The Air Force is interested in 5G’s mmWave, MIMO and RAN slicing capabilities
At the end of 2020, AT&T brought 5G to three U.S. Air Force bases: Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska; and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. But connecting its bases here on Earth with advanced cellular technology doesn’t seem to be enough for the Air Force, which is now seeking information on using 5G out in space.
At the same time that the Department of Defense is deepening its exploration of 5G with a CBRs network implementation, among other developments, the Air Force’s Space Command issued a Request for Information (RFI) detailing its interest in using 5G for data transportation for ground- and space-based communications.
The goal of the RFI, as stated by the Air Force, is to obtain information regarding the capability of adapting 5G network to “the needs of the US space systems.”
While the RFI claims that “any aspect of 5G applied to any aspect of space systems is of potential interest,” it also makes clear that specific areas of interest include MIMO, MEC, cyber security, RAN slicing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning.
The document also lays out interesting questions alongside each of these topics. For instance, regarding mmWave, the RFI asks: “How could compact, low-cost, high gain array antennas and data links in the 5G millimeter wave bands between 24 and 71 GHz be deployed to provide data networking in space?”
Similarly, the request for information on Network Slice Orchestration (NSO), the RFI inquires: “How could the Government employ 5G cloud-based and hybrid (cloud and on-premises) NSO to manage dozens, hundreds or potentially even thousands of RAN slices?”