Ribbon cutting celebrates functional 5G network

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Hill Air Force Base hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Dec. 2 in celebration of the first deployed and functional 5G network at a U.S. military installation.

The project began in 2019, when the Department of Defense sought to demonstrate innovative prototypes that use commercial 5G technologies as a way to augment future military capabilities. Hill was one of several bases chosen to participate in the DoD’s Dynamic Spectrum Utilization program.

Led by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the project’s mission is to investigate the technical feasibility, methodologies and utility of spectrum sharing and coexistence with a frequency band that is owned by the DoD but also used by commercial industry.

“The program offers industry partners the opportunity to demonstrate technology that is vital to ensuring that commercial 5G systems and military airborne radar systems can optimally co-exist within the same spectrum band, without interference,” said Nick Kowalchuk, program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory. “The technology developed can influence the future open standards of cellular technology, and has the potential to help free up the 3.1 - 3.3 GHz band for future commercial use.”

Currently, commercial cellular systems and airborne radars operate at different frequencies.  In general, different types of systems operate in frequency bands that are reserved for the exclusive use of those systems.  However, no unreserved bands were available to meet the growing demand for wireless communications.

The project involves creating a standalone 5G cellular network for experimentation to test, refine and create effective strategies for dynamic spectrum sharing to enable different systems to coexist and share radio frequency spectrum.  The project at Hill focused on the RF spectrum band of 3.1 to 3.45 GHz range, the range airborne, land-based and shipborne radars and air defense systems occupy.

“For us to be a part of this new wave of innovation is amazing,” said Col. Peter Feng, 75th Air Base Wing vice commander. “5G is the future and the ability connect everyone to everything is essential.”

The 75th ABW provided operational support, including telecom, cybersecurity, information technology, and civil engineering resources to the project. The wing’s resources were critical to the 5G DSU fixed cell sites construction and deployment.

Also heavily involved with the project was the 75th Civil Engineer Group and and 75th Communications and Information Directorate. These units provided site surveys and guidance for power to each of the 13 fixed cell sites.  They reviewed site drawings, approved the addition or modification for fiber and power, and created permits to dig.

Feng said as the experiment transitions to production capability, the base looks forward to future collaboration and transition opportunities with the OUSD (R&E), AFRL and the Air Force Sustainment Center.