US Ignite launches $4m military-funded 5G pilot program

“5G Living Lab” at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego uses Verizon 5G

Work is underway to support the first 5G pilot projects at a Marine Corps base in San Diego, California, part of an initial wave of 5G testbeds at bases around the U.S. which utilize commercial carriers’ 5G networks to explore how the military can leverage the new wireless technology.

The 5G testbed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar uses Verizon’s 5G network; according to US Ignite, the carrier has been deploying 4G and 5G small cells to supplement existing LTE macro sites and serve the base with an upgraded network to support the pilots. Verizon’s 5G mmWave-based service was turned up at the base starting in July 2020.

MCAS Miramar is home to 15,000 service members, the 3rd Marine Air Wing and the F35-C aircraft.

“Military bases, like smart cities, are a crucial testing ground for new sensor-driven technologies, particularly as we upgrade the nation’s wireless networks to 5G,” said Nick Maynard, COO for US Ignite. “We have an opportunity at Miramar not only to experiment with systems to improve overall safety and efficiency on base, but also to help develop a framework of best practices that will serve smart bases and smart communities across the country.”

The first project for the test lab will be to use two Olli automated shuttles for package delivery on-base, over a two-mile fixed route. US Ignite said that operational details, including route mapping, are being finalized for that project. Verizon 5G will be used to upload data from the shuttle, which will be transferred to permanent Department of Defense storage for analysis, US Ignite says. The second project will come from four finalists from a recent 5G pitch competition who are currently working on prototype demonstrations; that competition was hosted by the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) in partnership with NavalX SoCal Tech Bridge and the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific. NIWC Pacific is funding the $4 million pilot program effort, which is being run by US Ignite.

Lt. Col. Brandon Newell poses in front of a new 5G tower installed by Verizon at MCAS Miramar on July 15, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor Bidon)

“We can create a smarter, more connected military base by working collaboratively across the public and private sector, which is why our partnerships with US Ignite and Verizon are so critical,” said Lieutenant Colonel Brandon Newell, who is the director of NavalX SoCal Tech Bridge Director and the lead for the 5G Living Lab. “Through the 5G Living Lab at Miramar, we expect to develop technologies that benefit: military operations, the private sector forging new business models around 5G services, and the public we serve.”

US Ignite said it is planning more pilot projects for this year, including work to connect solar cells on the base to the local 5G network. It also expects to partner with University of California San Diego for “future data analysis work related to transportation and energy projects.”

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