Revolution in the key of 5G
Fifth-gen wireless tech will help supercharge military communications
There is a revolution coming. It's called 5G, or fifth-generation wireless communications, and it promises super-fast speed and all kinds of new tech for both civilians and the military.
The military is watching this carefully, and for good reason. The armed forces make specific demands of their communications technology, in some ways different from what the civilian world requires. New 5G tech can give the armed forces higher system capacity and massive device connectivity along with hyper-speed.
“As entrepreneurs rush to exploit the opportunities for new services and products that 5G offers, there will be spillovers to the defense technology base,” wrote Center for Strategic and International Studies senior vice president James Lewis in How 5G Will Shape Innovation and Security: A Primer, a December study from the think tank.
Lewis predicted that 5G will be foundational for new military technologies such as "robots, artificial intelligence and a number of advanced sensing devices." Fast, reliable and strong communications are crucial to executing high-stakes military operations.
The Trump Administration recently ordered a national spectrum policy to keep the U.S. in the lead when it comes to advanced wireless communications.
“The spectrum relief act is clearing frequency bandwidth that can be used for 5G," said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technologies at Raytheon. "This is where commercial and Raytheon military technology steps in.”
New tech to watch
Raytheon is developing several advanced technologies that could help bring the military into the 5G era, including:
Gemini: Gemini is Raytheon’s miniature phased array radar, which is being developed partly at the Raytheon UMass Lowell Research Institute.
Nearly as thin as a quarter, the Raytheon array can pack the equivalent of a larger array into a mobile device. It's built to support beamforming, which adapts signals to different scenarios, and MIMO, a type of beamforming, on a 5G network. That will dramatically increase connectivity over current technology.
SENSR: The U.S. government has formed a cross-agency team for a project called the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar program, or SENSR. The goal is to use the proceeds from the government's auction of rights to the 30 Mhz broadcast spectrum to upgrade the entire radar infrastructure across the country. More space for wireless bandwidth could be cleared by replacing the nation’s 600 air traffic radars.
Because the idea is to conserve signal space - essentially making the airwaves less crowded - Raytheon is studying how to use different technologies to more efficiently utilize bandwidth across the spectrum, according to Tom Sikina, a principal engineering fellow at the company.
By clearing part of the spectrum, SENSR can play a part in enabling 5G, according to Raytheon Strategic Architecture Engineer Brian Harkins.