The Air Force and the Defense Department writ large are expecting 5G to be a game changer in the way it delivers information and connects platforms.
James Beutel, Air Force deputy chief technology officer, says 5G is going to be the tissue that opens speedways for data to enable everything from artificial intelligence to heads up displays for airmen.
“5G will really enable a lot of the things we see on sci-fi movies today, where pilots and airmen and other people have screens or virtual reality,” Beutel said during a Federal Insights discussion sponsored by Verizon. “Troops will be able to see data and sensors real time extremely quickly. You talk about how much of force multiplier that is when one person can see that much data at one time and be able to share it and talk to with leaders in real time.”
Beutel said 5G’s ability to deliver information quickly opens the aperture for what the military and civilian world can accomplish.
One of the things 5G will be able to expand is AI, which needs to digest massive amounts of data to make complex suggests and decisions.
“At the heart of AI is data and especially for machine learning perspective, it’s only as good as its data and the amount of data you have,” Beutel said. “5G is going to be able to get you much more data and much more timely data. That is going to make your AI much more effective, because no matter how good that AI algorithm is, if it doesn’t have the data to train on and understand what it needs to do it’s just not going to be as effective. On the flip side, because 5g now is no longer about the hardware, it’s about software in the backend, it’s a virtualized environment, you’re going to have edge data centers all over the place based on it and having that AI in place is going to be a huge enabler to make 5g more effective.”
The Air Force and DoD are still a bit away from realizing that dream, however.
DoD has about a dozen testbed installations where it is just starting to experiment with 5G.
The Air Force is also awarding leases to companies to bring 5G to needed areas.
“We expect to fully have 5G publicly available on every base, and also to have figured out how we’re going to bring private 5G in for things like warehouses, depots, things along those lines,” Beutel said. “In these lease agreements the Air Force owns nothing. In this case, what we’re doing is giving the provider a 25 year lease to come in real property lease to come in and build their towers. We are doing that for couple reasons. One, is the Air Force doesn’t want to be in the business of maintaining cellular towers. Two, it incentivizes the providers to come in to those bases.”
Beutel said the Air Force is also encouraging providers to sublease so that providers have an opportunity to increase coverage as much as possible.