• Credit: Shutterstock/Fit Ztudio
     Credit: Shutterstock/Fit Ztudio

Sponsored: A Look Ahead at DOD Technology in 2020

February 28, 2020

There’s no question that 2020 is going to be a big year for technology transformation in the Defense Department. The National Defense Authorization Act gives DOD a $738 billion budget—a $20 billion increase over last year—with an emphasis on fielding the technology necessary for a faster, more agile force, while improving operations and efficiency across the enterprise. That means having fast, low-latency cellular and WiFi connections at every access point and refreshing its legacy infrastructure.

With demand for so many technologies that are dependent on 5G and WiFi 6, 2020 is ideal for upgrading wired and wireless infrastructure to improve security and communications capabilities. Especially for buildings in which WiFi and distributed antenna systems, known as DAS, were added between 2008 to 2012 under the BRAC. This infrastructure was provided by carriers and has since reached its end of life, with the responsibility of maintenance shifting to the DOD.

With that in mind, here are a few tech priorities for 2020 and how they are affected by network infrastructure.

5G

5G is the next generation cellular network necessary for powering most in-demand technology: data analytics with artificial intelligence and machine learning, IoT, more and better video, as well as augmented and virtual reality. Although hyped for years, 5G is expected to make its true roll out later this year after radio spectrum and 5G-enabled devices become available. With speeds significantly faster than 4G, the next generation of cellular will be able to transmit data many times faster, allowing for real-time information, better decision-making and the ability to adjust operations.

DOD already is experimenting with 5G, and equipping buildings with upgraded DAS to fully test capabilities. Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington is using it with augmented and virtual reality to test distributed training and develop equipment; and Naval Supply Systems Command is using 5G to improve processes and automation for “smart warehousing” to interface with an existing management system. 5G use will only increase in the years to come.

CBRS Spectrum

Approved as a public-private spectrum-sharing agreement, CBRS is 150 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band. CBRS supports both 4G and 5G cellular, greatly improving coverage and capacity whether in buildings or in crowded outdoor venues. CBRS is ideal for covering radio frequency coverage gaps, such as flight line operations where wireless access points are limited by location.
 
Moreover, CBRS provides a breakthrough in allowing customers to create and maintain private LTE networks, giving government agencies total network control. These robust, private LTE networks are solutions for congested or limited-spectrum networks, giving secure coverage inside major buildings, such as the Pentagon. Some of the best use cases include command-and-control to research-and-development to military ranges or logistics facilities.

WiFi 6

Despite the high expectations for 5G, WiFi is not going away. In fact, it is expected to be 50% of IP traffic in the next two years, driven primarily by bring-your-own-device and IoT.

Networking at the edge is increasingly important in DOD as it moves toward IoT devices, sensors and other kinds of analytics. This rapid growth in wireless traffic is propelling the migration from 1GbE to Multi-gigabit at the network edge and, driving the need for faster aggregation and core solutions. WiFi 6 brings those capabilities, along with much higher through-put, better security and enhanced battery life on devices.

As mentioned above, now is the time for agencies to upgrade wireless infrastructure. To get the full effects of WiFi 6, legacy copper cables should be upgraded to support 5- and 10 gigabit speeds.

M2M/IoT

Machine-to-machine is direct interaction between devices using wired or wireless connections. M2M is the integration answer to the military’s challenge of having multiple systems capturing and sharing data. Imagine if all the systems on a Navy ship communicated directly with each other or if a flight crew could share volumes of data from the ground to the air.  

With IoT, the department can gain real-time insights from data collected from each sensor that reports back to a central location. This is the concept behind Smart Bases in which any number of operations—from water and electrical usage to traffic lights and DOD vehicles—can be outfitted with sensors to pull data for operational visibility, trends and anomalies to make installations safer and more efficient. Such visibility is important to logistical supply chains, monitoring air quality, sound, motion and ambient temperature changes.  

To achieve the full capabilities of IoT, agencies should upgrade infrastructure to include next generation ethernet switches that support multi-gig speeds for carrying high-bandwidth traffic. Another option in IoT applications is to upgrade to a powered fiber cable system, which combines power and optical fiber to support applications such as HD security cameras and WiFi access points in remote locations.

Cloud

As with 5G, platform-as-a-service cloud makes most other technologies possible. Cloud’s capabilities for data analytics, large-scale data sharing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, make it mission-critical to many operations.  

As with other technologies mentioned above, cloud capabilities are largely determined by connectivity. For DOD, success is in having fast, robust connectivity from every device and platform, no matter the location. That means having reliable, long-lasting infrastructure, whether it be through LTE radios and antennas with the carrier or WiFi access points and switches. Again, 2020 is the time for infrastructure upgrades.

There are many ways to spend the IT budget, but by prioritizing these five technologies and the necessary infrastructure, the DOD will be investing in solutions that improve readiness for years to come.

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