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April 20, 2021updated 23 Nov 2021 2:24pm

How holistic 5G networks innovate defense operations

In an increasingly technological age, there is more demand than ever to maintain efficient and reliable networks that can support IoT and digitalisation in the defense industry. From base operations to command and control (C2) and AR training, 5G networking opens a whole new plethora of connectivity possibilities.

According to Philippe Agard, vice president of defense markets at Nokia: “There’s a big move towards bringing the IoT concept into the battlefield, so we believe that 5G will play its role to connect many types of sensors to collect and enrich all this information for improved command and control capabilities in a digitalised battlefield. It’s going to be a new kind of holistic technology platform that will enable increased situational awareness, which is especially important for defense.”

Improved capabilities when it comes to IoT technology not only increases the information being fed back to command for faster, better-informed decision making in the battlefield, it also can help in many aspects of the base setup and operations, such as increasing the security of bases with improved perimeter protection.

“Base operations is where the initial interest is starting from because they’re all very advanced and complex, whether it’s Naval, Air Force or Army. If we look specifically at the army dimension, perimeter protection is very important. Leveraging IoT enables a lot of smart sensors to improve perimeter protection in a very cost-effective way, as you don’t need to dig to install fibre cable, you can even go one step further and automatically send 5G controlled drones with HD and thermal cameras if an intrusion is detected.”

As a holistic platform, 5G is able to support the capabilities currently being handled by a range of different technologies. Switching to 5G will enable bases or the defence contractor as a whole to begin to phase out legacy wireless communications and benefit from new capabilities, such as improved broadband communication with distant vehicles, aircrafts or vessels (including ship-to-shore communications for Naval bases and piers), high-definition camera feeds, autonomous vehicles for smart warehouse logistics and AR/VR training.

“Maintenance and repair, for example in the Air Force, needs expert training,” Agard explains. “Wireless communication is needed for things such as overlaying instructions in real-time with AR/VR to greatly improve training quality and efficiency. Bringing 5G to the tarmac is important for automation and improving the productivity of the workers.”

One of the key selling points of 5G networks for the defense industry is the ability to create 5G slices. Slicing means that a virtual network that is tailored to the application, by defining parameters such as latency, bandwidth or security level, is automatically created when the application is launched. This is especially beneficial for supporting many different applications, each with different, but optimal network performance, on the same wireless platform while ensuring isolation from each other.

According to Arnaud Legrand, who leads Nokia’s public sector marketing efforts: “5G requires more than just radio, and end-to-end networking is very important. One of the great benefits of Nokia is its strong and comprehensive portfolio that really allows us to optimise end to end capabilities of the network. We’re clearly a market leader when it comes to private wireless, but we’re also market leaders for dynamic mission-critical transport networking; in IP, microwave, in optics, all the technologies that are needed for transport of 5G traffic.”

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