,” he said. 

Once fully in operation, the network will enable tests and demonstrations across a range of emerging technologies including some involving artificial intelligence, IoT solutions, autonomous robotics and logistics-aligned holograms.

“You're going to see things like what they call ‘industry vision,’ which is using virtual reality and logistics modernization to enable folks to look at inventory and how the logistics is moving in the warehouse in real time,” D’Itri said. “And things like smart forklifts, improving inventory management systems—basically taking things that today are done manually or without the benefit of wireless integration and moving and modernizing that, but also moving it into a secure wireless network, which is 5G.”