AT&T is bringing 5G and its commercial networking-as-a-service to three U.S. Air Force bases by the end of this year: Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska; and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
The carrier said that it has already completed network design across the three bases and the networks will be live by the end of 2020. AT&T said added that the 5G and NaaS technology at those locations will be used to support the work of more than 24,000 military personnel, and that the tech could enable IoT use cases, including drones and robotics; augmented/virtual reality for training; fast transfer of data from arriving/departing aircraft; video surveillance and analytics; and near real-time management of inventory information and aircraft schematics, diagnostics analysis and more efficient use of parts. The carrier is also providing more conventional telecom services, including a base area network, wide area network, telephone services and internet access.
“We think it is vital to test commercially provided services like 5G and software-based networking-as-a-service capabilities as we explore ways to help us innovate and improve our global air, space and cyber readiness,” said Col. Justin K. Collins, deputy for the enterprise IT and cyber infrastructure division of the U.S. Air Force. “We expect 5G service will help us improve the user experience and support a broad array of use cases that can enhance mission effectiveness.”
The Department of Defense is in the midst of modernizing communications infrastructure at its domestic locations and exploring the role that 5G will play in the military’s future. Right now, that is taking shape in the form of partnering with commercial network operators, but the Pentagon also recently released an RFI to gather information on how it could potentially operate its own domestic 5G networks and use Dynamic Spectrum Sharing across its spectrum holdings to both achieve its own goals and accelerate U.S. 5G deployments. In July, Verizon lit up 5G service at Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California.
Separately from those carrier announcements, another DoD program has identified a dozen sites where the agency wants to test 5G service for various defense-related use cases. DoD says it is “already is heavily involved in investigating how 5G technology will best serve the warfighter,” with experiments ongoing at five sites and seven more to come.
AT&T had previously announced that it would provide 5G and FirstNet services at Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada and Tyndell Air Force Base in Florida. In a statement on the addition of the three additional Air Force bases, Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business said that the company “[stands]ready to work with them to extend these services across the entirety of the Air Force if they so choose.”
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