The Good Stuff


03/15/2022

5G Deployment Guide for Military Bases

By Rebecca Gray
  • Article
  • 4 min read

CONNECTING THE MILITARY IN THE 5G ERA

5G is poised to emerge in a big way for the defense community. Throughout the U.S., military bases are launching 5G networks to improve communications and set the stage for future innovations. Most recently, the Department of Defense established a 5G and FutureG cross-functional team to accelerate the adoption of future generation networking technologies and strengthen support from the private sector.

For troops, 5G means access to fast connectivity that satisfies their mobile demands and improves quality of life—from streaming and gaming to video chatting with family and friends.

For bases, 5G can unlock operational efficiencies and use cases that include robotics, wearable tech, next generation security systems, smart utilities and advanced training with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Understanding 5G technologies and how they are best implemented on military bases is complex. From cellular and Wi-Fi to public and private networks, there are a number of connectivity solutions to consider. Successful digital transformation strategies leverage a combination of wireless technologies and infrastructure, including macro towers, small cells, Wi-Fi and private cellular.

 

5G MACRO COVERAGE

Macro cellular towers get 5G networks from wireless carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon up and running on U.S. military bases. They work by sending and receiving 5G radio signals through large towers—up to 200 feet tall—and antennas, and can provide cellular coverage for miles, making them well suited for both urban and rural areas of a military base.

Towers primarily support mobile communications via smartphones and tablets and are a great way to keep servicemembers and their families connected on the go. Similarly, small cells can be installed on light poles and can enhance coverage and capacity in dense locations, without requiring large tower builds.

 

WI-FI FOR THE BARRACKS AND FAMILY HOUSING

Wi-Fi is key to 5G implementation on base. But delivering fast, flexible Wi-Fi to enlisted military living on bases requires a sophisticated and nuanced approach.

By definition, most military bases are fortresses, featuring dozens if not hundreds of fortified facilities. Tremendous interference can also be created by unpredictable elements such as military equipment, radar, weather and power outages. For services to reach the troops in their barracks, Wi-Fi must adapt to these elements and penetrate all structures, from drywall to concrete walls reinforced with rebar.

More than 70 U.S. military bases leverage advanced broadband solutions like Boingo Wi-Fi to overcome these challenges. The networks are installed with no trench digging or fiber installation required, allowing them to be deployed quickly. In the place of a typical hub-and-spoke fiber or wired-based configuration of access points to head-end, the advanced networks have a unique “daisy chain” configuration. Access points connect to the centralized controller from one building to another in a chain, moving up to the head-end, and then finally to the controller in a centralized data center. These link hops can range up to several miles, requiring a complex design with built-in network redundancies to ensure no overlap of frequencies. The result? Seamless and secure Wi-Fi coverage for troops in the barracks.

Today’s Wi-Fi features are unlike traditional cable offerings. They put servicemembers first, designed with portable features to suit troops’ lifestyles without contracts or installation appointments. Troops simply signup from their room and the service moves with them room to room, building to building and base to base—allowing them to browse, stream, game and study with ease.

When thinking about Wi-Fi on your base, ensure it extends beyond the barracks and to schools, classrooms, dining facilities, gyms, recreational buildings, hotels and family housing.

 

PRIVATE CELLULAR NETWORKS

Private cellular networks are a go-to 5G solution for creating secure, connected environments on base. They serve as closed, dedicated networks that securely power IoT use cases that support operations, training, and research and development. When deployed by a Network as a Service (NaaS) connectivity provider, the private network can be paired with multi-access edge computing (MEC) and incorporate a layered cybersecurity architecture to protect data and safeguard assets. This level of security gives base and resident unit commanders the confidence to connect important use cases like security video system management, temperature/thermostat control, leak detection, remote door locks and robotics.

 

SIMPLIFY 5G COMPLEXITIES WITH BOINGO

Boingo has supported the U.S. military for over two decades and we’re proud to employ veterans. Our broadband, towers and multi-carrier public and private network offerings provide the infrastructure and network management required to drive innovation forward in the 5G era and beyond.

 

Bruce Crair is senior vice president and general manager of Boingo Wireless’ Military business. He can be reached at bcrair@boingo.com.