DOD announces new 5G project investments

By Briana Reilly / August 3, 2022 at 12:38 PM

The Pentagon has launched a trio of new projects to explore 5G and future wireless technologies, including one that aims to become the military's "hub" for next-generation communications efforts, the Defense Department announced this week.

That undertaking, known as Open6G, was initiated through the Pentagon’s Innovate Beyond 5G program and seeks to “jump-start 6G systems research on open radio access networks,” according to the DOD release posted Tuesday.

Funded through a $1.77 million IB5G award, the effort is led by Northeastern University’s Kostas Research Institute in Massachusetts, in conjunction with a cooperative agreement struck through the Army Research Laboratory, per the release. Technical work will be completed at the university’s Institute for Wireless Internet of Things.

“Open6G will serve as the DOD’s hub for development, testing, and integration of trusted enhancements, supporting an industry and federal government NextG ecosystem pursuing 6G technology goals,” the release states.

Beyond Open6G, DOD announced the kick-start of two other projects: one, in partnership with Zylinium Research, focused on spectrum exchange security and scalability, and another with Nokia Bell Labs on massive multi-input, multi-output (MIMO).

The latter, which deals with exploring the scalability of massive MIMO solutions across tactical communications networks, received a $3.69 million award. A request for solutions solicitation for distributed MIMO, first posted in late April, noted that scaling through increasing the number of antennas has previously been demonstrated for terrestrial, cellular operations, but difficulties arise in military tactical networks given the nodes that reside on armored vehicles, satellites, unmanned aerial systems and dismounted soldiers.

Spectrum sharing, meanwhile, has been a focal point for DOD in recent years, with the department supporting experimentation to ensure existing 5G networks and military radars, for example, can coexist or work together on overlapping spectral bands. Such experimentation is currently happening at Hill Air Force Base, UT, though DOD has also funded a range of 5G projects across five U.S. military test sites.

Zylinium’s spectrum exchange research, which dives into the potential for leveraging “blockchain in order to provide data persistence, scalability, and robustness,” per the DOD release, is funded through a $1.64 million award.

“The DOD has a vital interest in advancing 5G-to-NextG wireless technologies and concept demonstrations,” Sumit Roy, IB5G program director, said in the release. “These efforts represent our continuing investments via public and private sector collaboration on research & development for critical Beyond 5G technology enablers necessary to realize high-performance, secure and resilient network operations for the future warfighter.”

The new projects feed into the IB5G initiative’s aims to “support ideation, design, prototyping and integration of novel” concepts and components, the MIMO solicitation, posted to the National Security Technology Accelerator website, explains. Through the program, officials are looking for “novel advances and engineered solutions” from the commercial sector that can be adopted to meet the military’s needs, according to the notice.