5G’s role in maximizing mission success in the Indo-Pacific region

Next-generation network solutions are foundational to achieving all domain command and control in the Indo-Pacific region.

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The shifting geopolitical tensions between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the United States in the Indo-Pacific region are a pacing threat for the Department of Defense (DoD) and its mission partners. In the past year alone, PRC-sponsored fishing militias and airplanes have disrupted the peaceful movement of people, products and ideas.

Compared to previous engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan — which featured irregular warfare against non-state actors — competition in the Indo-Pacific is between two global superpowers. 

“Leadership in the region is focused on deterrence specifically demonstrating that the United States’ integration of transformative applications for military advancements are so formidable that the prospect of engagement beyond the equivalent of competition is futile.” said Ed Barnabas, vice president and chief technology officer for the IndoPacific, located at Booz Allen’s Honolulu location. 

As the DoD focuses on building deterrence and forging multilateral and bilateral partnerships, Barnabas supports the investment and wider adoption of 5G networking solutions as a crucial step in advancing and achieving force posture goals. 

5G networking capabilities can support a medley of programs like Assault Breaker II, where leadership is looking to leverage unmanned capabilities to not only collect information but create an operational “hellscape” for adversaries. 

Standing up 5G networks in the region is easier said than done. Access to spectrum and interference issues can create complications for leaders looking to build out 5G in support of programs like Assault Breaker II. 

“The other issue involves the susceptibility of using different types of networks ,” said Chris Christou, senior vice president and head of 5G and cloud solutions at Booz Allen. “You might have susceptibility where adversaries could take advantage of network vulnerabilities (e.g., RF jamming, etc.), and if you have to leverage commercial networks, the fact that you have to understand that it’s not a trusted network” presents unique challenges for leadership in the region. 

Beyond spectrum bandwidth issues, DoD leadership may also encounter challenges surrounding silo building and cybersecurity. 5G is a newer technology, Barnabas cautions. Much like any new technology, there will be vulnerabilities and security risks that must be taken into account when leveraging the technology. 

Enhancing Lethality at the Mission’s Edge 

The talk surrounding 5G networks belies one key aspect — 5G is still emerging. At present, public and private sector organizations are investigating how 5G compliments or accelerates existing capabilities. 

Booz Allen, for example, is exploring how 5G networks will impact the DoD’s future tech stack and enable the deployment of new applications and services. For example, discussions range from the expansion of edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to the enhancement of DoD’s array of unmanned aerial vehicles and sensors. 

“5G has this triumvirate of enhanced performance that it offers,” said Christou. “It offers greater bandwidth, so now you can support higher quality video distribution that supports AR, VR and XR-based applications that can be incorporated into warfighter training. That higher bandwidth is really critical for some of those applications.” 

In addition to greater bandwidth, Christou points out that 5G’s ultra-reliable, low-latency features supports the implementation of mission critical applications that are sensitive to network delays including recent examples like Booz Allen’s collaboration with Shabodi and OIL to develop an edge mobile medic solution for remote triaging – relying upon a a highly reliable 5G network. 

Expanding IoT technology is top priority for the DoD writ large. As unmanned aerial vehicles, drones and sensors play an increasingly important role in informing the DoD’s decision making and Digital Modernization Strategy. By increasing investments in contemporary technologies, leadership will effectively “innovate for competitive advantage.” 

“5G won’t solve everything, but it definitely helps when you’re thinking about ‘How do we keep our warfighter operational in all scenarios in a  more distributed, edge-like environments?’” said Barnabas.  

Preparing for a 5G-enabled future 

While 5G network solutions will not answer all of the DoD’s questions, it will act as a force multiplier in the Indo-Pacific region. Industry thought leaders like Christou point toward the revolutionary nature of 4G LTE as an example of 5G’s potential. 

“What we saw with 4G is the proliferation of Uber, Netflix and a whole host of applications. We saw the whole app store ecosystem on iPhone and Android devices transform how we interact,”  said Christou “With 5G and these new types of applications and those underpinnings, it enables applications that might not have been able to be deployed because of bandwidth or performance constraints. I think over the next few years, you’ll see a whole new ecosystem pop up because of these new capabilities.”

As DoD leadership in the Indo-Pacific region looks toward a new generation of warfare, partnerships will play a crucial role in ensuring that the U.S. maintains its competitive advantage against adversarial threats. By investing in partnerships and assessing future use cases like those seen in the “Innovate Beyond 5G (IB5G) Program,” INDOPACOM leadership can effectively and efficiently advance national security and defense capabilities in order to achieve force posture goals.  

“5G fundamentally changes the speed in which we receive data and our ability to fuse and process it, offering military advantages in both deterrence and potential conflict,” said Barnabas. 

Connect with the thought leaders at Booz Allen to learn more about the benefits of 5G network solutions. This content was produced by GovExec’s Studio 2G and made possible by our sponsor, Booz Allen. The editorial staff of Defense One was not involved in its preparation.

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