Taking the Right Steps: Understanding 5G for the DoD.

Author:Chew, James S.B.

* A recent Pentagon announcement focusing on 5G network capabilities--based on a Defense Science Board 5G study--will no doubt create many overnight "experts" in the telecommunications field. However, the office of the undersecretary for research and engineering wisely stated that the significant commercial investment in this area should be leveraged.

The importance of leveraging this investment cannot be overstated--the commercial mindset is to be first to market with a reliable, affordable, "crazy great" product and/or capability. It would be fair to say that this is not the Defense Department acquisition process mindset.

For all those clamoring to climb aboard this 5G train, it would behoove all to carefully road the report and take nolo of this finding: "5G capability is inexorably intertwined with leading-edge microelectronics."

The historical mismatch between trust and assurance policies versus national investment in advanced semiconductor manufacturing has led to a fundamental capability deficit. Simply speaking, the current defense industrial base electronic system development approach and technologies will not work for 5G Classic field programmable gate-array technologies will not allow for practical or efficient 5G, and the current "test, fix, test" electronics development approach will not allow for timely operational capability development.

The first concept to grasp is that 5G isn't just 4G plus one. Yes, 5G enhanced mobile broadband will deliver 10X better performance, but 5G ultra-reliable low-latency communications is designed to deliver extremely short response times, and 5G massive machine-type communications provides for huge numbers of sensor and internet-of-things connections.

5G can enable a whole slew of new applications that 4G simply cannot, and it will come down to working out how to utilize these new capabilities. But there are also challenges, as all these benefits aren't just coming for free. Unlike 4G, there are a variety of different frequencies that 5G will need to get these jobs done. A lot of focus is on the mmWave frequencies--typically 28GHz and above--that deliver most of the 1 OX data performance, but these frequencies also have a very short reach, no more than 200 meters, which limits their use unless transmitting and receiving equipment can be kept at close quarters. For urban users, this means a lot more equipment installed on buildings, on lamp poles, etc., compared to what we have seen with 4G. For...

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