Pentagon considers operating independent 5G networks under new dynamic spectrum-sharing effort

By Justin Doubleday / September 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM

The Pentagon is considering owning and operating its own fifth-generation wireless networks to support its domestic operations under a new dynamic spectrum-sharing effort.

In a Sept. 18 request for information, the Defense Department asks for responses on "innovative solutions and alternative approaches to enable [dynamic spectrum sharing] within the department's currently allocated spectrum with the goal of accelerating spectrum-sharing decisions and 5G deployment."

"We hope our industry partners will come forward with innovative ideas to address the questions in this RFI," DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said as part of a prepared DOD statement. "DOD's partnership with industry is imperative in this extremely technical and competitive field. What we learn in this effort has potential to benefit the entire nation and keep the U.S. as the global leader of 5G technology for many years to come."

Among the questions DOD asks as part of the notice: "How could DOD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations? What are the potential issues with DOD owning and operating independent networks for its 5G operations?"

The Pentagon is already working with mobile networking companies through its 5G prototyping program. The pending prototypes include spectrum sharing, smart warehouses, augmented reality training and other 5G use cases.

This summer, the White House and the Pentagon announced DOD was open to sharing spectrum between 3.45 to 3.55 GHZ, a band previously reserved for exclusive military use. The new RFI shows the Pentagon is open to sharing further spectrum sections.

"While the Department has made available the 3450-3550MHz spectrum band for 5G, are there new technologies or innovative methods as to how additional mid-band spectrum currently allocated to DOD can be made available for 5G faster?" the RFI poses.

DOD is seeking responses to the notice by Oct. 19.

Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) lauded the new spectrum sharing effort, but said he is also worried DOD is not moving fast enough to free up spectrum resources for 5G deployments.

"I am pleased to see that the Department is willing to explore ways to share the valuable mid-band spectrum that is so critical for our economy, our security, and our nation's future," Thornberry said in a Sept. 19 statement. "I am concerned, however, that DOD is still not moving at the appropriate speed given the on-going efforts by China and others. We must move out faster."