Federated Wireless kicks off 5G testbed for DoD

It’s a “Made in the USA” type of team that’s helping the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with its 5G efforts at a warehouse in Albany, Georgia.

Federated Wireless is the prime contractor for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS)-enabled private 5G wireless network, with partners AWS, Cisco, JMA, Vectrus, Perspecta Labs and Capstone Partners. They’re working on a testbed designed to modernize the Marine Corps Logistics Command warehouse operations in Albany.

It’s part of a larger DoD initiative whereby it has awarded more than $600 million in prime contracts involving more than 100 companies. The plan is to evaluate 5G technology at various testbed locations around the country. The Tranche 1 testbeds, of which Federated is a part, are expected to be operational by the fall of this year.

“What we’re really doing is bringing a true private enterprise 5G network to the DoD,” said Sal D’Itri, vice president and general manager of the federal business unit for Federated Wireless. The DoD represents one of the largest enterprises in the world, something that is often overlooked, he said.  

The Albany testbed site is the home of Marine Corps Logistics worldwide, so it’s a good opportunity to understand how to modernize a large warehouse complex with logistics, IoT, smart warehousing and tracking devices, he added.

Vectrus will be contributing its expertise in logistics and warehousing. While this involves a single warehouse, being able to share information among warehouses across the Marine Corps will be important for knowing where all of its assets are located and what can be quickly accessed at any given time, according to Michael JB Smith, vice president, Engineering and Digital Integration Programs at Vectrus.

The end-to-end network will use shared CBRS spectrum at 3.5 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum (37.0-40.0 GHz). Cisco is providing its Zero Trust Architecture that consists of virtualized 5G and 4G packet core servers, mobile edge processing and fronthaul and backhaul switching infrastructure.

JMA will supply its XRAN solution, which is based on open Radio Access Network (RAN) technology, for both 4G and 5G networks, including advanced millimeter wave radios. The RAN is expected to support 5G for CBRS for a demonstration in May.

Federated Wireless has been a pioneer in the CBRS space and is a Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator, which it will provide as part of this initiative. It also built an Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) system along the nation’s coasts but that’s not part of this since Albany is far from any coastline. 

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Some of the applications they’re talking about providing for the DoD are intelligent receiving and tracking and moving assets at cloud time scales, D’Itri said.

“It’s critical that the war fighter in the future moves at cloud speed,” and 5G will enable that, according to D’Itri, who is chairman of the National Spectrum Consortium.

This will also help the Marine Corps understand the capabilities of 5G and what’s enabled by ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC) for industrial IoT, which is coming with Release 17, and Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), which provides intelligence for augmented and virtual reality, which can useful for activities like repairing equipment.