5G – The Fifth Generation Wireless Communications

Sub Title : 5G will spillover into the military sphere thus transforming warfare

Issues Details : Vol 13 Issue 2 May/June 2019

Author : Dr Vijay Sakhuja

Page No. : 28

Category : Military Technology

: May 25, 2019

Recent decades have seen technology making advances by leaps and bounds. 5G is amongst the next big things on the horizon. It will spillover into the military sphere enabling the connection of a  vast network of sensors, robots and autonomous vehicles through sophisticated artificial intelligence, which could be the future of faster, deadlier and may be partial autonomous warfare

Month of April 2019 is momentous for mobile networks and could be the game changer for many users of cellular services including the military. Soon after its launch, Verizon, a global communications & technology leader known for its 4G & 5G wireless networks, claimed 5G speeds measuring 760 Mbps in the US; while many others pegged it at just over 600 Mbps. By some estimates it is four times faster than 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). Manufacturers of mobile cellular devices are geared for the new speed and the users are in for great experience of downloading heavy files including movies in a fraction of second.

There is rapid proliferation of internet and the number of users is rapidly expanding. By some estimates, there will be 40.9 billion devices in 2020 making an ecosystem of ‘wireless yet connected’ society. This exponential growth in devices will increase the demand for Bandwidth for the expansion of mobile services and speed. Experts are of the view that in the coming future ‘networks could be transmitting zettabytes of data by 2030’; a zettabyte is one sextillion bytes and a sextillion is numeral one followed by 21 zeroes.

Some of the key technical features of the 5G are: (a) support one million connected devices per square kilometer; (b) 1-millisecond latency; (c) peak data download rate of up to 20 gigabits per second; and (d) greater efficiency in terms of power and use of radio spectrum.

5G Battle Space domination

According to a study How 5G Will Shape Innovation and Security: A Primer by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) “As entrepreneurs rush to exploit the opportunities for new services and products that 5G offers, there will be spillovers to the defense technology base.” James Lewis, senior vice president of the CSIS has ‘predicted that 5G will be foundational for new military technologies such as “robots, artificial intelligence and a number of advanced sensing devices.” Needless to say, ‘fast, reliable and strong communications are crucial to executing high-stakes military operations.’ And another commentator has noted that  the “lines of 21st-century battle have been drawn, and they’re completely invisible.”

High bandwidth and low latency in the network are the important features which have enormous advantages for the military particularly in the battlefield where operations are conducted with high speed and platforms that are auto-driven such as armored vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones. For instance, at the tactical level, a platoon commander can call for a drone swarm with ordnances to counter an ambush. Similarly, with wearable device the platoon commander can marshal auto-driven ambulance or a high payload drone to carry out medical evacuation in a medical emergency.

Another interesting use of the 5G would be in counter terrorism which would involve sending acoustics of gun fire data rapidly to rear formations for analysis and guidance. Closely associated with this would be to send a drone through an opening such as a window to accurately send back the location of the snipers.