This article, called Market summary: 5G usage within the military, provides an overview of what’s happening with 5G military applications. Including the uses, problems faced, and the opportunities 5G brings a fighting force.
What is 5G?
5G is the latest generation of wireless technology and is much faster than previous generations. Offering greater capacity allowing thousands of devices within a small area to be connected all at the same time. The reduction in the time between instructing a wireless device to act and a completed action (latency) allows 5G is also more responsive.
Military growth expectations
The global market size of 5G in defence is to grow from £49m this year to £996.500m by 2025. 62% of this expected growth should come from Airbourne systems such as drones and communication. The key driving factors in this predicated growth rate are:
- The rapid increase in adoption in connected and autonomous devices
- Significantly higher network speed
- Low 5G latency
- The proving of the technology to develop even more significant potential and future 6G technology
The US Department of Defense has significantly increased its budget in 5G technology. Before long, the US will become the global leader in the development and use of 5G technology.
Rise of the drones
Multiple devices like sensors connect over a 5G network. 5G is capable of supporting up to 1 million devices within a square kilometre—autonomous systems like drones and Intelligence collection systems, as well as fixed and mobile platforms like aircraft, tanks and unmanned vehicles. These systems and platforms transfer interpreted and then sent to other systems within the network. This data can be intelligence, like Sigint, Elint or war space management or instructions to take action by standard and even autonomous systems.
While some of these communications and data transfer already take place, the role out of 5G allows the network to do this with significantly higher speed and lower latency and with greater efficiency. To put these figures into perspective AM radio broadcasts transmitted at 10 Mhz and Medium Wave 300 kHz to 3 MHz. Because they can travel much faster, higher frequencies tend to transmit information-dense data, like video etc.
After 5G there’s 6G
6G should transmit waves three times faster than 5G. 6G will transmit at least one Terahertz, (1 trillion cycles per second). However, there are reports on abc.net that Huawei is researching ways to handle speeds of to 8,000 gigabits. But it is not just about speed. 6G will also have significantly lower latency and higher bandwidth than 5G. 5G already has reduced latency when compared to than 4G. However, there is a problem. As well as the speed and low latency levels these networks transfer data to each other much more securely,
The communication between a crewless aerial vehicle and its controller will be quick and efficient when on a 5G network compared to current communication systems. Autonomous platforms, such as armoured vehicles and uncrewed ground vehicles, can function efficiently with a secured 5G network. A 5G network can improve autonomous systems operational performance with countries like the US, Israel, France, China, UK and Italy either operating, testing or planning to implement 5G capability systems into their military.
Problems with 5G and the military
The following are some of the problems 5G is facing within a military and national security environment:
- Growth of 5G within military forces will be limited until more hardware comes available
- And given the significant suppliers are Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei there is serious concerns, especially in the case of Huawei, that the hardware is secure, not able to be easily compromised and not fitted with backdoors for foreign Intelligence services
- actual access to secure information to test the military 5G systems
- Experimentation and testing within existing military hardware and technology
- With the rapid expansion of 5G network infrastructure and associated technology, there is a glaring lack of protocols, regulations and rules in place
- Shortage of specialist skills and knowledge with the workforce
Five eyes and European countries like France and Germany believe the technology could be held back by the lack of a diverse set of suppliers and manufacturers. To make matters worse, there needs to be a resolution of clear and obvious data, network and national security issues need before 5G gains further traction within a military and security environment.
Manufacturer Huawei is a case in point with many countries, including 5-eyes and G7 countries banning their equipment from 5G networks. While some European countries have not banned Chinese companies altogether, they have restricted contract lengths, and India has controlled where they utilise Huawei. These concerns with 5G data security is on top of the potential vulnerability of associated cloud-based storage systems to a cyber attack.
Opportunities for 5G in the military
The application of the Internet of Things (IoT) within military systems requires low-latency applications, low power, high power, uninterrupted internet connectivity to an ever-increasing number of devices within longer-range networks. Applications such as those used within unmanned vehicles, Signal Intelligence, smart base systems, massive machine-type communication, mission-critical applications and long-range surveillance.
5G has significantly increased military communications possibilities and capabilities, allowing an ever-increasing network of sensors and devices. 5G military market is only going to get more significant and more critical over the next five years by which time further game-changing 6G will be about to be launched to the world.
Military-grade 5G technology will:
- Improve the processing and functioning of Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems
- Assist in the development of new command and control systems
- Enhance augmented and virtual reality applications
- Improve and development maintenance and logistics supply chain processes using technologies including blockchain
Small cell networks
Small cell 5G networks development and deploy should resolve some security concerns. 5G Small cell systems will dominate the defence communications industry deployment over the next few years. Small cell sites allow network in to increase their network capacity by increasing the number of cell sites in an area compared to just adding more spectrum to their existing network. Only, rather than having one huge antenna covering a single location, there many smaller antennas covering a greater area.
US trade group CTIA suggest that US-based small cells will experience growth from around 86,000 back in 2018 to over 800,000 by 2026. Within the civilian world, we can expect 80% of new 5G communications sites to be small cells:
- Improves local transmission quality using the millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum
- Size and cost of installation. Small cell systems are unsurprising – small.
- Can be hidden within street furniture
- The more small cells in an area will experience greater connectivity speeds.
- In terms of national security and military communications, small cell networks and associated densification will allow for compromised 5G small cell networks to be removed quickly from the network. Also, with each network having its information security protection is probable that hacking into one 5G small cell network will not give access to the surrounding of the networks.
Key commercial players
The market is currently dominated by:
- L3Harris Technologies
- Thales Group
- Ligado Networks
- Raytheon Technologies
- Wind River Systems
This article was called Market summary: 5G usage within the military. The use of 5G within a military and national security environment has clear and obvious advantages. Still, significant improvement and awareness of Information security, skills training and more commercial competition are required.