Momentum Builds around Wireless Installations at Military Facilities

Naval bases in California deploy small cells with Verizon
Image courtesy Verizon Wireless

Wireless connectivity has been an important tool for U.S. military forces going back generations. Today, keeping service members and their families connected and leveraging wireless capabilities for operational efficiency on military bases is as important as ever. A variety of recent news and announcements highlighting partnerships between military services and the wireless industry highlight this trend.

Last week, Verizon Wireless announced a small cell deployment at Naval Base San Diego, the principal home port of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The base, which is home to 46 Navy ships and a variety of other vessels, includes 1,600 land acres and supports 213 individual commands.

The new infrastructure will increase connectivity across the base and support a variety of official and personal activities, including ship maintenance and modernization, operational training, force protection, fleet and family services, mobility and internet of things (IoT) solutions, said Verizon.

“Having reliable, secure connectivity is critical for Navy personnel at Naval Base San Diego, but it’s also essential for military families living on base and visitors to the base,” said Capt. Roy Love, Commanding Officer, Naval Base San Diego. “Installing small cells on base improves our current coverage, quality of life and lays the groundwork for our future.”

The deployment follows closely on the heels of a similar Verizon small-cell deployment at Naval Base Coronado announced in May. That deployment was designed to expand communications capabilities for tactical and public-safety operations and improve connectivity for on-base tenant commands and residents. NAB is approximately 1,000 acres and is composed of the main base, training beaches, a recreational marina, enlisted family housing, and a state park.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is also looking to wireless to provide connectivity on its bases by teaming with wireless providers to install commercial 5G infrastructure on a regional bases at air force active, reserve and guard bases. The initial installment will take place on 10 bases: Moody, Robins and Dobbins bases in Georgia; Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina; JB Charleston, Shaw and McEntire bases in South Carolina; Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee; and Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana.

According to an article in Air Force Magazine, the Air Force is clustering small and large bases together in each of its deployment agreements and focusing coverage on areas of the base where service members and their families are concentrated rather than designing fence-to-fence deployments. The no-fee lease contracts with wireless providers allow the bases to benefit from 5G coverage at no cost to the service by providing facilities, land and buildings for wireless carriers to use to extend their commercial 5G buildouts. Verizon was chosen as the Air Force’s partner for the first 10 installations. A new cluster of bases stretching from California to North Dakota will be open for bids soon.

In addition to making operations more efficient, 5G could enhance a variety of functions on Air Force bases, including supporting flight line test equipment; offering fast animated simulation and training; enabling high-definition, full-motion video for telemedicine; enhancing security via biometric identification; and providing instantaneous artificial intelligence, according to the article.

Last month, the Department of Defense’s Defense Science Board Quick Task Force on Defense Applications of Fifth Generation Network Technology completed a final report on a strategy for military use of 5G technology. Its recommendations include adopting 5G for military use in lightly contested environments, developing a secure 5G system for contested environments and critical applications, creating test beds for exploring innovative use cases, standing up a telecommunications security program, developing a DoD 5G supply chain management strategy, accelerating millimeter-wave technology development, and establishing a new bi-directional spectrum-sharing paradigm.