Do you remember 5G? Pentagon supports 6G hub tied to Army Research Lab

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WASHINGTON –– As telecom companies struggle to complete the transition to fifth-generation cellular, or 5G, the Pentagon is supporting efforts focused on 6G research and technologies amid a military-wide push to modernize communications and connectivity.

The Department of Defense said Aug. 2 it had committed $1.77 million to the Open6G industry-university cooperative, which will serve as a development, testing and integration hub and “aimed at expanding 6G systems research into open… to boost radio access networks”, or open RAN.

The Open6G project is part of the defense community’s Innovate Beyond 5G program and is under the purview of the Undersecretary for Research and Technology.

“The Department of Defense has a vital interest in advancing 5G-to-NextG wireless technologies and concept demonstrations,” said Sumit Roy, the IB5G program director, in a statement. “This effort represents our continued investment through public and private sector collaboration in research and development for critical technologies beyond 5G needed to realize high-performance, secure and resilient network operations for the future warfighter.”

Open6G is managed by Northeastern University’s Kostas Research Institute in conjunction with the US Army Research Laboratory. The technical work will be based at the University’s Institute for Wireless Internet of Things. The institute specializes in 5G and 6G, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and unmanned aerial systems for civil and military purposes.

The Department of Defense has been investing in 5G for years while keeping an eye on the horizon. Fifth generation wireless technology – now available to hundreds of millions of Americans, with Verizon, AT&T and other carriers spending billions of dollars rapidly expanding their 5G networks – touts higher speeds and the ability to accommodate advanced devices. Future generations should be even better.

However, watchdogs including the Government Accountability Office have warned of pitfalls such as B. high infrastructure costs, implementation difficulties and cybersecurity issues.

Military leaders have promoted 5G and beyond as a means to better connect forces on the battlefield and share vital information between them, a tenet of Joint All-Domain Command and Control. The fifth generation will also be used to improve logistics in so-called smart warehouses, where private networks will power experiments with virtual and augmented reality, high-definition video surveillance and cloud-augmented artificial intelligence.

The Department of Defense secured about $338 million in fiscal 2022 for 5G and microelectronics. It requested $250 million for fiscal 2023.

The department announced a $600 million investment in 5G testing at a handful of US military installations in 2020. Follow-up investments were made in 2021.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously reported for a South Carolina newspaper on the Department of Energy and its NNSA—namely, the Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development. Colin is also an award winning photographer.

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