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CHIPS Articles: THE FUTURE IS NOW: Marines’ Partnerships Achieve 5G connection

THE FUTURE IS NOW: Marines’ Partnerships Achieve 5G connection
By Lance Cpl. Cheng Chang, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar - July-September 2020
Verizon and Marine Corps Installations West (MCIWEST) officially turned on the Department of Defense’s first 5G “living lab” on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar July 15th. The event marked the initial install of the Marine Corps’ 5G Installation Next Network in partnership with Verizon and Naval Information Warfare Center – Pacific through a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement.

The installation of the 5G antenna alongside Verizon’s existing 4G LTE tower, now forms a state-of-the-art cellular network. This is simply the first of many 5G small cells being installed on the base over the coming months.

Today, Marines within the range of this tower can utilize the 5G signal for the well-advertised high speeds and low latency promised with 5G, but that is not the primary purpose of this effort. The primary goal for this new 5G network is to advance the piloting of 5G enabled technologies in the areas of self-driving vehicles, drones, energy communications, and the Digital Fortress.

Lt. Col. Brandon Newell, Director of Technology and Partnerships for the Marine Corps Installation Next program, began discussions with Verizon in 2018 to make Marine Corps Air Station Miramar a 5G Living Lab. Newell facilitated the ongoing collaboration between the Defense Department and commercial industry for this technology advancement.

“We began talking to Verizon two years ago about this collaborative agreement that would help move MCAS Miramar’s effort of achieving the smart city initiative,” said Newell. “So 5G here at Miramar is really to unlock all kinds of smart city type efforts, not just simply having the expected benefit of faster and better cellular connections.”

The pilot program and evaluation of the 5G network is funded by Congress. Multiple military facilities have been selected to follow MCAS Miramar, including Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, The National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Joint Base San Antonio, and Tinker Air Force Base.

Installation Next and the SoCal Tech Bridge are leading this effort kicking off in the fall.

“This effort is critical to national security. The President, Congress, and the Secretary of Defense have all recently expressed that 5G is a national imperative. The establishment of this 5G living lab expedites the nation’s ability to leverage 5G for national defense.” said Newell. “We aim to maximize the sources that we have and this 5G tower will enable us to achieve the Installation Next capabilities.”

Lt. Col. Brandon Newell, Director of Technology and Partnerships for the Marine Corps Installation Next program poses in front of the new 5G tower installed by Verizon at MCAS Miramar on July 15, 2020. The new partnership between MCAS Miramar, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific, and Verizon will be a step forward in the Installation Next plan. (U.s. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor Bidon)
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